Manor Valley Woods Group is thinking about the climate and ecological emergencies

A draft paper presented to the Bristol Parks Forum for consideration at their meeting on Saturday 27th June 2020.

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Manor Woods Valley Group is asking itself some fundamental questions about how best to respond to the climate and ecological emergencies. Reversing the climate breakdown and loss of species requires urgent, radical, ambitious, largescale and collaborative solutions. Doing a little more of what we already do will just not cut it. This paper reflects our early discussions within the Group and will be further developed in debate with Manor Woods Valley supporters and the wider community over the coming months.

Like most ‘friends groups’, locally and nationally, we are privileged: mostly middle class, white, time-rich, garden owners who are relatively economically independent. We are not representative of the wider local and city populations and we cannot assume to speak for everyone. There are local and citywide communities that do not always have the same access to private and public green spaces and feel excluded from decisions about them. Furthermore, the majority of parks and green spaces in the city are not supported by active ‘friends groups’ and many groups struggle to sustain themselves over time with new members. We are beginning to question whether the ‘parks friends group’ is a fit-for-purpose model for local communities to contribute adequately to a citywide response to the climate and ecological emergencies and related health and equality crises.

How can the ‘friends group’ model be improved on or is there a better alternative?

Covid-19 has wrought a terrible toll on human life but is also resulting in some benefits such as reduced emissions from fossil fuels, cleaner air, increased interest in nature, active travelling, greenspaces, gardening and food-growing, community volunteering, acts of kindness, etc.

How do we retain as many of these benefits to people and wildlife as possible and ‘build back better’, sustainably, collaboratively and fairly?

Bristol’s One City Plan aims to achieve carbon neutrality in less than a decade and to ‘double wildlife’ and the tree canopy in less than three decades. Green spaces have a vital role in helping to realise these aims but the precise contribution of each green space is unclear in the absence of an overall plan. Some spaces could contribute more to the protection and improvement of wildlife habitats (through ‘rewilding’), while others may lend themselves better to ground heat/solar/wind energy production, the growing of biomass fuels or the production of food. Some may be able to support more than one of these uses.

With the health, wellbeing and prosperity of future generations in mind, how can we best support and challenge city plans for the long-term use of our green spaces?

At a time of great uncertainty about the future, education will play an even more vital role in supporting future generations in their efforts to avert climate chaos and environmental breakdown and to achieve climate justice. Green spaces are a rich resource for outdoor and lifelong learning. What contribution can we make to awareness-raising and the empowerment of future decision-makers and what support do local communities need to make an impact?

Time spent in green spaces has a beneficial impact on physical and mental health. This is now even more important given the anticipated long term health issues arising from the current coronavirus pandemic.

How do we promote and support health, welfare and wellbeing services in non-medical social prescribing?

We appreciate that parks and nature reserves make up only part of the green space in Bristol. Gardens, farms, small holdings, allotments, common land, water courses, verges, public service estates (such as hospitals, schools, community centres and places of worship), and private corporate estates all have potential to contribute to nature recovery and climate calming.

How do we support collaborative work between all these green space interest groups to help achieve the climate and ecological goals of the One City Plan?

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