If you ever feel overwhelmed by the climate and biodiversity crises, then you are not alone. The term ‘eco-anxiety’ refers to this fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster, fuelled by the current and predicted future state of the environment and climate change. Eco-anxiety is becoming more common, especially among young people.
The climate and biodiversity crises are some of the biggest problems we, as a species, have ever faced. So, no wonder they feel overwhelming. Sometimes it feels like we as individuals can’t do anything to prevent what feels like an inevitable disaster, or sometimes it’s hard to know what to do. No one is perfect: we all have a carbon footprint, and we all create some level of waste. Striving for perfection is not the answer [Read: You don’t need to be a perfect environmentalist].
We are also bombarded with information all the time about sustainability, climate change, and wildlife conservation. Often subtly, these problems are probed at us daily. In the era of social media, we have access to news and information 24/7. But we don’t always know who or what we can trust. Sometimes, it’s hard to just know what steps to take to be a bit greener and relieve eco-anxiety, and so we are stuck.
I’m going to give you 10 simple things you can do which benefit wildlife conservation. You don’t have to do them all, but if you ever feel stuck, not knowing what you can do to make a difference, then refer back to these 10 options.
1. Plant Indigenous Species
If you have a garden or outdoor space, then plant local indigenous plant species in it. Allow your garden to become part of the local ecosystem by supporting local species. Birds and insects will be able to use your garden as a habitat corridor, for example, to connect two separated areas of woodland. It can be hard for wildlife to navigate urban areas, and so allowing for indigenous species to persist alongside us is important.
2. Remove Invasive Species
As well as stocking up on indigenous species, we must do everything we can to remove invasive species. Invasive species are introduced species to an area where they did not historically exist that are having a negative impact on the local wildlife or ecosystem. Not all introduced species are invasive: only those which cause harm. Sometimes they are pretty to look at, but we should not plant them in our gardens. It is also important to remove them from the environment or report them to a local environment agency.
3. Donate to Wildlife Conservation Charities
If you have the means to do so, donating to projects or organizations doing important conservation work is a great way to benefit wildlife conservation. Conservation is a massively underfunded industry, which relies on donations for a lot of important work. Research organizations before you donate to see how they distribute their funding and find an organization you are happy to support.
4. Remove Litter from the Environment
Plastics and other forms of litter/trash are a big problem in almost every ecosystem in the world. Animals mistakenly swallow it, get caught it in, and it can clog upriver or stream systems. Efforts to remove litter/trash from the environment help prevent these things from happening, as well as keeping them pristine and clean.
5. Make Compost to Improve Soil Quality
Composting yourself not only reduces your food waste but also improves the soil quality. This has numerous benefits including for local plants and the water cycle.
6. Do not feed wild animals, with the only exception of small birds (& only seeds and nuts, no bread)
Do not feed wild animals – it may seem counterintuitive that not feeding wildlife is better for them, but it is. A lot of our food is processed and so can be harmful for wildlife. Furthermore, feeding wildlife interferes with the food chain. Ecosystems exist in a balanced equilibrium. The most simple model of this is: Plant → herbivore → carnivore.
Say for example, we fed carnivores regularly enough that they didn’t need to hunt as often. Then herbivores could become more abundant. This growth in herbivore numbers could lead to overgrazing / over-browsing and a decline in plant cover. This decline could then cause problems for smaller animals or birds who rely on the plant cover for shelter or food, and for soil erosion where the plants are stabilizing the ground.
Interfering with ecosystems can lead to multiple issues that are best to be avoided. Unless interference is necessary for the overall conservation of the system, in which case careful planning and research would have been carried out, then we should avoid interfering.
Having said that, feeding small birds in your garden can be OK since they are often outcompeted by larger birds like pigeons or magpies. However, bread is bad for birds and so stick to nuts and seeds.
7. Volunteer for your Local Wildlife Trust / Organisation
As I mentioned before, conservation is an underfunded industry. A lot of crucial conservation work relies on volunteers. Volunteering for your local wildlife trust is a great way to gain some experience and help the local ecosystem.
8. Set up a Wildlife Shelter for Birds / Bees, or Set Up a Pond
As it might be becoming clear in this list, using your garden / outdoor space as a sanctuary for wildlife, or at least space where wildlife is encouraged to visit has massive benefits.
Bees play an essential role in their ecosystem. As pollinators, they allow plants to exist which has direct benefits on human beings and society. Building a shelter for them will encourage them to your garden to pollinate your plants, and offers them a safe space at a time they are in decline.
Similarly, shelters keep birds safe from predators (including domestic cats) and allow them to build nests and nurse chicks safely, as well as helping promote biodiversity in your garden. Furthermore, if you build a pond in your garden then the wildlife will come to you. Species of frog, newt or toad will find their way to you.
9. Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Living sustainably benefits the environment, and therefore the wildlife that lives in it.
Voting is a privilege and power, and one of the most important things you can do for wildlife conservation is vote in people and parties which prioritize climate action, biodiversity conservation and important environmental policies. It’s important to firstly use your vote as your voice, to show the government these issues are important by supporting champions of the environment. Politicians also make important decisions about our future and environmental policies and actions, and so voting for them gives us the power to shape those policies.
I hope this post helps you feel less lost and gives you some inspiration on some simple things you can do to help conserve biodiversity.