The first of its kind, Cornwall’s environmental growth strategy introduces the concept of environmental growth, shifting away from associating the environment as something to be protected, instead celebrating our relationship with the rest of nature as positive and vital. This work was led by a Rachael Bice, a senior manager in the Council, whose novel and ambitious approach was informed by the conviction, courage and insight she gained through Natural Change.
The strategy is based on the novel concept of environmental growth:
Environmental growth will change our thinking and practice; it will ensure that nature can sustain and support our communities and businesses in the future.
The strategy avoids a framing issues in terms of protection, which often distances people from the natural world, leading to further disengagement and disenchantment. Instead, it offers a positive, inclusive and attractive vision:
In 2065, Cornwall’s environment will be naturally diverse, beautiful and healthy, supporting a thriving society, prosperous economy and abundance of wildlife.
Despite this, it doesn’t shy away from acknowledging the depth of the challenge:
Environmental growth is the step change needed to put us back on a path to a sustainable future. Our environment has been in serious decline over many centuries. Sadly, the protection policies that have been in place have only slowed the decline – we need to do much more.
While emphasising not only our connection with, but also our place alongside, the rest of nature:
We need to bring back health and vitality to our land and seas; sharing our spaces with other species and making sure our activities are complimentary to the natural systems we rely on.
Rachael credits her experience of Natural Change as being profoundly influential in shaping her view of the environment, which then informed the strategy. She says:
Natural Change brought my intuitive feelings to consciousness and gave me a structure and tradition of people who validated how I felt. This gave me the confidence to extend what policy could do in Cornwall: I felt that we had to write the strategy that considered all species and systems and to allow our natural systems to be revalidated as something to take care of everywhere.
Inviting people on the environmental growth adventure
The strategy has received tremendous support, Rachael explains:
The environment sector has united behind this overarching objective and Cornwall’s institutions, businesses and public are starting out with us on this environmental growth adventure! We are helping people to understand the predicament of Cornwall’s beautiful but depleted ecosystem and know that they can be a critical part of it future.
This support is the result of the way Rachael, her team and others have worked together based on her learning from Natural Change, communicating openly as they built relationships based on trust and shared, long term objectives:
The strategy took time, we communicated about it a lot before it was ready, we released drafts that still had lots of work to do on them and allowed it to evolve. We framed it over 50 years, we know this is going to be a long and intergenerational journey of change, to build the health of our ecosystems and to try to reduce the demands upon it.
The resulting strategy is accessible, relevant and inviting – showing clearly how environmental growth is something that everyone can not only benefit from, but also contribute to.
Making a difference with courage and conviction
Rachael emphasises that she worked with many other people, inside and outside her team, to develop the strategy, the Local Nature Partnership being particularly important. She explains how Natural Change gave her “the purpose to do this with conviction that together we could create change”. She continues:
My Natural Change experiences generated an immense sense of responsibility within me that combined with a deep feeling of empowerment. I saw the opportunity to make a difference through my position at work and realised I had to find the courage to do so. A feeling of ‘if not me now, then who, when?‘
Rachael’s experience of Natural Change extended far beyond attending some retreats: the sense of a community of people with a shared purpose has been important:
Meeting a community of people through Natural change who were also pushing the boundaries in their worlds was inspiring and deeply supportive, I have made life long friends with people I both admire and love. This group of people taught me making a sustainable difference is done collectively, not heroically. It built commitment in me to do my bit and to be absolute in my support for others doing theirs.
Head of Environmental Growth and Partnerships | Cornwall Council
Trustee | Natural Change Foundation