Population growth is the biggest threat to nature, says wildlife trust CEO
- Credit: Archant
The chief executive of Essex Wildlife Trust has called for “a grown-up conversation” about the impact an increasing population is having on wildlife in the region.
Andrew Impey believes the growing number of people settling in the county and the wider East Anglian area is the main reason why many wild species and green spaces are coming under pressure.
Speaking to the EADT, Mr Impey said: "In Essex, the UK and globally - what is driving climate change is population growth,"
"We are a developing county, and the increases in housing and transport all come back to population growth. There are too many people in Essex.
"People are afraid to have this discussion because they think it might end up with something like the one-child policy they had in China.
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"But we need to think about population growth and have a grown-up conversation about it."
He added: "We are not anti-people, car or house but we need to look at the bigger picture of where Essex will be in 50 years time and what pressures that will have on green space and wildlife."
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Mr Impey was speaking as Essex Wildlife Trust celebrates its 60th anniversary this month.
The origins of the trust hark back to a gathering of volunteers at County Hall in Chelmsford on October 3 1959, who had come together because of their concerns for wildlife and habitat protection in Essex. That day they formed the Essex Naturalists' Trust, which would later go on to become Essex Wildlife Trust.
The local conservation charity has grown a lot since that moment and now boasts 11 visitor centres across 87 reserves, which see more than 1 million visitors annually. The Trust says today it has 38,000 members, works with 2,000 volunteers and engages with 60,000 children from across Essex in nature-themed activities each year.
And for Mr Impey, it is these types of initiatives that will encourage people to care for nature and to try and live sustainably.
"Rather than telling people, it's about inspiring them and getting them engaged," he continued.
"It is possible [to change behaviours] - just look at the effect of the Blue Planet. It has helped people to think about their responsibilities. Today everyone is accountable [for the environment] - it is no longer just the responsibility of organisations like Essex Wildlife Trust or The National Trust."
Essex Wildlife Trust's diamond anniversary comes against a backdrop of growing evidence to show the resilience of many of the UK's wildlife species is diminishing. This week, a new State of Nature report by the country's main wildlife and conservation charities, revealed that one in seven British species is threatened with extinction.
Mr Impey pointed to swifts, house martins and bats as species that are particularly under threat in Essex because of modern development removing their habitat. The lack of scrub on field margins and places like railway cuttings is also having an impact on small mammals like field mice and voles who use them as corridors between habitats, he said.
Asked to list some of the Trust's biggest achievements in recent times, Mr Impey points to the creation of new intertidal zones for wading birds at its Fingringhoe Wick reserve and on-going work to create an 800-acre Thameside Nature Park on an old landfill site near Thurrock.
Working with landowners to bring the water vole back from the verge of extinction in Essex and being acknowledged nationally as one of the Sunday Times 100 Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to work for in the UK are other accomplishments to be proud of, he said. "2019 sure is a year of celebration for us as an organisation but despite these accolades, the wildlife in Essex needs a voice more than ever before and Essex Wildlife Trust will continue to protect our wildlife and wild places for the future," he added.