Updated: Jan 28, 2022
Every single one of us is dependent on our natural environment. It provides us with the air that we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and also shelter against the cold, the heat and all of the other weather elements. We use it, directly or indirectly, as a way to earn a living and we enjoy spending time in it in our leisure time. It is most definitely an aid to our mental health.
The ‘Great Outdoors” is vitally important to us all, and so it is essential that we are compassionate towards it and interact with it sensitively.
The natural world is a complicated interaction between all of the plants and animals and their physical environment. All of our actions, whether conscious or otherwise, have some impact upon those interactions.
Our ability to be compassionate towards our natural environment and towards each other is as equally important as climate change – and the simple fact is that we can all be more compassionate immediately!
The United Kingdom is a small, densely populated island with a comfortable climate and a marvellous array of different habitats to treasure. We have mountains and rivers, heathland and forest, uplands, and lowlands and an amazing 11,000-mile coastline of beaches and bays, coves, and cliffs.
However, the needs of our ever-growing populations have put increasing pressure on our natural spaces and so the countryside needs to be protected against activities that could damage them – whether they be from major or minor developments, from farming, fishing, or forestry or from our leisure pursuits of walking, cycling and our innate passion for all things watery!
Since the end of the second world war, the importance of the countryside has been legally recognised and various labels (designations) have been assigned to areas of the countryside.
There are fifteen National Parks, large areas of the countryside which are protected for everyone’s enjoyment, and forty-six Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) which speak for themselves in that they have a landscape sufficiently precious for them to be safeguarded. These two designations embrace not just the landscape but people, culture, and business interests too.
Within these large swathes of the countryside are other areas that are protected for their nature, geological and historical interests. Special Protection Areas(SPAs) protect birds – both migratory and resident, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) protect special types of habitats, Ramsars protect our water and wetlands whilst National Nature Reserves comprise areas of high-quality wildlife and geologically fascinating rocks. In addition, there are well over 6,500 Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) which are protected for their sheer diversity of habitats, wildlife, and geology and over 750 marine protected areas along our amazing coastline.
We are so lucky to have so many special places to enjoy but that enjoyment should be informed by the special features that they offer, and we need to realise how easy it is for our actions to adversely impinge upon them.
Compassion for the natural environment (and each other) is the key to healing our Earth.
We humans can play our part straightaway simply by following the code of the countryside – treading gently on the ground and leaving nothing but foot, tyre, and paw prints behind. us.