British public’s concern for environment at all-time high

More people than ever before are concerned about damage to the environment, new national statistics published by Natural England show.

In the world’s biggest scientific study of its kind, Natural England’s ‘Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment’ (MENE) report shows that nine out of 10 adults in England are concerned about increasing threats to the natural environment, with nearly two-thirds specifically worried about biodiversity loss.

It comes as British agriculture prepares to undergo its biggest overhaul in a generation with the proposed introduction of an environment-based ‘public money for public goods’ support system.

Marian Spain, interim chief executive of Natural England, said: “The overwhelming evidence published today makes clear the priority the public give to investing in nature’s recovery.

“Wildlife and greenspaces are hugely important for people, providing them with places to exercise, socialise, learn and experience the wonder of the natural world.

“Natural England is committed to restoring nature by working with partners and the public to help deliver Government’s 25-year Environment Plan.

“This research also underlines how important it is that we create new opportunities for people to connect with nature wherever they live and whatever their age. We want everyone to enjoy the many benefits nature brings and also to take part in caring for their environment.”

In its tenth year, MENE is the longest-running survey of its kind which tracks changes in how people use and relate to the natural environment. It comes during the Year of Green Action, a year-long drive to inspire and support people to connect with and improve the natural environment.

Findings

Use of our natural environment is the highest on record – with visits to the natural environment up from an estimated 2.9 billion visits in 2009/10 to almost 4 billion in 2018/19.

Most people’s experience of the natural environment is close to home, on their doorstep. This is especially key for people living in the most deprived areas. For example, children living in the 10% most deprived areas of England are most likely to visit urban greenspaces (62%) compared with only 30% who visit the countryside; and

Most visits to nature are taken on foot and are increasingly close to home, with 44% of visits taken within one mile.

The MENE survey is funded by Natural England, with support from Defra. First commissioned in 2009, it provides a wealth of evidence relating to outdoor recreation, behaviour and attitudes.

Natural England uses the research to understand how people use, enjoy and are motivated to protect the natural environment and to help monitor changes in how people use the natural environment over time.