A Nature and Wellbeing Summit, hosted in Bristol as part of the city's year as European Green Capital, is bringing together leading UK and European practitioners, researchers and decision-makers to discuss the value of nature in our society with a specific focus on landscapes and nature-based solutions for health and wellbeing.
The summit on 4-5 March 2015, is organised by the National Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and Bristol 2015. It will consider how nature conservation organisations, local and national government, business, communities and key sectors, such as health and wellbeing can work together in new ways to both protect wildlife and bring about its recovery and take action to work with nature to help with current social and economic challenges.
The summit follows the publication of the State of Nature Report in 2013 which, for the first time, described the overall declines of UK wildlife, and set a clear challenge for all parties to work together in response. Recently, a group of nature conservation organisations have called for a Nature and Wellbeing Act to commit future governments to formally acknowledge nature's value to society and work to bring about its recovery for the benefit of wildlife and people. The themes of this Act will be central to the discussions held at the summit.
On the first day the theme of the event is 'landscape-scale conservation' with a keynote address by leading UK ecologist Professor Sir John Lawton, Vice President of the RSPB, President of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust and a Life Fellow of WWF-UK. He led an independent review of England's wildlife sites and the connections between them. The review was set up to look at whether they are capable of responding and adapting to the growing challenges of climate change and other demands on our land. It made recommendations to help achieve a healthy natural environment that will allow our plants and animals to thrive. Professor Lawton will speak about the importance of re-connecting nature-rich places across whole landscapes. This part of the conference is funded through the EU LIFE programme and will be attended by over 150 practitioners.
On the evening of Wednesday 4 March there is a free event which is open to the public. Nature - our BIG green ally will see expert panellists debate how recovery of the natural world can lead to a fairer and more just society. The panellists are the Wildlife Trusts' president Simon King OBE, RSPB president Miranda Krestovnikoff, the Wildlife Trusts' chief executive Stephanie Hilborne OBE and Professor Sir John Lawton.
The second day, titled Towards a Daily Dose of Nature, is devoted to exploring how the value of nature can be taken from the fringe of the health, education and planning professions, to a normal part of these vital public services. This day is funded by Bristol 2015 as part of its European Green Capital programme of activity. Speakers include director of the Supporting Healthy Inclusive Neighbourhood Environments Health Integration Team (SHINE HIT) Marcus Grant, also deputy director of the World health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments at UWE, GP Dr William Bird MBE, and naturalist, author and TV producer Stephen Moss.
SHINE director Marcus Grant, deputy director of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre for Healthy Urban Environments at UWE, said: "The evidence base and much recent good practice proves that we can support human health and well-being through urban nature; this starkly contrasts with the current way we organise approaches to both health and nature in our great cities. Those involved with city development need to show bravery, creativity and leadership to break through the barriers so that nature based solutions can lead to better well-being - I look forward to this event signalling an epidemic of good sense."
Professor Sir John Lawton, said: "Environmental protection is still seen by some as an impediment to a successful economy. This antediluvian view has no place in how we think about, and organise society in the 21st century. Healthy minds and bodies are nurtured by a healthy environment, and the work nature does for us in myriads of ways underpin our very existence as an advanced society. We ignore (or worse trash) the natural world at our peril; in contrast, this wonderful event will showcase what can be achieved for the benefits of people and wildlife."
Miranda Krestovnikoff, Bristol 2015 ambassador, said: "Many of the biggest challenges our society faces today are linked to the condition of the natural world. The wellbeing of people and planet go hand in hand, and Bristol as European Green Capital in 2015, provides a perfect backdrop to these events."
Image courtesy of RSPB Images.