As Government steadily decreases the money available to local councils many of the services that we took for granted are being reduced, one such service is the maintenance of our parks. For me as someone passionately interested in the Environment this calls into question what we want from our parks & other green spaces. I don’t see a return to the vast well manicured stretches of grass, with flower beds full of annuals changed several times a year, and this is no bad thing as it is needlessly energy intensive when we should all be trying to save energy as the climate crisis looms ever closer.
Apart from being energy intensive, managing grass and flowerbeds this way is not particularly wildlife friendly nor does it satisfy – in my opinion – our inbuilt human need to spend time in Nature. To my mind this deepening problem could produce solutions to one ecological crisis that we face, namely, biodiversity loss. Biodiversity loss has several causes, loss of habitat and pesticide use on our food crops are two examples of causes which could be addressed in our urban areas.
Parks and other green spaces could be managed to address – at least partially – the problem of loss of wildflower meadows which are a keystone habitat for many of our declining pollinators. As we know our urban areas are expanding as pressure for new housing means more of our greenbelt land is lost. Creating many small to medium sized areas of wildflower meadows and other complementary wildlife friendly habitats within urban areas will act as ‘stepping stones’ in a similar way that the Wildlife Trusts are creating wildlife friendly ‘corridors’ to join up landscape scale areas.
The second example given as a cause of biodiversity loss is pesticide use in mainstream food production. This is one area where parks & green spaces can help the local food movement. By growing food locally without pesticides – no matter what scale of operation – we are removing support from the mainstream food producers, sending them the message that we – the consumers – wish to see a reduction in pesticide use on our food crops. Additionally, buying food grown locally – or donating it to food banks – reduces the ‘air miles’ (carbon footprint) that large multi-national producers clock-up by moving food around the world.
Answering the question addressed in the title; who will care for our parks? There is great potential for local community groups to step into this role. This is already happening all over the world, as we face the converging crises of our time it is clear now that top-down solutions are not going to happen quickly enough and that if our children are to have any future, solutions must come from the bottom-up. This may seem slightly scary for some people, we are so used to doing what we are told, it can seem that we are bucking the ‘system’.
While this might appear to be the case from large corporation’s points of view, we are actually in good company. In September 2015, the General Assembly adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Building on the principle of “leaving no one behind”, the new Agenda emphasizes a holistic approach to achieving sustainable development for all.
Caring for our parks and green spaces in the ways I have mentioned conforms to several of these goals which appear below:
- Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
- Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages
- Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
- Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
- Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
- Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe resilient and sustainable
- Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
- Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and it’s impacts
- Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, and halt biodiversity loss
For more information on how to promote the SDG’s to a wider public see Introducing the SDG Training of Multipliers, the SDG Flash Cards and SDG Canvas by Daniel Christian Wahl, of Gaia Education.