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Enys Gardens, by Ian French, with thanks to The Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The ESI on the BBC, part two ...

The ESI’s Director, Professor Kevin J Gaston, was featured recently in conversation with Monty Don on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Shared Planet’.

The programme – ‘Are We Getting Used to Less Wildlife?’ –  was based on the twin premise that wildlife diversity and abundance are declining across the world and, while ageing generations notice these changes in their lifetime, each new generation, being exposed to less, becomes accustomed to a new and reduced default.

Professor Gaston, along with Professor Aubrey Manning, OBE, George Monbiot and Monty Don, discussed these issues with the aim of finding out, firstly, whether there’s anything new and different about these changes (by definition, habitats and therefore species density and diversity change naturally over time; unmanaged heathland, for example, eventually becomes woodland). Secondly, rather than just turning the clock back to some supposed golden age, Professor Gaston stressed instead the need to find ways of reconnecting people with wildlife in the context of the modern world.

He cited quantitative and qualitative measures which showed that young people, particularly in the last decade, have lost connection with their immediate surroundings, in rural as well as urban settings, spending up to the equivalent of an adult’s working day in front of a screen of whatever size. The incremental impacts of this on physical and psychological health and wellbeing could be huge, but Professor Gaston said “the situation is distinctly salvageable”.

He added:  “We have to increase both motivation and opportunity … It’s not simply a matter of giving people more chances to engage with nature. It’s also about encouraging them, educating and leading them in to these experiences.”

You can listen to the programme via the BBC Radio 4 Shared Planet website and discover more similar content on the BBC Nature site.

Date: 24 September 2014