Northern Ireland

Climate change in NI the focus of Wild North and Warming

Tessa Fleming
Image caption Tessa Fleming will present Wild North and Warming, a six-part series on BBC Radio Ulster

Growing up, I spent most of my time outside.

I loved the rain, the way it made the mud squelch between my toes and the way the worms came out from beneath the ground to wiggle their way along the surface.

I remember the forest beside my house and evenings spent hanging from trees and exploring the riverbeds for the lobster-like crayfish.

Nature had provided me with a playground so vast and exciting that nothing man-made could ever compare. There was so much to learn and so much to explore.

I'm not sure when exactly I started to drift away from this connection I had with the land, but, given the crisis facing us, I realise I have to make up for lost time.

Biodiversity loss and climate change seem rarely to be out of the headlines these days, but it often seemed like it wasn't really my problem, or that others simply wouldn't let it happen.

But the people I've met while making the series Wild North And Warming have opened my eyes to just how exactly we will be affected, and what we could be on the verge of losing.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The common skate fish is now critically endangered

The common skate is a fish that can live up to 100 years and, until recently, was abundant in the north-east Atlantic.

It is now critically endangered, believed to be found only around the Irish and Scottish coastlines.

Conservationists collect the animal's washed-up egg cases along the Antrim coast to find out whether there may be nurseries in the local area, but in recent years, just one case has been found.

This is a trend Ulster Wildlife hopes to reverse as it encourages people to engage with its Sea Deep project to report egg case findings.

'Bees and butterflies'

As well as threatening our fish, we haven't fared well with how we've been treating our pollinators, with one third of our bee species threatened with extinction.

We have drastically reduced the amount of flowers and safe nesting sites in our landscapes.

While we love our neat and tidy lawns, I've come to learn that the wilder the better and I've been told that every garden could do with a wild patch so that our bees and butterflies continue to survive and, hopefully, thrive!

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Wild gardens allow bees and butterflies to survive

Mid and East Antrim Borough Council has its Don't Mow Let it Grow scheme, which works alongside the All Ireland Pollinator Plan.

They took us round an inspiring site in Ballymoney, which has been left to grow wild, providing a space for nature to flourish.

To think that species that have existed for thousands of years could disappear in decades is a scary - and depressing - thought. But there is hope.

Dara McAnulty is rapidly becoming known as one of Northern Ireland's leading naturalists and conservationists, which is a pretty incredible feat for a 15-year-old!

'Relieve the stress of modern life'

For me, Dara is an example of how important individuals are helping the environment and that there is always something we can do for nature, no matter how small.

Nature is a huge part of Dara's life and the "natural health service", where each of us play our part, is something he, and others, value greatly.

Dara reminds us of the value of recognising the natural world around us and advocates the fact that you don't need a private wilderness of your own to make a difference.

A bird box on your windowsill can benefit wildlife, while a visit to a public nature reserve can be good for your own mental health and help relieve the stress of modern life.

What is most heart-warming are the people striving to make a difference already.

Whether it is farmer Robert Calvert and his barn owls near Greyabbey, the North West Red Squirrel group helping this rare species survive or the care taken to return injured and orphaned seals from around the Northern Ireland coast back to the wild.

Also in the series, we find out more about the psychology of climate change and why more aren't motivated to act on what is such a serious issue for us and future generations, and we hear about what global warming could mean for us.

Sometimes, you can feel powerless in this global crisis and it's hard to know what you can do to change it, but since embarking on this journey, I've realised just how important I am.

'Power to protect'

I hope Wild North And Warming will inspire listeners to do something to help, big or small.

Did you know that Ireland has its own species of butterfly found nowhere else on the planet?

And did you know that one teeny tiny garden full of wildflowers and weeds is as important to that butterfly as an oasis in a desert is to a weary wanderer?

We all have the power to protect our planet, and I know after making this series I plan to go back to my roots, as it were, to play my part.

Tessa Fleming will present Wild North And Warming, a six-part series starting on BBC Radio Ulster on Saturday 25 May at 10.30am and also on BBC Sounds.