10 Jan 2022

Field Note: Climate optimism

Taking action on city and rural land-use, will improve the quality of our lives in so many ways writes Neil Kitching.

Sun Lane Nature reserve - Benjamin Stratham

Solutions to climate change have multiple benefits for people, society and the environment. We need to revitalise our cities to make them cleaner, greener and more attractive places to live. We need to stop building on greenfield sites and restructure our suburbs so that schools, shops, leisure centres and workplaces are within a 15 minute walk or cycle of where we live. We need to refurbish existing apartments and ensure there are parks and gardens everywhere.

That way we can walk or cycle more, live in densities that are suitable for public transport and therefore reduce our dependency on private cars. Walking is healthy, more sociable and will reduce road congestion and air pollution. 

Car parking spaces can be massively reduced, freeing up land for more productive uses - more homes, cycle lanes , more parks and greenspaces. Perhaps children could meet their neighbours outdoors and play on traffic calmed streets once more?

Our natural lands and wild places have been devastated by the expansion of intensive agriculture and extensive grazing land. Biodiversity has retreated into small pockets of protected land. Our soils are being degraded and rainfall washes straight off the soils along drainage ditches to cause flooding downstream. Pesticides have decimated all insects, not just the 'pests'.

We need to restore some of this lost natural wildness to benefit nature and ourselves. Planting new trees, restoring soils and protecting peat and wetlands will all store carbon, reduce soil erosion and flooding and benefit wildlife. 

Rewilding our countryside will bring more jobs - in tourism, outdoor hobbies, forestry, craft industries and specialist food and drink services. Attractive countryside is good for our mental health, encourages us to take exercise and encourages pollinators which are required for our crops and fruit.

We also need to rewild our seas which have been devastated by overfishing, pollution and fishing boats dragging their nets along the seafloor. By regulating fishing, and replanting seagrass and mangroves nature will respond quickly. The seas can store more carbon, storm damage will be reduced and young fish will thrive in the new habitats. By temporarily reducing fishing pressure this can lead to an increase in sustainable fishing in the future.

Amidst all the bad news, there are grounds for hope and optimism. Find out more in my book Carbon Choices - an easy to read but comprehensive popular science book that concludes with a green action plan for government, business and individuals to make better carbon choices.   

Photo of Sun Lane Nature Reserve by Benjamin Stratham