Extinction Rebellion (XR) will hold a ‘Requiem for a Bee’ this Saturday to raise awareness of the loss of biodiversity in Hackney, with protesters planning a funeral march running between Clissold Park and Abney Road Cemetery Gate.
The demo is billed as a “springboard” for the local branch of the environmental movement, ahead of more widespread XR protests planned across London from 7 October.
Activists are warning of “serious detrimental effects” to local species by recent residential and retail developments near Abney Park Nature Reserve, highlighting the concerns of ecologist Russell Miller over a drop in sightings of the rare red girdled mining bee in the area.
XR’s calls for the reinstatement of an officer with specific responsibility for biodiversity had been anticipated by Hackney Council, which has said it will be creating the currently non-existent role for two years from 2020.
Miller said: “The key thing is to have someone on the inside who can articulate and translate concerns and responsibilities regarding wildlife to officers who have no experience or training.
“If wildlife doesn’t have a voice or champion, it will be ignored.”
A Hackney XR spokesperson added: “Abney Park Cemetery is one of 30 conservation areas in Hackney.
“These beautiful green spaces should be a haven for nature and Abney Park is home to important and scarce species of animals and plants.
“Trees and greenery provide oxygen and filter air, reducing local pollution levels.”
UN biodiversity chief Cristiana Pașca Palmer called out the loss of diversity within ecosystems as a ‘silent killer’ at the end of last year, warning that humanity has two years to halt its decline or risk extinction.
Earth has seen a loss of 60 per cent in the size of mammal, bird, fish, reptile and amphibian populations in just over four decades, according to the WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018.
The protesters are currently planning to gather at 1pm on Saturday at Clissold Park Cafe, and proceed to Abney Road Cemetery where they will lay a coffin and wreaths “as a public act of grief for the red girdled mining bee.”
Also planned are activities and talks for both children and adults to learn about local wildlife.
Cllr Jon Burke (Lab, Woodberry Down), Hackney’s cabinet member for energy, waste, transport and public realm, said: “Hackney’s Environmental Sustainability Board is currently overseeing the process of updating the borough’s Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP).
“The Board’s most recent meeting took place on 18 September to discuss next steps in the process. Additionally, as part of the council’s plans to integrate its existing operations for grounds maintenance to ensure consistently high standards of green space management, funding has been allocated for the creation of a new Biodiversity Officer role.
“This will be for an initial two-year period from 2020, with a focus on improving biodiversity in the borough’s parks, green spaces and housing estates.
“Protecting and enhancing biodiversity is also at the heart of the new Hackney Local Plan 2033, and extensive engagement has been undertaken with key local stakeholders to deliver the highest standard of safeguards and enhancements possible from the planning process.
“The principles laid out in the new Local Plan are also reflected in other plans, such as place based policies focusing on Hackney’s main urban areas, public realm, tall buildings, and sustainable transport.”