Charities invite public to join biggest ever conversation about nature

Eighty-one per cent of UK adults believe nature is under threat and that more needs to be done urgently to protect and restore it, according to polling out today from the National Trust, the RSPB and WWF. Almost half (48%) are willing to take action themselves to reverse the damage but 42% don’t feel empowered to do so.

The results come as three of the UK’s biggest conservation charities join forces with celebrity champions Maisie Williams and Cel Spellman to launch the People’s Plan for Nature, inviting the nation to have its say on how the UK solves the ongoing nature crisis.

Through both a UK-wide conversation and the UK’s first ever citizen’s assembly for nature, the charities are inviting people to share their ideas and together develop a set of public demands to tackle the nature crisis - calling on Prime Minister Liz Truss and new Environment Secretary Ranil Jayawardena to take rapid action.

This summer the UK has seen an unprecedented heatwave, drought and an ongoing failure to address pollution across UK waterways, yet nature and climate remained low on the priority list in the Conservative leadership hustings. The new Prime Minister has already moved towards an expansion of fossil fuel extraction in the UK, instead of prioritising a rapid shift to renewables and a drive towards energy efficiency in our homes that would make us truly energy secure while cutting bills. If the Prime Minister also delays supporting farmers in adopting nature friendly approaches, it does not bode well for our struggling natural habitats, nor the wildlife that depends on them.

Respondents to the poll released today were asked to select up to three things they’d most want to see in their local area to improve nature and wildlife; the suggestions with the highest percentages were, in order:

More action for cleaner rivers, waterways and seas

More protection for nature in the planning and housebuilding system

Strengthened legal protection for nature, wildlife, and habitats

More wildlife reserves to protect habitats and increase wildlife diversity

More funding to restore and protect nature-friendly spaces in farmlands.

The charities are encouraging the public to submit their thoughts on the future of nature in the UK by visiting before 30th October. The charities have also partnered with Future Art Centres (a network of independent cultural centres across the UK) to help facilitate the conversation. The public will be invited to add their ideas to specially-designed tree installations at 30 Art Centres around the country and selected National Trust venues.

The three charity chiefs, Hilary McGrady (National Trust), Beccy Speight (RSPB) and Tanya Steele (WWF) said in a collective statement:

“This summer, the reality of the climate and nature emergency hit home. We saw the UK experience record-breaking temperatures, heatwaves and reduced rainfall. This resulted in droughts and wildfires, devastating special places and wildlife and affecting the crops we grow, while contributing to the cost of living crisis.

“Nature needs all of us, not just to play our own part as its defenders but to come together and demand action from those in power who can make the biggest difference. The desire to protect nature unites people in every community and affects everyone, so we all must be part of the conversation about how we protect and restore it. The People’s Plan For Nature is the chance for us all to have our voices heard and to kickstart more action.”

The majority of people in the UK say they have witnessed a decline in nature and wildlife in their local areas in at least one form, according to the polling: 65% in the amount and variety of insects they see including butterflies and bumblebees and 58% in birds; 60% in the number of mammal sightings such as hedgehogs, badgers and otters and 59% in green spaces such as parks and woodlands. And many have seen some form of decline in the last five years alone (64%).

Starting in November 2022, a representative group of 100 people from across the UK will come together in the first ever UK-wide citizen’s assembly for nature to develop a set of recommendations to help and restore nature in the UK. Over the course of the People’s Assembly for Nature, participants will hear from leading scientists, politicians, industry leaders and members of the public to understand the pressures UK nature is under. In February, the People’s Assembly for Nature will prioritise what it understands to be the most crucial solutions to protect and restore nature in the UK.

Maisie Williams and Cel Spellman are the first celebrity champions supporting the campaign.

Emmy-nominated actor, activist, and producer Maisie Williams said: “The People’s Plan for Nature is the chance for all of us to come together and fight for nature before it is too late. I am so excited to join this vital conversation and play a part in protecting and restoring the wildlife that means so much to me and countless others. For me, it’s about birdsong – it always reminds me of home, and I’m scared that I will wake up one day and won’t be able to hear it anymore. We must act now – and the most powerful thing we can do is use our voices, collectively. So let’s join this fight together and bring our nature back to life!”

Actor, presenter and activist Cel Spellman said: “The People’s Plan for Nature gives us a rare opportunity to unite and bring about desperately needed change for our natural world. We have all turned to and appreciated nature like never before in the last few years. For me, spending time immersed in the natural world is my medicine, it’s good for the soul, body and mind. Yet the UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world. Nature needs us now more than ever, and this is the time for us all to stand up, take action and use our voices to protect and restore our precious wildlife species, ecosystems and environment. Together we can make a real difference.”

The People’s Plan for Nature will give a voice to everyone to share their ideas, asking the public: “what do you love about nature in the UK? What would you miss if it disappeared?” to get their feedback on how to thwart the nature crisis and to understand what people would like to see for the future of UK nature and wildlife.

We invite you to get involved when you visit the MAC over the coming weeks. Share your ideas about how to save nature by adding a leaf to the MAC's tree in our foyer.