The world is facing a very real biodiversity crisis, a fact that everybody is aware of. From politicians, to scientists, to the average person on the street it is hard to ignore the fact that many species are in rapid decline. Yet to many the problems our planet face often appear insurmountable and the solutions inaccessible, in other words it is someone else’s problem not because they don’t care but because they don’t know how to help. That’s why when I read about this project I knew I just had to share their work.
Born out of a frustration with politics during the 2015 General Election debates, Dr Adrian Cooper devised a plan for what would become Felixtowe’s Community Nature Reserve. Whilst none of the potential leaders of our country were talking about the catastrophic decline in bee populations, Dr Cooper had come to the conclusion that local grassroots action was needed.
“After the election was result was announced, I started talking and listening with people from local government, as well as everyday people from the Felixstowe community.” It was this liaison with everyday people which has made the project so successful as Dr Cooper found that most people wanted to help falling wildlife populations, but simply did not know how.
As a result of this, it was decided to make the project as simple and accessible as possible. It became evident that creating a new nature reserve from a single plot of land would take too long so Dr Cooper simply redefined what a nature reserve could be. Instead of one plot of land local people were invited to allocate 3 square yards of their gardens or allotments as wildlife-friendly areas including ponds, insect lodges and plants. If 1,666 people would take part that would give an area of 5,000 square yards, the same area as the size of a football pitch.
By October 2015 Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve was ready to launch and the local public were aware and engaged with the plans, thus a Facebook page was launched. Not only did this Facebook page encourage local inhabitants to get involved with the project, but three times a week they recommend wildlife-friendly plants. The page is full of useful advice to get everyone involved and through the sheer beauty of Facebook it reaches far past those living in Felixstowe meaning anyone can help the project with their aims.
Of course not everyone has access to the internet so a variety of campaigns using traditional media were also launched. In the first two months, 92 local people had emailed the site to say they had brought and planted at least one of the plants they had recommended. Meanwhile throughout the winter the hard work continued with the group highlighting plants with seasonal fruits such as hawthown, dogwood and elder.
As of the 1st of February 152 local people had emailed the site to get involved. However the success of this project spreads far beyond the local community. With support from Chris Packham, the community nature reserve initiative has been picked up by the Leicestershire villages of Cosby and Burbage. Moreover there have been multiple enquires from other localities on how to set up such an initiative.
The true success of this project surely lies within the power it places upon the community. No longer is it up to an NGO, local government body or subsidy to initiate a conservation motion and create a nature reserve. Everyone knows that bee populations are struggling and with community nature reserves modelled on Felixstowe’s participation in a solution becomes remarkably easy.
For anyone reading this who wishes to set up their own intiative Dr Cooper has a few words of advice; “Listen to as many local people as possible. Be patient. Don’t rush into the Facebook stage until the whole community feels comfortable with what you plan to do.” Don’t be afraid to use as much social media as possible, the world revolves around it these days. For his project Dr Cooper used Facebook, LinkedIn, Streetlife.com, as well as local magazines, community radio and local TV. Finally keep listening, take the fresh ideas your community presents to you and use them.
For More Information You Can Follow Felixstowe’s Community Nature Reserve on Facebook
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