These are the proposals in the manifesto, listed by the ministry. You may comment on the proposals, preferably with a view to selecting something for action. If you would like this to be considered as a project for further discussion as to the exact action desired, please advise in the comment.

Natural Culture and Education Aims

1. Rewrite Section 78 of The Education Act to place nature at the centre of the state curriculum from nursery to secondary school. Section 78 of the Education Act covers the general requirements in relation to the curriculum. Currently, it states that: “the curriculum for a [...] school satisfies the requirements of this section if it is a balanced and broadly based curriculum which:

(a) promotes the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils at the school and of society, and 

(b) prepares pupils at the school for the opportunities, responsibilities and experiences of later life.” A recommendation to amend this section to include Nature has already been put forward by a number of organisations. A campaign by Sustainability and Environmental education (SEEd) proposed the addition of a third section: “

​(c) instils an ethos and ability to care for oneself, others and the natural environment, now and in the future”. A similar recommendation has also come from the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts in their Nature and Wellbeing act, where it is proposed to “include learning to care for the natural environment as a requirement of a balanced and broadly based curriculum for all schools in England”.​2

2. Outdoor learning one day a fortnight, or equivalent, for every child in primary education. There is mounting empirical evidence that interacting with nature delivers measurable benefits to children, both from a physical, cognitive, psychological and spiritual point of view, ​as well as improving their ability to focus while learning to work with others.​3​,​4​,5 But children are not the only ones to benefit from this: nature has just as much to gain. Connecting to nature is a strong predictor of children’s interests in environmentally friendly practices, and without the opportunity and encouragement to establish this connection, we may be losing an entire generation of future guardians for the environment.​1

3. Youth-led re-wilding project of scale to be established in the UK, where all decisions are taken by young people aged 12–21. Rewilding, in conservation biology, is the large-scale restoration of ecosystems where nature can take care of itself. It seeks to reinstate natural processes and, where appropriate, missing species – allowing them to shape the landscape and the habitats within. Rewilding also focuses on creating a balance between people and the rest of nature, so that living systems can provide the ecological functions on which we all depend, and for people to reconnect with nature. This recommendation is already being explored by Action For Conservation, a youth conservation charity working to inspire and empower young people aged 12–18.

4. The John Muir Award which encourages “people of all backgrounds to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places” to be massively extended in scope across the UK.

5. All UK cities and towns to increase their tree canopy cover to 20% (15% for coastal cities), with the planting done by children from local schools. When viewed from above, the tree canopy cover is the layer of leaves, branches, and tree stems that cover the ground. The advantages of having a larger tree canopy (ie, more trees) in an urban area are many: they cool down the city in summer, absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, reduce the amount of particulates reaching the ground, provide shelter and food for urban wildlife, and increase wellbeing. The average urban tree canopy cover in England is 16%.​6​ See Ministry for Urban Spaces for more on this topic.

6. Hospitals and hospices in Britain to increase access to and provision of 'nearby nature' for both patients and relatives.

7. Give all primary and secondary school children access to outdoor growing facilities to provide ‘Edible Playgrounds’. At a time when the disconnect with nature is increasing and obesity among children is soaring, there is an especially urgent need to re-engage children with the origins of food, nutrition, and cooking. Alarming statistics tell us that one in four primary school children thinks cheese comes from plants, bread comes from meat, and fish finger are made from either pigs or chickens.​7 Access to outdoor growing facilities, as encouraged by the Trees For Cities ‘Edible Playgrounds’ initiative, is a crucial first step towards connecting children to the food they eat and therefore to the importance of preserving a healthy environment.

8. Five Ways To Wildness: like the Five-A-Day food recommendation, frequent engagements with nature to become part of our regular ‘diet’. The body of scientific research looking into the positive effect of interacting with nature is huge, and increasing every year. From physical to psychological, time spent outdoors is likely to make one healthier, more resilient to stress, promote high-order cognitive functioning, enhancing observational skills and the ability to reason.​8 With conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and depression on the increase each year, five-a-day with nature should be an obvious recommendation to anyone wishing for a healthy and balanced lifestyle.

9. The BBC to make a major documentary series addressing the biodiversity crisis. The ‘Blue Planet Effect’ concerning the plastics crisis has shown the huge potential of culture to shift both public attitudes and policy nationally and abroad. One reason for the worsening of the biodiversity crisis is that it largely lies beneath public visibility, and its consequences are hard to see or comprehend. A blue-chip documentary series has the power to change awareness and action around biodiversity loss.

10. Instigate teacher-training programmes to train primary and secondary school teachers in outdoor learning. Outdoor play in contact with nature fosters opportunities for creativity, imagination and social connections. However, according to a government study, 12% of under 16s visits a natural environment less than once a year, and 18% just once a month or less.​9 This lack of access to nature is especially pronounced in children from deprived backgrounds. An entire generation is missing out on time spent outdoors, so more than ever there is a need for schools to provide these important moments of personal and social growth. 

References:
2. RSPB and Wildlife Trust (2014). A Nature and Wellbeing Act: A green paper from the wildlife trusts and the RSPB. Available at: http://ww2.rspb.org.uk/Images/nature_and_wellbeing_act_green_full_tcm9-384572.pdf(Accessed 05/08/2018)
3. Dillon, J., Morris, M., O’Donnell, L., Reid, A., Rickinson, M., Scott, W. (2005). Engaging and Learning with the Outdoors.
National foundation for education research.
4. Keniger, L.E., Gaston, K.J., Irvine, K.N., Fuller, R.A. (2013). What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature? Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health10, 913-935 

5. Taylor, A.F., Kuo, F.E. (2008). Children With Attention Deficits Concentrate Better After Walk in the Park. Journal of Attention Disorders, 12: 402
6. Urban Tree Data (2008). Canopy cover comparison table [Online]. Available at http://www.urbantreecover.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Canopy-Cover-300.pdf
(Accessed 05/08/2018)
7. British Nutrition Foundation (2014).National Pupil Survey. Available at https://www.nutrition.org.uk/attachments/698_UK%20Pupil%20Survey%20Results%202014.pdf
(Accessed 05/08/2018)
8. Miller, J.R. (2005). Biodiversity conservation and the extinction of experience.
Trends in Ecology and Evolution,20(8), p.430-434
9. Natural England (2015). Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment: a pilot to develop an indicator of visits to the natural environment by children [Online]. Available at: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/4989
/mene-childrens-report-years-1-2.pdf(Accessed 05/08/2018)

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Wildlife Welfare Aims
 

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Sunday, 21 April 2019