The issue of the conservation movement and engagement is forever being analysed in my mind. It once again showed up this week on a Mental health course I was involved in and one of the group discussions was how everyone contributes to protecting the environment. To be honest, the majority of people did not know how to get involved apart from with recycling and often talked about wildlife and its conservation as something that is far away from them and not present in their communities. This is something I commonly come across and to be honest I personally feel that the movement is become less and less relevant to society, in that the general public do not see how we benefit them or contribute.
You may disagree with this, but apart from within conservation circles and within wildlife organisations and their memberships I do not feel as if anyone is engaged or taking notice, it is like we have stalled completely on inspiring people. With everything that is currently happening to our planet such as global warming, habitat destruction, species extinctions, coral reef bleaching, pollution and the death in our oceans, you would expect some sort of massive public outrage, large enough to enact significant change. History has shown us that change can come about by mass protest and a shift in public perception on issues, yet with conservation it is silent.
The reason for me is that saving species and the work of conservation/wildlife charities is not seen as beneficial to society, to people, and to communities, and it is simply not enough anymore. We have not re-aligned our focus with what is happening in society and the challenges we face. I do seriously question why we save a species when in the wider public nobody really notices, and it can come across as if we are out of touch… actually it does come across that we are out of touch. We need to focus on physical/mental health initiatives.
This is where Children in Need comes in. I love Children in Need and the work it does to help communities, families and children, and I love the fact that the support from the British public keeps on growing. I am adamant that wildlife and the natural world has a huge part to play in this, especially with the physical and mental well-being of communities and we must re-focus our efforts on nurturing this connection. This is why in the past 12 months or so I have turned partially away from practical conservation and focused more on mental health issues, wild play initiatives and well-being programmes. This is the future of wildlife conservation for me. The future survival of our wildlife depends on our direct focus turning away from it.
What I want and work towards is a BBC Children in Need package and emphasis on how wildlife and wild spaces have helped children and families, making the natural world relevant to the very issues that influence so many of us. Stories about green spaces improving well-being, reducing crime, helping people deal with health issues and being used directly with projects tackling poverty. The research shows it can, we now need to take a leap of faith and move in this direction.