January: Our health and wellbeing, from the personal to the planet

January: Our health and wellbeing, from the personal to the planet

It’s that time of year when, however cold, I like to be out of doors, something shared by our wonderful band of land volunteers who have joined us at the Wolvercote Lakes, Jarn Wild Garden and the Heyford Flood Meadows during January, clearing brambles and cutting back the growth ready for the year ahead.  They are happy occasions sharing coffee and cake to keep warm, all making a great contribution to OPT’s work, and as all the research tell us, contributing to our individual health and wellbeing.  And this year we will be out and about focussing on improving our connection with local families and young people, making our green spaces more accessible to schools and community groups, and making it easy, welcoming and fun for everyone to get out to where fresh air, and fitness awaits.  

But this year more than ever, the commitment needs to be to something bigger, not just about the health and wellbeing of the individual, but a commitment to the health and wellbeing of the planet.  We could congratulate ourselves on what we already do, with our work in environmental conservation and giving access to our open green spaces, but frankly that would not be good enough.  Last week the National Trust committed to become Carbon Neutral by 2030.  This throws into focus just how much we don’t know about how to get there, what it would mean for us, and what it would look like on the ground.  We do know we need to concentrate on this and already this year we have become founding members of the International Climate Heritage Network mobilising the cultural heritage sector for Climate Action across the globe  We are also amongst the first to sign up to Heritage Declares, where, with other leading heritage professionals, we are committing to promoting environmental awareness and cultural change, to shifting conservation priorities without harming their cultural significance, to encouraging the adaption of buildings rather than demolishing them, and putting climate and ecological sustainability at the heart of planning and design.  

We are delighted that Oxford’s local councils are showing their commitment with the City Council holding the first ever UK Citizens Assembly for Climate Change last autumn, in which OPT was delighted to take part, and now, with the County Council, looking to set up the UK’s first city centre zero emissions zone ZEZ which could be in place before the end of the year, giving us all cleaner air and reducing risks to our health.  VoWH and SODC have promised to be carbon neutral by 2030 with the collaboration of residents and local groups. 

Collaboration will surely be the key to success, as no one body will be able to achieve these things  alone.  There will be some difficult conversations ahead, and not just to talk about electric cars and transport, but about planning and design, new housing and sustainability, particularly where we are entering a period of growth with the Oxford Local Plan promoting 10,884 new houses, many on greenfield sites, and a further 4,500+ houses to come around the edge of the city.

‘No one is too small to make a difference’ (Greta Thunberg) and OPT are committing to make a change each week which will do something more to help the planet, big or small.  During our 52 week Climate Change Challenge we will look to make changes with our own green space and buildings.  Four weeks in we have become members of the International Climate Heritage Network, signed up to Heritage Declares, and now the OPT team have all agreed we will only drink water from the tap (we’re already signed up to Refill Oxford) and everyone has their own reusable cup - 4 down and have 48 to go.  Follow us on twitter or on our website and join in!