Please see below selected recent nature-related change.
- A study in Nature said restoring - or rewilding - 15 per cent of land that humans have degraded could remove from the atmosphere nearly a third of all the excess carbon emitted since the start of the industrial revolution, and boost biodiversity.
- According to a study published in the journal Emotion, one way to improve mental health is by taking regular 15-minute "awe walks." Researchers at the UC San Francisco Memory and Ageing Center and the Global Brain Health Institute wanted to see if these focused walks in the woods could improve prosocial emotions in seniors. The team chose this cohort due to longstanding links between cognitive decline and mental health problems associated with anxiety and depression. According to associate professor Virginia Sturm, loneliness is particularly damaging to older adults and can help drive the onset of Alzheimer's disease. "What we show here is that a very simple intervention," said associate professor Virginia Sturm, "essentially a reminder to occasionally shift our energy and attention outward instead of inward – can lead to significant improvements in emotional well-being."
- A global economy fuelled by consumption is unsustainable. An estimated 23% of global GDP and 16% of employment originate from the extraction, production, manufacturing and generation of energy and materials. Our untenable practices also extend into food production, supply and consumption. Healthy soils, for example, are the basis of our food production. But with a third of our soils being degraded, food security around the world is at risk. Agriculture is responsible for over 80% of deforestation and at the same time 35% of food produced is either wasted or lost. However, the World Economic Forum points out that if countries and business prioritised nature, they could generate $10.1 trillion in annual business value and create 395 million jobs by the end of 2030.
- Wildlife populations are in freefall around the world, driven by human overconsumption. population growth and intensive agriculture, according to a major new assessment of the abundance of life on Earth. On average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles plunged by 68% between 1970 and 2016, according to the WWF and Zoological Society of London’s biennial Living Planet Report 2020. In 2018, the figure stood at 60%. The research is one of the most comprehensive assessments of global biodiversity available and was complied by 134 experts from around the world. It found that from the rainforests of central America to the Pacific Ocean, nature is being exploited and destroyed by humans on a scale never previously recorded, reported The Guardian.
- Working with nature, urban solutions such as rain gardens, street trees, green roofs and walls and development of green spaces can help urban areas adapt to climate change impacts, such as flooding events and heat waves, as well as tackling socio-environmental challenges such as poor air quality, biodiversity loss and human health and wellbeing.
- A McKinsey report mapped areas where nature appears to have particularly high value and analysed some of the co-benefits and costs that could result from conservation of these areas. These additional prioritised areas would effectively double the current conservation of land and national waters to 30% of the planet - a proposed UN target used as a reference point for this analysis.
- The Covid-19 pandemic has shown how the Earth can recover “if we allow it to rest” and must spur people to adopt simpler lifestyles to help a planet “groaning” under the constant demand for economic growth, Pope Francis said. In his latest urgent appeal to help a fragile environment, Francis also renewed his call for the cancellation of the debts of the most vulnerable countries. Such action would be just, he said, since rich countries have exploited poorer nations’ natural resources.
- Natural capital - the value of the services nature provides, from clean water to breathable air - is worth more than $160 trillion every year, according to Quartz analysis. Now an entire field of economics and ecology has sprung up to define, map, and track the world’s declining stock of natural capital.
- Research published in the journal Nature, showed that where habitats have been disturbed for farming and urban development, the populations of animals like bats, rats and small birds – all of them carriers of zoonotic diseases – are more than twice as large as populations in untouched habitats nearby. To protect ourselves from future pandemics, we must therefore protect nature, concluded Tortoise Media.
- Project Syndicate meanwhile warned that natural systems, such as the massive Sundarbans mangrove forest in India and Bangladesh, are not just home to millions of plant and animal species that deserve protection from human encroachment. They are also crucial sources of economic output and resilience, demanding far more protection than they currently receive.
- By covering the roofs of bus stops with plants, the Dutch city of Utrecht has created sanctuaries for bees and butterflies. It's now providing funding for local residents to install their own green roofs, while moving towards clean, windmill-fuelled public transport.
- "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” So said the nature writer John Muir. His statement is spectacularly true of fungi, reported The Guardian. Mostly, they come to our notice as mushrooms, moulds, wood-rot, infections and antibiotics but, invisibly, they are inside us and all around us. Fungi live in all kinds of organisms, on surfaces, in and below the soil, in the air, in water, in deep ocean floors and inside solid rock. In these places, fungi are not merely present. They are structural. Their interaction with other matter has played an essential role in making the world we inhabit. The symbiotic merging of algae and fungi to form lichens enabled the rootless ancestors of all our plants to emerge from water. Ninety per cent of all plants depend on fungi for minerals. Fungi can eat most rubbish, and even oil spills. We can use them in numerous ways (drugs, cooking, even furniture building).
- The New York Times reported that numerous studies have shown the mental and physical benefits of spending time in nature, but for some people, it took a pandemic and stay-at-home orders for that desire to spend more time outdoors to feel like a necessity. Experts hope that desire for nature will remain once people physically return to their busy schedules. “Ironically, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, as tragic as it is, has dramatically increased public awareness of the deep human need for nature connection, and is adding a greater sense of urgency to the movement to connect children, families and communities to nature,” said Richard Louv, a journalist and the author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder.
