Response for Nature - Transcript

Response for Nature launch ~ 13th October 2015 ~ 

For those interested, here is the full transcript of my talk at the launch of the Response for Nature report: 

Good evening ladies and gentlemen. So we’ve just heard from Steve about the links between past and future with some hard-hitting statistics shared from the State of Nature report.

Over the next few minutes I would like to tell you why nature is important to young people and why we must act now to ensure that our generation is remembered for all the right reasons.

From a personal point of view, due to the long-term declines of many bird populations in the UK, there is the very real prospect that my children and grandchildren may never hear the iconic call of a Cuckoo or song of a Nightingale and as a young person interested in nature this saddens me greatly. But, not only does it sadden me, it also angers me because even I, a 17 year old student, know that there is much that could be done to improve the prospects of nature right across our country, but it needs to start here and it needs to start now.

I have had an interest in the natural world for as long as I can remember and have been fortunate enough to have had many fantastic experiences involving nature and the environment. But there is one experience that particularly sticks in my mind. 

Picture this - it’s around half past 9 on a warm summer’s evening and the sun is low in the sky. A bat flies overhead making little squeaks, audible to only the most sensitive of ears. You’re sat waiting patiently and then it is as if a switch has been flipped and the night comes alive - a male Nightjar starts churring from the nearest large tree *(sound of Nightjar churring)*. The churring continues for a few seconds, sending a shiver down my spine. He then swoops down from the tree, wing-clapping as he goes; his white wing patches flashing in the twilight. Then, as if from nowhere, a female appears and they chase each other in a superb aerial display, calling to one another. But within a few seconds, the show is over. The female disappears back into the night and the male resumes his churring. 

Watching Nightjars on a little patch of heathland near my home in north Hampshire is one of my most treasured experiences and one I look forward to every summer. It is brilliant to watch and makes me feel incredibly lucky as these birds have completed an impressive migration all the way from sub-Saharan Africa to get here. 

Experiencing nature is important for everyone, especially children and young people. Children have an innate sense of wonder and curiosity for all things natural, whether it's watching butterflies, digging up worms or making mud pies. It is this unconscious connection that we should endeavour to nurture, throughout their childhood and teenage years, in the hope that this small spark ignites a life long passion for the natural world!

The point I really want to make is that young people are the future; they are the leaders, educators and scientists of tomorrow. In my eyes, the way forwards, the key to making a real difference in the conservation and protection of our natural world is to make sure that the environment is something that young people understand, take an interest in and most importantly of all, care about. After all, if people don’t understand or care about nature, they’re not going to stand up and fight to protect it!  In order to do this, we all have to work together; making the most of knowledge and expertise available. A cross-sector, cross-generation collaboration is needed and we need to get a move on.

The way I see it at the moment, the human race and the future of it, is resting on a knife edge. It could go one way or the other and it’s up to us to decide which way we want to go. If we continue on our current path, sticking to how things have always been done with short-term gains taking priority over actions that are more sustainable, profitable and productive in the long run, then we risk everything. If we keep saying that more money will be put into protecting and enhancing the environment once the economy is secure then really, we are kidding ourselves. If something else always takes priority and nature, the environment and all its processes aren’t given the recognition and importance that they deserve then the future looks bleak.

But it doesn’t have to go that way. Support for nature has to come from the top - our representatives in parliament have to act to support nature and the environment otherwise it won’t get done. The Response for Nature report is a call to action for decision makers, and asks you to recognise that you have a key role to play in helping nature. 

As a young person, I’m really encouraged to read recommendation 6 which is to improve the connection of people to nature, particularly for our children as they will be the next stewards of the natural environment. It proposes that the government should amend the education act to ensure that learning to care for the natural environment is an essential part of a balanced curriculum for all schools in England. 

This would be a huge improvement because from my personal experience, the importance and relevance of nature to our lives is not taught well at any level and by the time you reach secondary school everyone is so obsessed with getting the best grades possible that only the matter of fact processes such as the carbon and water cycle are taught; there seems to be no room or time for the teachers to explain their wider relevance and importance to our day-to-day lives.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! There is a fantastic organisation in the UK called A Focus on Nature which is the network for young nature conservationists. It has hundreds of members between the ages of 16 and 30 and two of its key objectives are to promote nature conservation and natural history to young people as well as contributing to a society in which nature is more valued and better protected for the benefit of young people and future generations. Over the last year, AFON has gathered the opinions of many of its members to develop its Vision for Nature report which lays out what members want the natural world to look like by 2050 with ideas on how to achieve it. My friend Matt Williams will be elaborating on this later this evening in a short talk.

As the Response for Nature report sets out, by working together we can be proactive in supporting the government and its agencies to help nature to help us. So what I’d like you all to think about today is do we want to be known as the generation that stood back and did nothing? Or do we want to be known as the people who stood up for nature and did everything we could to ensure a richer and more biodiverse world for generations to come. I know which I’d rather be remembered for!

The line up for the evening