Inspiring the next generation of conservationists

By ‘inspiring the next generation of conservationists’ I do not just mean inspiring a generation to ‘go into’ nature conservation as a career path. I mean to inspire a generation to ‘think as conservationists’ and to think with the natural world in mind. This is of absolute importance as we move forward and face the challenges of this century. It is no secret that we face biodiversity loss, increased pollution and issues surrounding food security. However, as species abundance continues to decline and global soil degradation worsens, real action on the ground (or at least perceived action) appears to be lacking both in terms of scale and focus. To improve matters it cannot just be up to conservationists. Everyone is implicated in what is happening and therefore everybody has a stake in helping to alleviate the effects. Businesses, politicians, academics, teachers, farmers, parents – we all need to think in a more sustainable way. As I mentioned in a recent activisionary post, REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE, should be a mantra in everybody’s minds.

I have mentioned before that we need to encourage students to think about problems in different ways and to diversify their interests. Liam Curson, in a recent blog article as part of A Focus on Nature’s current ‘Vision for Nature Campaign‘, has written that ‘the modern conservationist has to do things differently. They have to be an activist, a teacher, a scientist, a journalist, a networker, a wildlife expert and a political lobbyist, all rolled into one.’ This is certainly true for the next generation of professional nature conservationists but many of these aspects should also be true of everyone. When it comes to the environment, it is my vision for nature that as many young people as possible will think in an activist way moving forward and work to protect and stand up for the quality of their local (and global) environment.

Recently I have been involved with engaging a number of young people of all ages in activities to do with the natural world, whether that be picking up litter from the beaches on the Naze where I work or exploring grassland meadows and woodlands with groups of younger children, helping them to understand the plants and animals that rely on these habitats. When they ask me what can they do, I simply answer, ‘be interested’. This is all it takes to start with and sustained interest usually leads to greater understanding and ultimately a concern for and (hopefully) passion for the natural world. To be a conservationist in the broadest sense doesn’t mean you need a great knowledge – that can come in time – just an interest that can spark something more. It often doesn’t take much to inspire a child and it is up to all of us to provide that inspiration. Look more closely at a tree or at an insect; go for a walk in the woods, along the beach, in the park; listen to the birds and look at the flowers growing along the roadside. We can all think as conservationists.

It is the young people who you will inspire who will inherit the natural world which will be influenced by the policies of today. The Vision for Nature campaign aims to set out a plan for how young people in Britain wish to see the natural world in 2050 and the final report will suggest some ideas for how we can move closer towards that positive vision. I am privileged to be part of a superb team who are putting the report together. Please get involved in the campaign . If you are on twitter you can tweet using the hashtag #visionfornature. The report will be published in the Autumn. For more information visit the A Focus on Nature website.

2 thoughts on “Inspiring the next generation of conservationists

  1. I do look forward to a more conservation-minded populous. I don’t know what it’s like in Britain, but in the US if a person expresses environmental concern they are often equated (in a derogatory fashion) to an environmental extremist. Conservationism is more mainstream in Canada, so I would like to think they have the power to influence the US.

  2. Thanks for your comment Leah. It is often the sad reality that we face today. What concerns me most though, as I have hinted at in this blog post, is that most people don’t even think about environmental issues. They also tend to lie at the bottom of the political agenda which is a key concern. Education and encouragement are tools we can use but it is certainly a long game and time is not on our side.

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