Populations across the world have been on the rise over the years, particularly within the UK, thanks to better healthcare and the industrialization of our basic needs. It is arguably the most important issue of our time and whilst a rising population brings a plethora of issues, this article will focus on the issue of limited living space, in particular how it is affecting the environment and ecology around rural areas.

It has been brought to our attention that green belts and other forms of undisturbed land are being targeted to further regional infrastructures by building roads, business parks and new homes. It is our duty as environmentalists to argue the case against building upon such habitats and to collaborate on solutions to such problems.

Realizing the niche

When you see a greenbelt you may just see it as a buffer between rural areas, to break up the concrete, bricks and mortar. Whilst this is one of the reasons green belts exist, people forget the role they play in re-establishing wildlife. A lot of these areas have become host to protected species of birds, mammals, insects and other forms of life. As governments and councils plan and begin to build upon this land, it would be fair to assume some form of wildlife will have settled there. Our invasive behavior  is forcing wildlife to retreat and this could have massive ramifications on the wider ecosystem. 

In the wild when a habitat is destroyed or fragmented, species tend to retreat and search for a new place to live in order to survive. This is in part because they might not have a sufficient area to live or that their food sources such as plant or other species of insect or animal have become depleted or died out. If they cannot find a suitable place to live, they simply die out due to lack of biodiversity. This then creates a snowball effect where dependent species in a food chain cannot survive on the remnants of fragmented land and dwindling food sources. The most obvious examples are Foxes appearing more often in urban and rural areas after their habitat is significantly reduced, perhaps due to roads being built through their homes. Not only will their habitat be lost but the abundance of their prey will have been affected. Because of this they seek easier methods of survival, often in the rubbish bins of local residents.

Greenbelts are essentially used as temporary (typically for birds) or permanent habitats (small mammals, insects, lizards and amphibians) for varying species, all of which are interdependent on one another. Obviously you might say that green belts vary in size, however we cannot overlook their importance, especially if a lot of trees and shrubs live there. Our main worry is the loss of habitat for birds, particularly when their numbers have been declining in recent years. Ecologists believe this is due to stricter agricultural methods such as removing hedgerows to create larger fields for farming and use of fertilizers and pesticides. Find out more via The RSPB.

If we start to remove or build upon greenbelts then we run the risk of endangering many different species. We still know very little about the extent of our influence on communities regionally and internationally and it is worrying to see such a blatant disregard for nature by MP’s. There are however alternative means of dealing with the situation.

Solutions to the crisis

We can all empathize with a rising population, however we need to be asking ourselves whether the sacrifice of nature is worth extra occupancy or the economic growth MP’s are promising. Can we even put a value on nature? It is indeed a difficult situation to address, clearly we need to cater for a rising population, however we cannot encroach on rural and urban wildlife spots. Nature shouldn’t be a luxury in the future!

Here are some of our ideas:

  • Protect greenbelts that host large amounts of species.
  • The government and local councils should reclaim or reform long-term derelict homes and buildings in order to cater to a larger demand of housing. Not only will it open up more opportunities and jobs but mitigate the plans for building on green belts. This is something the charity Empty Homes are doing, however it should definitely be a top priority concerning political discussion.
  • Stricter regulations when issuing council houses to new families, particularly in poorer communities.

We would like to work with you the reader and come up with some solutions to the current housing crisis. If you have ideas or are working on projects of this nature we want to know and want to encourage you to partake in community discussion here at activisionary.