Launched today, the People's Plan for Nature was initiated by the WWF, the RSPB and National Trust and created through a unique collaboration with the UK public: thousands of people contributed through a national consultation and 103 people then participated in a People's Assembly for Nature. The plan sets out the urgent, immediate action – from governments, businesses, charities, organisations, farmers and communities – to protect and restore nature in the UK.
See the People's Plan for Nature here. You can also add your voice.
One of the people who was selected to participate in the People's Assembly for Nature has written an account of her experiences in The Guardian - reproduced below.
23/03/2023 I helped decide the UK public’s manifesto for saving our nature – here’s how we did it
by Sara Hudston
I first heard of the People’s Plan for Nature early last autumn, but I didn’t intend to take part because I thought it looked too simplistic. It began with a national callout for ideas about how nature might be renewed, which I felt lacked urgency and wasn’t enough given the scale of biodiversity loss in the UK. Then a letter came in the post inviting anyone in our household to apply to serve on a people’s assembly for nature. We were one of 33,000 addresses randomly selected from across the country. The prospect of a citizens’ assembly seemed to have much greater potential. I was curious to see how it worked. Would everyone’s voice be heard? Could people with different viewpoints agree? Are we as divided a country as political pundits say? I was surprised to be picked. As a longstanding Guardian country diarist and eco-writer, I assumed I would be weeded out. When I made it through, I found that I was actually the only person with that kind of green activist background. Everyone was different, and we certainly weren’t a collection of lefty Guardian readers. I came across students, a retired farmer, a pub landlady, young immigrants, a biochemist, a gardener, an investment fund manager and a warehouse boss, among others. Of the 277 who applied, 110 were picked, 107 started the process and 103 stayed the course through all four weekends of deliberation, despite rail strikes and winter illness. We met for four separate weekends, two of them face-to-face in a hotel, and two online. We worked in ever-changing small groups of about six with an impartial facilitator, listening to a series of presentations from experts including academics, industry professionals and community project leaders. Then we would discuss what we thought should be done to protect and renew nature in relation to what we had heard. The recommendations from the sub-groups progressed through a process of amalgamation and further discussion to clarify the final calls for action. From the beginning, food was a big debating point. True to the assembly’s aim of representing all shades of opinion, members included vegans, vegetarians, flexitarians and frequent meat-eaters. At the first weekend, most people ignored the vegetarian food options, choosing chicken or beef. Many people in my discussion groups saw no issue in meat-eating and were wary of making any recommendation about diet because they thought that would be unfairly restrictive. The majority started the process not knowing how much agricultural land is used for meat production in the UK, or the ecological impact of many of the farming systems involved. It was noticeable how people’s views changed, especially during the weekend that concentrated on food, farming and fishing. It wasn’t only farmers that came in for criticism – there was a high level of dissatisfaction with supermarkets for their pricing policies towards both growers and customers. By the final weekend, assembly members agreed that UK meat, dairy and fish consumption needed to be reduced by at least a quarter by 2030. This was an astonishing change of view from where we started and perhaps the most radical recommendation in the whole plan. And yet when we had dinner in the hotel, most of the people sitting near me chose meat dishes once again, even though they were made from animals reared in the conventional farming systems they had expressed such disquiet about. I found it illuminating to see how, far away from Westminster, a group of people with differing standpoints could reach consensus on divisive issues. In fact, they can do it quite easily when their prejudices are not being goaded by politicians. But I was left wondering why it is that, as the diet issue showed, even people who care about nature, who have dedicated themselves to hours of learning and discussion, still don’t quite close the gap between what they say and how they act. Is this hypocrisy, or are we just too enmeshed in our current lifestyles to be able to change? What will it take to shift our individual and collective behaviours sufficiently? The assembly’s calls for action give me hope, but only if we follow through with them. Can we do that?