The Bristol Ecological Emergency Strategy – a blueprint for a more ecologically resilient city for people and for wildlife

(c) Guy Edwardes/2020VISION

When we entered lockdown in March, it was even more apparent to me just how important it was for people to be able to connect with nature on their doorstep. The buzz of insects, wildflowers brightening up green spaces and the birdsong outside my window, were an essential source of delight and inspiration at a time of unprecedented coronavirus crisis.

Like all organisations, the pandemic impacted the way Avon Wildlife Trust works, with staff on furlough or working from home and travel much more difficult.  I have always enjoyed going to new places to explore nature, but have now discovered the real joy in getting to know local landscapes and habitats more deeply – there’s so much close to home when you take the time to look.  

Over the last six months, we’ve seen more people spending time on our nature reserves, and sharing their nature connection with us online. It’s clear how important a role nature has played for everyone’s health and wellbeing. Yet at the same time it has also been apparent that not everyone has equal access to green spaces in the city, and many have struggled without it.

Nature is disappearing in Bristol, in our region and around the world. 68% of the world’s wild mammals, fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians have been lost since 1970, threatening the natural systems on which people and wildlife depend. In February we, along with the Mayor of Bristol, declared an ecological emergency in the city, to highlight the scale of this decline. This follows the climate emergency declaration in Bristol in 2018.

Our team are continuing to work hard to raise awareness of these twin challenges, by working collectively with individuals, families, schools, organisations and councils to take action for wildlife and restore our natural world. This autumn, organisations from across Bristol have come together to create an Ecological Emergency Strategy for Bristol – a vision for a wildlife-rich, ecologically resilient city that works for people and wildlife by 2030.  

The strategy we’ve worked on puts forward solutions with four ambitious key goals for Bristol over the next decade:

  • Space for nature – at least 30% of land in Bristol managed for the benefit of wildlife. This means finding new spaces for nature to thrive throughout the city’s urban landscape.
     
  • Pesticides – reduce the use of pesticides in Bristol by at least 50%. This means challenging their use at all levels and finding alternatives.
     
  • Pollution – 100% of Bristol’s waterways to have water quality that supports healthy wildlife by 2030. This means reducing pollution contaminating water.
     
  • Our wider footprint – people and businesses to reduce consumption of products that undermine the health of wildlife and ecosystems around the world. This means finding ways to help everyone better understand the impact of their actions.

Declaring an ecological emergency in the city and launching our Ecological Emergency Strategy shows that we have made a good start and developed good partnerships with other local organisations, however I know that this is only just the beginning and we have a long way to go. Change needs to happen at every level and we want to work together with others to make sure that through this, we are able to call on everyone’s skills, knowledge and experience to design a city in the right way. We want it to be easy for people to access nature on their doorstep and have the resources they need to feel empowered to play a role in its recovery with their communities and as a city.

Right now we are building momentum to tackle the ecological emergency in Bristol with others, with fantastic organisations such as Incredible Edible Bristol, City to Sea and the Bristol Green Capital Partnership working alongside the Wildlife Trust, city institutions, businesses and the Council to take the action that is needed on the ground. We know that Bristol is full of people who love nature and want to take action for wildlife. Working together we can achieve the change we want to see. It’s not too late to reverse the decline in wildlife, to ensure that wildlife and people can survive and thrive.  

Read the Bristol’s Ecological Emergency Strategy here. 

You can also help Avon Wildlife Trust’s work tackling the ecological emergency by donating here.