- The NYT added that research has shown access to green space is linked to a child’s well-being. For example, adding greenery to school play yards has been shown to increase prosocial behaviour in children. They help, cooperate, comfort and share more; the loss of access to this greenery has the opposite effect. A 2013 study found that even viewing nature scenes can reduce stress and regulate heart rates.
- Proposed by Prospect as one of the world's top 50 thinkers of 2020, proponent of object-oriented ontology (OOO), Timothy Morton argues that “nature” or “the environment” does not, in fact, exist as we think of it, as something separate from or encompassing of civilisation. He suggests instead that all objects, from rocks to trees, live in equal and interdependent co-existence with humans.
- Natural capital provides the world’s population with a variety of critical services, noted McKinsey. These include ecosystem services (providing goods such as food, fibre, fuel, water, and wood), regulating environmental conditions (by controlling pollution, protecting against natural hazards like floods and forest fires, and purifying water, among others), and supporting recreation, spiritual fulfilment, aesthetic enjoyment, and other cultural practices. But climate change accelerates the depletion of natural capital and ecosystem services as it alters major geophysical conditions - average surface temperatures, ocean body temperatures, precipitation patterns, the oxygen content and acidity of seawater - too quickly for natural systems to adapt. When these changes reach thresholds that ecosystems can no longer sustain, natural capital and ecosystem services often degrade along a nonlinear path.
- Helping children to connect with nature is key, as in recent years, a number of concerns have coalesced around the view that young people do not spend enough time outdoors. Health is one source of anxiety, particularly the rise in obesity and mental distress. Increased reliance on technology for entertainment is another. Evidence shows that the danger from road traffic, and fear of crime, have contributed to reducing children’s freedom, particularly the opportunity to play outside or travel to school unsupervised.
- Phenology is the close study of “nature’s clock,” from the grand rotation of the seasons to the minute behavior of a bumblebee. Natural observations have always been valuable - as historical records, sources of artistic inspiration, agricultural planning tools, and, most fundamentally, as a way to connect people to their environment. But as climate change has accelerated, phenology has acquired a sense of urgency, which has transformed one hermit’s private project into an international scientific resource, and 500 years of Swiss winemaking records into a comprehensive history of the European climate. Phenology can offer a sense of comfort, engagement even in social isolation, and interspecies solidarity. Slate recommended keeping a phenology journal for this exact purpose: “In so doing, you can anchor yourself in place and be a witness to the way nature is actually responding to change, instead of dwelling on the disasters that might come.”
- It’s likely that we will all be spending time in our local areas for the foreseeable future and taking our holidays in our home countries rather than abroad. Could we bring to these experiences the same kind of curiosity we might feel when visiting a different city or landscape? Is it possible to find dynamism and novelty in our parks, streets and woodlands? During lockdown, writer Lucy Jones, like many others, came to know her nearest green spaces more deeply and gratefully. Instead of becoming bored, as she imagined she might, she found that her local natural areas felt like new destinations each day, even by the hour, for nature is in constant flux. Bird songs are richest at dawn and dusk. The wild garlic smells stronger when the soil is warm and rte nettles glow green when the sun is low in the sky. In short, Jones says we can find the wild near our home and we can even find our place in the family of things, to use the poet Mary Oliver’s phrase. There is magic in the seemingly mundane. If we want more, we can find more. And it’s free.
- Those who have wished to protect nature from modernity's destructiveness have often made powerful appeals to people's altruism; they have evoked the suffering of other species and the needs of as yet unborn generations. But, argues The School of Life, it is rarely a winning strategy to try to get through to the selfish by appeals to their conscience; it may simply be wiser to target their self-interest. We don't need to make impassioned speeches begging the drillers and the loggers to be good. We need only point out the cost to themselves, and more specifically to their mental well-being. There may be other ways to get healthy besides going to the park, but it is hard to imagine a species maintaining even a semblance of mental equilibrium without, somewhere in the picture, some very mighty trees, a mallard duck -- and a team of weaver ants.
- Nature is valuable not only for itself; it is also to be revered as the single most persuasive and redemptive work of philosophy. The School of Life argued that nature corrects our erroneous and ultimately very painful sense that we are essentially free. However, the idea of inevitability is central to the natural world: the deciduous tree has to shed it leaves when the temperature dips in autumn; the river must erode its banks, the cold front will deposit its rain; the tide has to rise and fall. The laws of nature are governed by forces nobody chose, no one can resist and which brook no exception.
- While many of us know that time spent in nature is good for us, we can’t always say exactly why. There are obvious physical benefits (the exercise we get from walking and access to cleaner air, but instinctively, we feel an emotional benefit as well - subtle, but unmistakable. For The School of Life, this derives from our unconscious recognition of the innate wisdom nature contains. In its infinite variety, nature has lessons to teach us and all we need is the patience and focus to receive them.
- The UN General Assembly declared 2021-2030 to be the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, while IPBES reported that nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in human history and species extinction rates are accelerating. They estimate that 1 million species or animals and plants are now threatened, with grave impacts on people around the world now likely. WWF estimate that humanity has wiped out 60% of all mammals, birds, fish and reptiles that existed in 1970.
- George Monbiot argued passionately for "rewilding" our natural environment. Drawing upon new scientific discoveries, he laid out a new, positive environmentalism, in which nature is allowed to find its own way. By restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems on land and at sea, we can repair the living planet, create ecosystems as profuse and captivating as any around the world, and bring wonder back into our lives.