The new environmental narrative: ensuring the future of the UK is truly ‘green’

Currently, the mainstream media views the environment as an issue which instils fear. Calls to action grip the nation to reduce single use plastics, reduce our carbon footprint and even stop eating certain foods before it is ‘too late’.

This dramatic depiction, compounded by the media insights a feeling of doom, giving the environment a niche, guilt-triggering and already nerdy stigma.

Whilst there is no doubt that the issues of plastics and carbon emissions are important, we must not forget our historical and fruitful relationship with environment. We need to remember the positives nature continues to give us, and consider how we can move forward with the environment in a synergistic and positive relationship.

Being and green, protecting the environment and respecting nature does not warrant this immediacy or doom and gloom. Let us consider what nature does for us in order to determine what we can do for it.  The environment of the British Isles has fed, watered, sheltered, educated and inspired us for centuries.

"Let us consider what nature does for us in order to determine what we can do for it in much the same way that the gentle British countryside has housed us for centuries."

Consider for example the carbon storing capacities of peatland, the bees, plants and soils that keep us in constant supply of food or the wetlands and woodlands which secure our water.

Not only this but these environments, Britain and Northern Ireland's rolling hills, expanses of fens, rugged moorlands and high peaks bring joy and boost wellbeing around the country every day. This is what we need to remember in rebranding environmentalism in 2018.

In the same way that Volvo has successfully branded itself the ‘safety’ car manufacturer, or Adidas no longer just sells athletic apparel, it sells the idea of the healthy lifestyle, and keeping fit through their app, we need to rebrand the environment to show its positive effects.

For so long we have taken for granted what nature does for everyone in the British Isles from our food and clean water supply to providing green spaces. In fact, as we have strived to keep costs down through activities such as intensive farming, we have been running down the environment’s capacity to support long-term wellbeing and prosperity.

"For so long we have taken for granted what nature does for us for free in Britain, from our food and clean water supply to providing green spaces."

A convenient way to value these assets is in monetary terms. Whilst not exhaustive, the financial value of nature or ‘natural capital’ can communicate the benefits of nature in no uncertain terms, providing clarity in what could otherwise be considering ‘wishy-washy’ and be thus overlooked.

An example of this financial value of nature can be found in a 2017 report by Vivid Economics which put the value of the services provided by London’s public green space at £5 billion a year, with health benefits at top of the list.

A further example is that in 2011, the UK National Ecosystem Assessment calculated the benefit peatlands bring to water quality as being worth £1.5 billion per year and the amenity benefits worth another £1.3 billion.

In this way, Britain is rich in natural capital, an asset with both public and private benefits, realising and investing in which is one significant step along the way towards re-branding the environment in the UK.

The Ecosystems Knowledge Network hosts The Natural Capital Investment Conference, in London next year on 28th February 2019. The conference brings together environmental professionals (many of whom are land owning) with experts in green finance and impact investment in order to reshape the future of Britain being ‘green’.

This piece was authored by Amelia Steele for the Ecosystems Knowledge Network; pulished on the 6th of December 2018 

Amelia is a freelance writer on sustainability matters and environmental entrepreneur. She is based in Bristol.