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Code red for the planet

It was Halloween a few days ago. Despite the horror films, and the endless procession of kids dressed up as witches, zombies, and Demogorgon’s, the scariest bit of the day didn’t actually take place after dark. Instead, it happened at about 8am in the morning, as I sat, in a t-shirt, drinking a coffee in the garden. The thermometer said it was 15°C. It was October 31st. It shouldn’t be this warm…

The weeks leading up to Halloween, and to COP27 (the UN Climate Change Conference which starts on Sunday in Egypt), have provided frightening reading. At the start of October, the WWF released the Living Planet Report 2022. The message from this was clear; this is a code red for the planet (and for us) and the door is closing rapidly on our ability to respond to the climate and biodiversity crisis that is overwhelming the natural world. Between 1970 and 2018, wild populations around the world declined by more than two thirds, and without immediate and substantial action, this situation will only get worse.

As October drew to a close, UN reports highlighted a woeful lack of progress in addressing the climate crisis, with headlines of ‘irreversible climate breakdown’ and ‘no credible pathway to keep temperature rise below 1.5°C’. The selection by Collins Dictionary of ‘Permacrisis’ (defined as an extended period of instability and insecurity) as their word of the year for 2022, seems, if anything, to understate where we now find ourselves.

This is genuinely scary stuff. Noted geochemist Wallace Broeker, said in 1998 that ‘climate is an angry beast, and we’re poking it with sticks’, and in the 25 years since, humanity has not only continued to poke it, but we’ve swapped the sticks for clubs. We have seen yet another year of catastrophic extreme weather events. July 19th 2022 saw the highest temperature ever recorded (40.3°C) in the UK, and reports of floods, wildfires, hurricanes and droughts have become almost daily features of the global news.

Despite the gloomy forecasts we believe there is light. As a conservation charity we deal in hope and we act to protect at-risk animals and plants from the impacts of biodiversity loss; it’s why we’re here and it’s what we do. Nature isn’t something that exists ‘over there’. Its part and parcel of our daily lives and it’s something that’s essential for our survival and future. It’s also something that’s in desperate trouble and that needs our help. The answers to our current challenges all lie in our living in harmony with nature. By helping people to understand that every species is special, that everything is connected, and that every action matters, we believe we can help show the way forward and bring people together to join us in this vital work.

We need to act. Now. We’ll be following the progress of COP27 and awaiting its outcomes. We hope our leaders will make the urgent and necessary decisions to give our planet the chance it needs before it’s too late.