I haven’t blogged in a while…okay, a long while. Seven whole months, to be exact. This, fortunately, is down to incredibly exciting reasons: I spent two glorious months in Madagascar, diving on coral reefs with sea turtles and seeking out lemurs and fantastical reptiles in the sweltering jungle (hard life, eh?) and then hit the ground running PhD-wise on my return, sprinting head first into conferences and fieldwork. I am incredibly lucky to have a job that allows me to travel around Scotland, speaking to different people and spying birds of prey (another blog on that later) but whilst it’s amazing, it can also be slightly time consuming and, to be honest, a bit knackering. So you’ll have to forgive me for being a bit slack!
That being said, now seemed like the perfect time to write. We have arrived at what seems to be a pivotal moment in time for wildlife and nature – there is a tonne of things going on, both within our own country and the wider world. As I write this, snuggled up in my cosy, temporary abode in Pitlochry with a steaming mug of hot chocolate (a necessity after a day searching for harriers on the hills in driving rain), we are sitting on the cusp of, potentially, a brand-new government. Thousands will have turned out today to place a little folded slip of paper in a ballot box that bears the name of the party they have entrusted to carry the party forwards, and whatever the outcome, this decision will inevitably hold consequences (good or bad) for the environment. This comes in the same week that Trump exited the Paris Agreement – a heart wrenching decision that managed to leave me simultaneously shocked and unsurprised.
It seems the future of conservation as we know it is filled with uncertainty. A new government will mean new environmental policies – whether these will be worse or better than those we already have in place remains to be seen. And the looming dark cloud that is ‘Brexit’ (no matter how many times I hear or see that word, it always reminds me of a bland breakfast cereal…the kind that lingers at the back of your Nan’s cupboard) brings with it even more worry. What will this mean for nature? Will legislation, like the EU Habitat’s Directive, still stand? And what, if anything, will take their place? Not to mention the terrifying orange cloud that hangs over the U.S., devouring their wild spaces with its plans for infrastructure and incredibly ignorant views on climate change. It can seem sometimes that our voices as conservationists and wildlife enthusiasts are drowned out by politics and “more pressing” issues (although, really, what is more pressing than the destruction of our planet); we are left exasperated at yet another set-back or grim fact hits the headlines. It feels like we are swimming against the tide.
All the time we are arguing and debating, more species are declining. More habitats are lost. Climate change isn’t waiting for us to make our minds up – it is progressing, at quite an alarming pace. We will see very real changes in our lifetime. But, as young conservationists, we have power. It may not seem like much, but the little things we do can mean a whole lot more as a collective. And there has never been a better time than now; this is why the #nowfornature is so powerful, because it means just that – we need to be doing things now to protect nature. So what can we do? I can think of a few things we can all start doing, to help build a better future and start working from the bottom-up.
- Experience nature. Get out there and discover our wildlife and environment for yourself, and what it means to you. My whole career wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for wildlife, and it provides me with so much more than that. This is the driving force behind your passion to save it, so harness that and use it anyway you can – write about it, sketch it, keep a field notebook. Get involved with initiatives like #30DaysWild and inspire others to do the same.
- Shout about it. How can we expect others to know what to save if they don’t know what’s out there? Write a blog about what excites you – if you’re passionate about it, it’ll be infectious. I once met a guy who was so enthusiastic about fungi he made it sound Game of Thrones level epic. Also, talk to people. It’s something we don’t do enough these days. Make conversation with other walkers, or chat to that cyclist who rides past you in the park every day. Chat to volunteers in your local reserve. Chances are, they’ll have spotted something or be able to point you in right direction. Similarly, if you see something, tell passers-by so they can enjoy it too (without swarming on one poor animal, obviously!)
- Read up on your politics. Educate yourself on laws and policies so you can debate successfully – and calmly. Make informed decisions on who you vote for – don’t just go for the personality, but for the manifesto. Especially with local elections; you can do more by voting for a local MP and getting better localised policies. This could allow this parties policies – particularly if they are a less popular one – to trickle through into the mainstream.
- Use your voice. Write letters to your local MP, or even the prime minister (whoever that may be). Even write one to Trump, if you feel the urge! Don’t just sit and grumble, but ask and suggest – what could they be doing better? How might they help nature? Your voice is a strong one, just make sure you have a solid, well-thought argument. Express how you feel, make a valid argument and fight for change.
- Stick together. There are tonnes of us out there, all wanting to conserve what we have. Join a group, a Facebook page. Go to events, like #HenHarrierDay, and volunteer. It doesn’t take much at all – you could even just get a couple of mates to help you turn your garden into a wildlife haven. We’re a pretty happy, supportive bunch, and I’m sure the majority of us couldn’t be happier to don our wellies and build a habitat or two.
These all seem like little things, but they can go a very long way, especially when we do them together. If we feel politicians and decision makers are going over our heads, we’ll have to work from the bottom-up.
Imagine if we all did #5thingsfornature, what a powerful force we’d be…