Thank you and Farewell

A letter from Dr James Szymankiewicz as he steps down from the role of chair on the LNP board

Shortly I will be stepping down as Chair of Devon Nature Partnership, after two and aDr James half very enjoyable years in post. Sadly, pressures on my clinical commitments, have meant I need to hand over the reins earlier than I had hoped. To say it has been an eventful few years would be an understatement! I remember, when I took on this role, feeling so frustrated that no one outside of the environmental sector seemed to realise that there was a Climate and Ecological crisis or that human health is intrinsically linked to the health of our natural world…… how things have changed! Through the incredible work of all of you who care, we have seen global declarations of a Climate and Ecological emergency. We have seen strong local leadership from people at all levels who are simply prepared to say what they believe is right. This local energy has been instrumental in making Devon a leading light; coming together and starting to build a county wide Carbon Plan and Nature Recovery Network. Our thriving Naturally Healthy forum has seen partners work closely with emerging social prescribing networks to help make nature more accessible to all. We have seen national recognition of the principles of Naturally Healthy driven by a growing evidence base that puts these interventions on a level playing field with traditional illness focused medicine.

All of this work is creating a groundswell that grows stronger every day.

The true value of a Nature Partnership is that together we are more than the sum of our parts. With that in mind I would like to say a huge thank you to all our board members and those in the wider forum for coming together to develop and support the LNP. Your energy and passion is driving change. I must say a particular thank you to Sarah Jennings our LNP manager, Harry Barton our Vice chair and Peter Chamberlain, Devon’s Environment manager. I would also like to thank Doug Eltham and Emily Reed for their tireless work on Devon’s Carbon Plan and Kirstie Pritchard and Tom Mack who have put up with my over enthusiastic rants on the Naturally Healthy side.

There have been many highlights over the last few years but there are two events in particular that will stick in my mind. The first was listening to David Wetherly present at the outdoor learning conference and then speaking to other delegates who clearly have so much to offer young people. Our children are our future. My wish is that all of them will have timetabled sessions outdoors delivered by passionate people who can help tell the story as to why they need to see nature as an integral part of their lives. They will be healthier, happier and better educated for it.

The second was the Exmoor Dark Skies event. We have lost the magic of night and taking the time to reconnect with it was really enlightening. As a family we now often go out in the evening and find a quiet spot to just listen and look. It can be a peaceful, special experience and we always sleep better compared to a night in front of the telly!

Let me finish with a few words on Covid. In March of this year the UK went into lockdown. Suddenly our lives changed as the freedoms we were so used to were curtailed. The current pandemic has devastated families and communities and enforced a pause in our economies. It has made all of us question what really matters to us and reflect on how we live our lives. It has transformed how we work, how we socialise, how we travel and helped us value the simple pleasures such as being able to go outside. Whilst in lockdown we took huge joy from seeing nature return to our streets with the news and social media running countless stories. As we emerge from this in the coming months and years, can we hold on to that? Will we be brave enough to invest in patching up the holes our economic model has driven in the web of life? If we are, just maybe, our children will grow up in a world where nature has been allowed to begin to heal; where our economic and nature partnerships work together with the shared aim of creating happy, fulfilled communities supported by healthy, thriving ecosystems. Let us not passively hope for this better future but come together as partners who have the courage to make it happen.

Thank you all again

Very best wishes

James Szymankiewicz