The end of January may be in sight, but there’s still time to make some resolutions for the year ahead. Amid regular headlines about the climate and nature emergency and its effects on the wildlife we all love, it’s easy to start to feel hopeless – but taking action, personally or as part of a community, is one of the best ways to re-energise yourself and know that you are helping to turn things around.
With that in mind, here are some practical suggestions for ways that you can give nature a helping hand this year. It’s important to remember that no-one can do it all at once, though I hope everyone can find at least one idea among these to commit to for 2022.
Take a fresh look at your home and garden to identify a change that you could make to create a more wildlife-friendly environment. You could put up a new nestbox or bug hotel, plant a tree or create a hedgehog highway to connect your garden with a neighbour’s. Or, without spending any money at all, you can turn over a new leaf with a fresh approach to your gardening: commit to staying pesticide- and peat-free, start home composting, or leave some messy areas where nature can do its own thing.
If you don’t have a garden you can still create a wildlife-friendly balcony or put up a window bird feeder; or you could contact YACWAG about getting involved with looking after local trees in our communities.
Speaking out for nature can be a really empowering experience. Even taking a minute to sign an online petition can help to advance a cause: England now has a new target for nature recovery enshrined in law for the first time, thanks in no small part to a major petition organised by several wildlife charities.
If you have a few more minutes to spare you can write to your local MP and councillors about issues that you care about, or influence decisions in our local area by responding to planning applications and appeals that are likely to have damaging impacts on the environment. Watch this talk by local Ecologist Sarah Dale for a great introduction to the planning system and its relationship with nature conservation.
It might sound obvious, but successful wildlife conservation depends on knowing what wildlife is there is the first place. Having up-to-date records of the species in our local area helps to track changes over time, and can inform how sites for nature are managed to support the plants and animals that make a home there. You can submit records and sightings to our excellent local environmental records centre, BRERC, directly via their website; or check out our blog on some of the best apps available to help you to identify and record what you see when you are out and about.
Every day we make choices about the things we buy and consume, and these choices determine the environmental impacts that we ourselves are responsible for. This means there are lots of opportunities to make changes that reduce these impacts: for example, you might choose to switch to a more ethical bank, eat less (and more sustainably farmed) meat and dairy, or opt to borrow or buy second-hand rather than from new. WWF has a calculator to help you understand your personal footprint, along with great suggestions and advice for lightening your load on the planet.
Levels of eco-anxiety are rising as we face up to the very real climate and nature crisis, and the inadequate action being taken by Governments worldwide. It’s important to recognise that if you feel overwhelmed, depressed or anxious about the state of the natural world, you are not certainly not alone. There are particular concerns about high levels of eco-anxiety among young people and children, and National Geographic has useful advice on how you can help children to navigate the facts and their feelings.
It can be helpful to recognise and accept feelings of eco-anxiety as a normal reaction, and use them to motivate you to join in with a community (such as YACWAG) where you can talk about and take action on environmental issues. Our latest newsletter includes features on coping with eco-anxiety and we hope to continue this theme through the year.
If your feelings of anxiety and depression are severe and are impacting on your daily life, you should consider seeking professional help.
You might expect us to say this, but supporting YACWAG’s work is a way to have a direct positive impact on our local environment and wildlife – and there are many different ways to get involved!
YACWAG is run entirely on voluntary effort and we need a whole range of talents to do the best job we can of looking after our reserves and providing opportunities for people to learn about local wildlife. Whether your interest is in wildlife surveys, helping with events, taking part in craft projects, or providing administrative support, there really is something for everyone to do, however much or little time you have to offer and however much or little you know about wildlife. We’re always keen to hear from new volunteers, so please do get in touch for a friendly chat about opportunities.
If you don’t have any spare time to volunteer then there are plenty of other ways that you can support YACWAG this year, such as by signing up as a member and encouraging friends and neighbours to do the same.
If you have more top tips for taking action for wildlife, please do share them with the YACWAG community on our Facebook group. Our actions alone might feel like a drop in the ocean, but when we come together we can create a wave of positive change.
We wish you a happy, healthy 2022 – filled with wonderful wildlife experiences!