Nature provides us humans with much pleasure, as well as a host of valuable but often invisible services such as water purification and pollination, but wildlife is in decline almost everywhere hence we are in danger of these services being lost. Each of us can play a role in reversing this negative trend, which is the focus of our local not-for-profit organisation Big Nature to encourage everybody to put a little bit back – by creating suitable homes for wildlife on our doorsteps.
Big Nature aims to inspire a renaissance in the relationship between ourselves and local wildlife. We promote the creation of new habitats within our Biosphere region, deliver biodiversity education and propose to build a Big Nature centre in Brighton to be a focal point for schools and the wider community.
Our goal is to promote “bio-empathy” – an individual’s emotional connection with the natural world – so that we may all learn the true value of our natural heritage. To cultivate this quality, there have to be sufficient opportunities to experience and learn about the natural world, thus the importance of conserving and creating new nature habitats. As Sir David Attenborough puts it: “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.”
Here you can see what wildlife a pond in your back garden could attract, or learn how to make your very own ‘butterfly haven’ on your front lawn or even on the garage roof! There will be a series of inspiring talks, workshops, trade stalls and hands-on demonstrations, with everything from to wild flowers, seed bombs and green roofing. The event will promote the great work people are doing within our community, and you can find out how to join a group caring for a local nature reserve near you or how to do it for yourself in your own back garden.
Our afternoon event precedes the annual ‘green carpet’ People, Environment and Achievement (PEA) Awards 2015 that celebrates trailblazers for sustainability from around the UK and beyond.
This year Big Nature has sponsored a new ‘Nature’ award to recognise innovative projects that make a positive impact on biodiversity and provide inspiration to engage others to replicate the work elsewhere. We wish to profile habitat creation work that not only benefits individual wildlife species, but also helps to connect habitats so they’re more resilient to the pressures of human development and climate change. Big Nature’s Dr Dan Danahar, says: "We are looking for projects that show originality by providing new habitats that could be scaled up to make a patchwork of suitable homes for wildlife throughout the Biosphere landscape and beyond. We want to see work that makes a positive contribution for wildlife and inspires others to replicate such work, but most of all we want to see evidence of the joy that such work brings to the lives of many people”.
A wide range of people submitted a diverse selection of projects from one covering a few square metres of a front garden only, up to a 3500 acre private estate and a 1 million square mile marine reserve in the South Pacific! It was exciting that many entries came from within our Biosphere region or nearby, which illustrates the great work local people are already doing.
The shortlist for Nature awards, with the winners to be announced at the PEA Awards evening event on Saturday 3rd October, are:
Mr Philip Thompson, The Living Garden (Brighton) – Philip started ‘gardening for wildlife’ from the day he moved into his house 15 years ago. Now, as many as 6 species of butterfly and a number of moth species actually breed in Philip’s garden as a direct result of the presence of their larval host plants, which have been planted or introduced by Philip.
Charlie Burrell, Knepp Castle (Shipley, West Sussex) – Knepp Castle Estate, near Shipley, West Sussex comprises 3,500 acres, almost all of which is now given over to re-wilding. With its heavy clay and small fields the land was never suited to intensive agriculture so, in 2003, owner Charlie Burrell made the bold step of turning the entire estate over to a pioneering conservation project.
Dr Martin Warren, chief executive, Butterfly Conservation (Dorset) – Butterfly Conservation is targeting efforts in 73 key landscapes, working with hundreds of landowners and partner organisations to manage habitats to enhance existing populations, restore former habitats and reconnect populations.
Great British Oceans Coalition team (London) – Working together, The Pew Trusts, RSPB, Marine Conservation Society, The Blue Marine Foundation and Zoological Society of London recently celebrated the government’s commitment to create the world’s largest marine reserve around the Pitcairn Islands. Just under a million square km of the South Pacific will forever remain pristine ocean.