Communities, businesses and leaders are being urged to play their part in restoring nature and help the UK reverse its position in the bottom 10 per cent of the world’s most nature depleted countries.
The new campaign, called Save our Wild Isles, is the first time the National Trust, WWF and RSPB have collaborated on such a level and comes alongside the launch of David Attenborough’s new series Wild Isles.
Airing last night (12 March) for the first episode, the series explores “the wonder but also the fragility” of nature across the UK.
But its launch was overshadowed by a Guardian report that the BBC had refused to air a so-called sixth episode, filmed for the Save our Wild Isles campaign, for fear of a “right wing backlash” around a starker look at nature losses and concepts like rewilding.
“Saving Our Wild Isles, which the Guardian article refers to is a complementary documentary to the Wild Isles TV series. It is produced by WWF, National Trust and RSPB, and has been acquired by iPlayer. A date will be announced in due course. We want as many people as possible to see this documentary,” a spokesperson for WWF said.
The three charities have 8.5 million combined members and are using their collective voice to call on all sectors of society.
They want the public to ‘go wild once a week’, through things like making space for nature by planting wildflower seeds or getting involved in local community projects.
It will form part of the upcoming People’s Plan for Nature, a huge effort to mobilise the public interest in nature restoration in the UK and to help influence strong policies and government action, following a series of citizen assemblies over winter.
A new YouGov poll, commissioned for the Save Our Wild Isles campaign, found three quarters of people in the UK are worried about the state of nature, and over two thirds (68 per cent) said the UK government is doing too little to tackle nature loss.
The UK is in the bottom 10 per cent of countries globally for protecting nature, but over half of those asked (55 per cent) mistakenly believe that it is on a par with the rest of the world or even doing better.
“The amazing wildlife and wild places that make the UK so special are being destroyed at terrifying speed,” read a joint statement from the head of the National Trust, Hilary McGrady, chief executive of the RSPB Beccy Speight, and WWF chief executive, Tanya Steele.
“Huge numbers of animals, birds and habitats have been quite literally wiped out in our own lifetimes and we must now accept that without urgent and collective action, our economy, the climate and the stability of future generations living in our wild isles all face a ticking timebomb,” they said.
Traditionally home to huge range of wildlife, from puffins to orcas, bees and beavers, in the last 50 years, 38 million birds have vanished from UK skies, 97 per cent of wildflower meadows have been lost since the 1930s and a quarter of all our mammals, including water voles and Greater mouse-eared bats, are at risk of extinction.
“It is a massive challenge, and we need to act fast, but there is hope. The science is clear about what we need to do and there are already amazing people transforming farms, businesses, coasts, urban spaces, transport networks, energy supplies and communities for nature. We just need much more of it,” the three women wrote.
Sir David Attenborough has also said: “The truth is, every one of us, no matter who we are, or where we live, can and must play a part in restoring nature.
“It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or powerless by the scale of the issues facing our planet, but we have the solutions. I am hopeful for the future, because although nature is in crisis, now is the time for action, and together we can save it.”
In the poll, there was also overwhelming support (83 per cent) for all political parties coming together to devise an action plan for protecting nature, while 80 per cent of people backed harsher penalties for businesses that contribute to the decline in nature.
The Attenborough series comes as a major new subsidy programme to pay farmers to protect nature on their land gets off the ground.
During the airing of Wild Isles last night, farmers took to social media to criticise the new payments, known as Elms, for not going far enough to reverse the huge declines and trajectory of intensive farming and nature depletion, which are worsened by things like trade deals and cheap food. Farming and nature are briefly touched on in episode one of Wild Isles, in shots of nature-rich haymeadows, which must be maintained by farmers following dedicated nature-friendly practices.
Wild Isles is on BBC One on Sundays at 7pm or on iPlayer.