An elevator pitch for “wholescapes”

It has been a busy year in policy so far. In January, Michael Gove wandered through snow and storm to champion the natural capital approach in the government’s 25-year environment plan. In February, he stuck his heels in the frozen ground and started a consultation on the future of food, farming and the environment in England. We now have a new Agriculture Bill that embraces a more environmentally sustainable approach to land management. During the dry summer months, Gove and his merry men and women also consulted on environmental principles and governance after Brexit. We have contributed to these consultations and conversations too.

Now it’s time to act, not just react. When we have the policies in place, we need the practices to implement them. We also need ways to measure the impact of these policies in practice. Does our natural environment improve? Are we healthier and happier in our urban and rural environments? How are the benefits shared between people and places?

Connecting natural environments, people and economies

In our workshops, we have discussed how to deliver the 25-year environment plan with an approach that provides a bridge between economic, social and environmental perspectives. We have recognised the fragmented approach to environmental management that address questions such as floods, droughts, pollution, fisheries, coastal protection as separate problems with separate, sometimes conflicting solutions. One of our answers is “wholescape thinking”, led by Professors Mike Acreman and Edward Maltby.

We need a culture change to engage and involve people across sectors in planning and implementing sustainable water and land management simultaneously. “Wholescape thinking” encourages holistic solutions across organisational, sectoral and geographical borders. We need stronger partnership working to see the interconnectedness between our economies, wellbeing and natural environments.

Wholescape diagram

Adapted from Maltby (2009)

Partnerships start at home

Of course, partnerships start at home. We need to share experiences of successful partnership working at different scales – from local to regional, as well as across sectors and government departments. There are great examples of local nature partnerships, coastal partnerships, nature-based flood management and “upstream and downstream thinking” that are delivering more sustainable development based on science and local knowledge. However, these initiatives often lack sufficient funding to be sustainable. By advising the current policy development, we can move from project focus to adaptive governance and “the grand plan”.

Looking back at the last year, the most successful roll-out of new environmental policies has sprung from a successful communication campaign. Without David Attenborough’s “Blue Planet”, there would have been much less public support for reducing plastic packaging or banning plastic straws – not to mention the encouragement to the Environment Secretary. We too need to tailor our messages to get the ideas across of a greener future delivering health and harmony. Next time you are standing in a lift with a government official or a business decision-maker, make your elevator pitch for a nature that is essentially interconnected from land to sea. “Wholescapes” are the foundations for human well-being.

Read more about our Wholescape guidance and join the conversation in and out of lifts!