Having seen that the Wildlife Trusts were accepting guest posts in their 30 Days Wild blog series, I decided to enquire if I could submit one. Receiving an affirmative answer, I then pondered on what to write. How I connect with nature? The Megan & Matt Go Wild! joint-blogging? How fantastic it is to work in environmental education and show the wonders of nature to children? All good possibilities. However, an issue had been meandering around in the back of my mind for a while. I decided that now was a good time to bring it to the front and work through my thoughts on it, culminating in the blog post you see below. Originally posted here.
Megan Shersby is an aspiring naturalist and science (particularly nature) communicator. She is currently based in Dorset, working as a Seasonal Assistant for Dorset Wildlife Trust. She is passionate about inspiring others to explore the natural world, and can usually be found in a nature reserve examining the local wildlife. In this blog, the last in our 30 Days Wild series for 2015, she discusses how we can inspire a generation to love wildlife.
Many groups in society are overlooked or marginalise. Among these are young people, particularly those between 16-30. Politics takes us for granted as we vote less than others, and the impacts on us of spending cuts and the housing shortage are disproportionate.. Of course, it’s true, and important to recognise, that this intersects with a range of other inequalities based on gender, race and sexual orientation. But I want to focus on the age dimension here.
The conservation sector, too, sometimes lets this age group fall through the gaps of its excellent work.
There is much focus on connecting children with nature, and rightly so. According to the RSPB’s survey only 21 % of 8-12year olds feeling connected with nature. Environmental education makes up part of what I’m employed to do – we have a variety of school groups attending the centres. One day I will be talking about seashore wildlife to Year 2 primary school children, the next I will be taking Year 5s pond dipping and studying tree identification, and then the next, a Year 9 group discussing longshore drift.
The conservation sector targets most of its efforts and messages at a few groups – school groups, families with young children, and those who make up charities’ core membership. But those between 16-30, who are often at unique stages in their lives, are often overlooked, or treated exactly the same as people of 40, 50 or 60 years old. They are not the same – these young people are these charities future members and the conservationists of the future too.. Only a few projects are in place to engage those 16-30 year olds who aren’t in young families and/or not engaging with wildlife.
Lucy McRobert (amongst other conservationists) recently wrote a fantastic guest post for Findlay Wilde’s blog series called 13 Years Wilde. It is a very honest account of not connecting with nature as a teenager: “wildlife meant very little to me as a teenager”. It is quite an eye-opener, considering that Lucy is one of the leading young conservationists in the United Kingdom and works as the Nature Matters Campaigns Manager for the Wildlife Trusts. It makes me feel a little better, as my teenage years weren’t so different from Lucy’s.
If even our leading conservationists and naturalists didn’t connect with nature during their teenage years, how can we hope to connect anyone else? There is no National Curriculum beyond Year 11 – and even in the previous years, there is very little room to squeeze in more nature. There are a lot of pressures on schools, teachers, their time and resources.
There are some excellent projects out there. Ideally these could be rolled out across our country (and the world?!), but funding is forever tight so for now, I won’t build my hopes too high. However, 30 Days Wild itself could take youth engagement a step further. Next year, maybe we should plan to particularly engage this age group with the campaign? Get the message into the magazines they read, get the celebrities they like to become involved, contact the community groups used by these ages – just a few ideas off the top of my head.
The lack of engagement by these youths and adults is one of the many reasons why groups such as A Focus On Nature, a network of young conservationists, are so vitally important and wonderful. As well as connecting young naturalists with each other, they allow us to become self-assured in ourselves, our abilities and our knowledge –and that actually, nature is cool. As a result, I feel more confident to talk about how amazing nature is to my peers who aren’t into wildlife as I am. I know that others members of A Focus On Nature have felt the same too. Thus even though there is no solution to magically connecting everyone with nature, we are creating ripples in the pond, and I live in hope that soon this issue will no longer exist. So if you know a young person, or actually someone of any age, who isn’t connecting to nature, why not create ripples of your own?
The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent Dorset Wildlife Trust’s positions, strategies or opinions (or any other organisation or individuals for that matter).