Yorkshire’s wildlife charities, campaigners, nature lovers and their families have joined together to protest at the government’s failure to address the deepening crisis in nature, laid bare in the devastating State of Nature report. They joined more than 30 of the UK’s leading nature advocacy organisations, participating in rallies across the country.
At the forefront of this grassroots movement is TV presenter and naturalist Chris Packham, who is leading the direct call to the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (Defra). Hundreds of scientists, wildlife experts, nature charities, their members, and concerned citizens joined him in peacefully protesting outside Defra offices in London, Bristol, Newcastle, Reading, and York.
Restore Nature Now
The newly formed ‘Restore Nature Now’ movement, which is led by Packham, states: “We are birdwatchers, ramblers, ecologists, pond dippers, river-swimmers, no-mow-mayers, anglers, scientists, butterfly counters, spring-watchers, gardeners, rewilders, conservationists. We are ordinary people taking action in extraordinary times.”
In advance of the rally, Packham said:
“This is beyond an ‘attack on nature’ in the UK. Our wildlife is being annihilated. Our wild places and wildlife are not merely ‘dying’ – they are being killed. Those responsible for killing nature are getting away with it. Those responsible for protecting nature are failing. We are taking our demand to ‘Restore Nature Now’ directly to the government department responsible for failing nature in this country.”
Dr Amy-Jane Beer, a Yorkshire-based biologist, naturalist, access campaigner, and author of The Flow: rivers, water, and wildness, which won the 2023 Wainwright Prize for Nature Writing, expressed her deep concern, saying:
“I was born in 1970 – the year now used as a benchmark for the catastrophic declines in biodiversity. I feel that loss personally. The failure of governments to act will haunt all our futures. No one who now neglects immediate, decisive, and sustained action on climate and ecological restoration can call themselves a leader.”
Grassroots support in Yorkshire
Parents for Future York & North Yorkshire also voiced their support for this national action. They emphasised the importance of prioritising the restoration of nature, stating, “Our leaders, current and potential, must put the restoration of nature at the forefront of their policies. We have to speak up for nature because our current leaders aren’t doing enough to protect it as we face an ecological crisis and the sixth mass extinction. No nature, no future for our children”.
Representatives from the Extinction Rebellion Families York group echoed these sentiments, expressing their sorrow over the loss of nature over their lifetimes and the prospect of their children inheriting a world devoid of rich ecosystems, clean waterways, vibrant meadows, and skies full of birdsong. They stressed the urgency of government action to halt and reverse the alarming decline in nature.
York scientist Dr Abi Perrin highlighted the importance of bridging the gap between scientific knowledge and public action, saying, “I’m joining dozens of other scientists at Defra in London today because I believe we need to move from scientific reports and publications to public actions that protect and restore the incredible life around us that we depend on. I’m excited to see major wildlife charities, campaigners, community groups, and many more standing united for the first time today”.
Protest in London
Professor Jeff Waage OBE, an ecologist and former member of Defra’s science advisory committee, is joining the protest in London. He underscored the urgency of the climate crisis and the devastating impact of the government’s failure to deliver on its commitments to nature recovery, saying “Critical nature recovery in the UK is being actively delayed, avoided, and undermined”.
Craig Bennett, chief executive of The Wildlife Trusts, emphasised the importance of prioritising nature in political agendas, particularly as the UK faces the looming climate crisis. He stressed the need for policies that support nature-friendly farming, protect water bodies, and create natural areas within urban environments. He also offered a warning that history would not look kindly on politicians who ignore the crucial link between nature recovery and climate action.
The ‘Restore Nature Now’ movement is sending a clear message to the government: the time for action to save our natural world is now. The fate of our wildlife, landscapes, and the very future of our planet hang in the balance, and the collective voices of those who cherish and protect nature demand to be heard.