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Opinion: Do I need to start a revolution to get my own environmental campaign heard by government?

Like many conservationists and students in this current political climate, I have been questioning the integrity of government to achieve real and positive environmental change in the wake of Brexit. Overnight the framework underpinning many of our health and environment laws along with legislation derived from the EU [2], such as air pollution control [3] and wildlife protection will vanish. If we do not have a plan in place to incorporate them into UK law or enforce an environmental watchdog to bridge the gap, it will leave us waiting with baited breath to witness thefree-for-all and loop hole abuse.

We’re taught at university to present our ideas or designs with the backing of facts and figures, otherwise no one will listen, no one will take you seriously. This is becoming, I think, more and more futile in environmental legislation reform, none more evident than those confronting climate change. We have the facts, we have the figures and it’s still not enough to rally our government into making substantial change. Instead it takes the total shut down of London in the form of mass protests and strikes, to finally get acknowledgement and supposed action on this existential threat.

You could argue with Brexit looming their focus, supposedly, was channeled towards patching the European shaped hole left in our legislation, until a more secure solution and government are available. But surely this is the time to show us what we can achieve as an independent state, or am I missing the point? I would argue figures such as £1573 billion, a number the human brain can barely comprehend, is something to sit up for. First revealed in 2011 by the office of national statistics, this figure is the UK’s estimated ‘natural capital’ [6], the amount of money our environment is worth. A largely contrived act, putting a figure on our natural world was an attempt to tackle the view that nature isn’t just something ‘nice to have’ [7]. Rather, provide evidence of another kind, that it is an essential asset to our health and economy. But if our natural world was a business in the UK right now, it would be looking to put it’s HQ in Singapore alongside Dyson at this rate. As nearly 10 years on from its estimated ‘value’, the return it’s getting is not sustainable.

I must admit, in the current disheartening state of affairs my initial thought was; ‘maybe action without government involvement could be the way forward?” This has come to me, at a time of trying to ignite positive environmental change myself. I initially wrote this article trying to iron out my own thoughts and anxieties about starting an advocacy campaign. ‘Road to NoKill’, highlighting the importance of reconnecting our landscape, now divided up by 4, 6 or even 8 lane main roads. The aim of my campaign is to get Highways England’s to take green initiatives seriously, and to stop overlooking the Natural England Green Bridges report [8]. Stating the addition of Green Bridges to our vast network of roads will not only have positive effects on our physical health, but also our mental wellbeing and increase biodiversity. This means changing Highways England’s current minimal green practice, that’s largely only incorporated into the construction new roads, to focus on the 31,000+ miles of existing main road in the UK. In conclusion Governmental commitment to reconnecting our landscape, as well as restoring the green pockets we have left is crucial to achieving this campaign’s aims.

Seemingly goliath, this has raised some questions and eyebrows whether it’s actually achievable. After reading the results of the study, ‘Drivers of declining CO2 emissions in 18 developed economies’ [9], including the United Kingdom, I returned to pondering the integrity of our legislative backbone. Corinne Le Quere lead author of the paper, revealed recently in an interview on Radio 4’s Inside Science that, “as far as we can tell climate policies and energy policies work, if you develop them, if you fund them, if you support them at a large scale, [and]you have them consistently through time, they do lead to reduced emissions.” [10] This, combined with Extinction Rebellion providing the tools and voice to evoke a critical turning point in societal acceptance, that climate change is here and we need to do something about it right now. I do believe the legwork has been put in to help everyone achieve change big or small without an entire revolution, it’s just a case of action.

Thus, leadership and enforcement in driving positive environmental change can really work. And, we should be able to turn to parliament to action, resource and implement such crucial policies with urgency, without tearing up the streets of London. So like Brexit and my dissertation, the deadline to end the discussion and act is here, the people of Britain are calling time on ‘politically’ realistic and are demanding real change. The question now is, will Westminster answer the call?

Written by: Louise McGowan


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