10 Oct 2023
Protecting the places we play - and those we don't
Protecting the nature we currently have is a vital starting point and pre-cursor to further restoration. There is very little point in giving with one hand and taking away with the other.
This principle - of avoiding negative impact on nature - is more critical now than ever. It is a fundamental part of halting the trend in the decline of biodiversity.
What this means in practice is perhaps broader than people might initially think.
There are many direct and indirect, obvious and less obvious, ways that we can have a negative impact on nature.
In golf, it could be directly through decisions made during the planning, design, construction and management of facilities and courses. These decisions determine how much of the current nature on a site will be protected, or alternatively, damaged.
This is where ecological surveys and baselines are genuinely important - not just a tick box exercise to be seen to go through, but an authentic attempt to understand what lives on and around a site. So that routing, land use balance, grassing plans and vegetation and landscaping decisions are informed based on particular hot-spots; sensitive habitats and key species.
Good decisions here mean that nature is truly being worked with, and provides the platform for even greater restoration and enhancement.
Less obvious perhaps are the impacts we have on nature through the materials, products and services we consume. Raw materials for golf balls, clubs, apparel, course construction, course maintenance, clubhouses and right down to golf tees, markers and club sandwiches all come with a nature footprint (alongside their carbon footprint). What we buy - in bulk or individually - matters.
There are ways now to map out and consider the nature-based impacts of procurement and purchasing.
Where did the materials come from? Is there a deforestation, extraction or pollution story behind it? How far did it travel? Are there any more sustainable, less impactful alternatives?
Products that use recycled and recyclable materials can help in reduce the 'at source' impacts of virgin materials. Perhaps in golf the use of finite peat, versus other forms of composted or second generation growing material is the most obvious example of a drive to phase out a product with high nature impact to others with less.
Of course, there will be times where some degree of negative impact occurs - in a way that's part and parcel of being human.
When unavoidable nature impacts do occur it is important to minimise them, and then think about mitigation. This is often referred to as achieving “no net-negative” impact on nature. Net biodiversity gain is another term, becoming an established methodology that crosses over between protection and restoration - more of which to come on Day 3 of Sustainable Golf Week when we look at that very theme!