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The Great Environmental Crisis No One Talks About

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Appetite For a Change page, Organic Transitions page and our Environment and Climate Resource Center page.

"One woe doth tread upon another's heel, So fast they follow"(1). That radical green pressure group PriceWaterhouseCoopers warns that even if the current rate of global decarbonisation were to double, we would still be on course for six degrees of warming by the end of the century(2). Confining the rise to two degrees requires a sixfold reduction in carbon intensity: far beyond the scope of current policies.

A new report shows that the UK has lost 20% of its breeding birds since 1966: once-common species such as willow tits, lesser spotted woodpeckers and turtle doves have all but collapsed; even house sparrows have fallen by two-thirds(3). Ash dieback is just one of many terrifying plant diseases, mostly spread by trade. They now threaten our oaks, pines and chestnuts(4,5).

So where are the marches, the occupations, the urgent demands for change? While the surveys show that the great majority would like to see the living planet protected(6,7), few are prepared to take action. This, I think, reflects a second environmental crisis: the removal of children from the natural world. The young people we might have expected to lead the defence of nature have less and less to do with it.

We don't have to disparage the indoor world, which has its own rich ecosystem, to lament children's disconnection from the outdoor world. But the experiences the two spheres offer are entirely different. There is no substitute for what takes place outdoors; not least because the greatest joys of nature are unscripted. The thought that most of our children will never swim among phosphorescent plankton at night, will never be startled by a salmon leaping, a dolphin breaching, the stoop of a peregrine, the rustle of a grass snake is almost as sad as the thought that their children might not have the opportunity.


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