Individual efforts matter now more than ever

One Change: We work together to curtail the pandemic and must do same for environment

“As nature is pushed to the fringes of our built-up world, it is these small pockets of wild resistance that can help.”

“As nature is pushed to the fringes of our built-up world, it is these small pockets of wild resistance that can help.”

 

The tail-end of winter is frustrating, writes Dara McAnulty in his wonderful Diary of a Young Naturalist. “All this waiting to travel through a portal into colour and warmth . . . ” he muses, later describing how dandelions and daisies are often the first pollinating plants to flower in spring, and so important for biodiversity. It is an uplifting and fascinating read, full of up-close observations that reinforce the many wonders and benefits of staying close to nature.

We’ve all become increasingly aware of our surroundings in the last year – not through choice, of course, though it’s not been without some benefits: more of us spending time outdoors; less commuting and a slower pace of living; and a sense of greater connectedness to our natural environment, according to a report by the Environmental Protection Agency published last year.

Nature’s message

Last March, when the pandemic was just gaining pace, United Nations environmental chief Inger Andersen said the pressures that humanity was placing on the natural world were having a hugely damaging effect. Nature is sending us a message, he said. A year on, Dr Mike Ryan of the UN echoed these sentiments during an event recently with the Irish charity Trócaire, which was widely shared on social media: “We are pushing nature to its limits . . . We’re writing cheques . . . that we cannot cash as a civilisation for the future,” he said.

His words were alarming, urgent and necessary: we need to keep making the connection between our actions and the decline in the natural world, between our overconsumption and the devastation it causes. And while there’s no denying that we need governments to act and to regulate businesses and industry, individual efforts such as using less plastic or planting more trees or lobbying for more bicycle lanes still matter.

Wild patch

If anything, the past year has highlighted what can be achieved with combined efforts – how, when we all work together, we can reduce the spread of a virus. Likewise, the efforts we can make as individuals can bring about real and meaningful climate action.

Or as McAnulty neatly puts it, as he implores us all to leave a wild patch in our gardens to stimulate biodiversity: “As nature is pushed to the fringes of our built-up world, it is these small pockets of wild resistance that can help.”

@SorchaHamilton

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