Nature, Conservation and a Green Recovery

10 December 2020


Reported by Kate McNeil, CSaP Communications Officer

How can conservation work and changing our relationship with nature contribute to a green recovery?

In the penultimate episode of our series on science, policy and a green recovery, CSaP Executive Director Dr Rob Doubleday and Policy Intern Alice Millington sat down with Dame Fiona Reynolds, Emmanuel College Master and former Director-General of the National Trust, and Dr Chris Sandbrook, Director of the MPhil in Conservation Leadership at the University of Cambridge to discuss the role of nature and conservation on the pathway to a green recovery.

You can listen to the episode here:

While the UK was once a forerunner in conservation, Dame Fiona has suggested that complacency, and focusing on special areas at the expense of the greater countryside, has caused the UK to fall behind in its efforts. Recent studies have also shown that nature is presently no better protected inside our national parks than it is in the wider countryside. Consequently, if we want to take steps to protect nature, we need to start doing things differently. Reflecting on the successes of other countries such as Bhutan and New Zealand, Dame Fiona noted that we need to reframe what our lives and definition of success looks like - re-orienting it away from consumerism and towards sustainable lifestyles where quality of life, health, happiness, wellbeing, and connections to nature and beauty are included in our deeper values and our national balance sheet.

Meanwhile, Dr Chris Sandbrook noted that UK conservation policy over the past few decades has been quite focused on trying to highlight the economic value of nature, while finding ways to creative incentives for people to conserve biodiversity that are reliant on market-based tools. However, he has raised the concern that the present green recovery rhetoric in the UK may not take a balanced approach. He has emphasised that we need nature based solutions which also work to support communities which have been struggling over the past few decades in declining industrial heartlands, and which work to both mitigate carbon and protect biodiversity. Here, he raised the concern that the present focus on tree planting by those responding to the climate emergency may come at a cost to biodiversity if this endeavour is not managed correctly.

More optimistically, Dame Fiona has noted that during the spring lockdown, people discovered nature in their own backyards, and that this brings her hope that nature will become a part of people’s lives and they will take steps to protect it. She emphasised that people need nature to bring us quality of life and joy, and that nature also needs people. Once you have energised people and made them focus on the need for nature's protection, they have the capacity to make a powerful impact - doing things differently to protect our environment.

CSaP's Science and Policy Podcast's series on Science, Policy and a Green Recovery, produced in partnership with Cambridge Zero, is available across all major podcasting platforms, including Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, RadioPublic, Pocket Casts, and Castbox.