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The 'Ecological Emergency' and what The Cabot Institute for the Environment are doing about it

The white rhino. Image credit: Meg Barstow, Postgraduate Student at the University of Bristol. Biodiversity loss and ecological decline pose enormous threats to humans and ecosystems alike, yet due to human activity they are occurring on a scale not seen since the last mass extinction. As part of our campaign running alongside the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15), this blog will highlight The Cabot Institute for the Environment’s research contributions to the fight against the ‘Ecological Emergency’.   The Ecological Emergency and the need for evidence   Human activity is pushing the natural world beyond the limits of its own resilience, causing populations of species to plummet and ecosystems to collapse. As well as the widely appreciated beauty of the natural world and our responsibility to protect it, our reliance on ecosystems makes their survival essential to our own. Ecosystems provide us with food, oxygen, carbon capture, air and water purification, nutrient cycling as well as
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Ecological decline: an overlooked emergency?

A blue tit landing. Image credit: Adam Hearne, Student at the Univesity of Bristol.   The words ‘Ecological Emergency’ are appearing in an increasing number of environmental declarations, strategies and parliamentary bills. This blog will discuss the need to recognise ecological decline as an emergency in its own right, as well as being an element of the climate emergency. This will be part of an 'Ecological Emergency' Cabot Campaign which will run alongside  the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (COP15) , which is happening this week.  Last year, The Cabot Institute for the Environment’s home city Bristol became the first major city to declare an ecological emergency . This declaration came only two years after Bristol became the first European city to declare a climate emergency. Many UK councils and organizations have since declared joint “Climate and Ecological” emergencies, and the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill has been put forward to replace the ‘

Looking back over a decade of Urban Pollinating in Bristol

Two bumble bees on Teasel. Credit: crabchick As the UK prepares to host the UN Climate Change Conference  COP26 (31 October - 12 November) and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity COP15 takes place online (11-15 October), I have been looking back over a decade of urban pollinating in Bristol.  One of the four COP26 goals is ‘adapt to protect communities and natural habitats’ which includes Nature Based Solutions (NBS). These are answers to global environmental challenges which are created or inspired by natural processes based on or utilising the functions of nature. For this purpose, the Urban Pollinator Project established first here in Bristol, demonstrates perfectly how natural resolutions can benefit our ecosystems on a local, national, and global scale.  Urban Pollinators  Before 2011 an extraordinarily little amount was known about the ecology of urban pollinators in the UK. Despite pollinators maintaining a vital role in protecting our biodiversity and upholding crucial

Insulate Britain: blocking roads will alienate some people – but it’s still likely to be effective

Insulate Britain is a campaign group urging government action on greenhouse gas emissions and fuel poverty in the country’s housing stock. Their methods have recently landed them in the news, as activists blocked parts of the M25 – the motorway surrounding London – by sitting on slip roads and in the carriageway until their removal by police. The long delays their protests caused drew outrage from motorists and much of the media that reported it. So what is the purpose of this kind of disruption, made popular in recent years by Extinction Rebellion (XR)? The American sociologist Charles Tilly argued that all protest actions were what he called WUNC displays: shows of worthiness, unity, numbers and commitment. The goal was not to stop or make something happen directly, but to demonstrate the strength and appeal and values of the protesters, so that both those in power and the general public would listen to their message. Direct action groups tend to be slightly different from tr

Tackling urban landslides in an uncertain future

One of the challenges of the 21st century is how to reconcile global urban growth with the prevention and mitigation of environmental disasters, such as those caused by landslides. Every year 300 million people are exposed to landslides worldwide, with over 4,000 fatalities, 250,000 of people affected, and billions of US dollars of economic damage. However, impacts might be worse in the future for two main reasons. First, severe precipitations might become more frequent under climate change, causing more rainfall-triggered landslides. Second, growing urban population will lead more people to live in areas exposed to landslides globally, and in particular in developing countries where low-income dwellers are starting to overcrowd landslide-prone areas such as steep slopes. With more hurricanes to come and more people at risk, understanding where and when landslides might occur is becoming increasingly crucial. Current predictions are too uncertain to support decisions One method to pred

Time for policymakers to make policies (and to learn from those who are)

From a social scientist’s point of view, the recent IPCC report and the reception it has received are a bit odd. The report certainly reflects a huge amount of work, its message is vital, and it’s great so many people are hearing it. But not much in the report updates how we think about climate change . We’ve known for a while that people are changing the climate, and that how much more the climate changes will depend on the decisions we make. What decisions? The Summary for Policymakers — the scientists’ memo to the people who will make the really important choices—doesn’t say. The words “fossil fuel”, “oil”, and “coal” never even appear. Nor “regulation”, “ban”, “subsidy”, or “tax”. The last five pages of the 42-page Summary are entitled “Limiting Future Climate Change”; but while “policymakers” appear, “policies” do not. This is not the fault of the authors; Working Group I’s remit does not include policy recommendations. Even Working Group III (focused on mitigation) is not allow

Many conservatives have a difficult relationship with science – we wanted to find out why

Shutterstock Many scientific findings continue to be disputed by politicians and parts of the public long after a scholarly consensus has been established. For example, nearly a third of Americans still do not accept that fossil fuel emissions cause climate change, even though the scientific community settled on a consensus that they do decades ago. Research into why people reject scientific facts has identified people’s political worldviews as the principal predictor variable . People with a libertarian or conservative worldview are more likely to reject climate change and evolution and are less likely to be vaccinated against COVID-19 . What explains this propensity for rejection of science by some of the political right? Are there intrinsic attributes of the scientific enterprise that are uniquely challenging to people with conservative or libertarian worldviews? Or is the association merely the result of conflicting imperatives betwe