Below is an article I have written to be published in two of my local daily papers…please let me know what you think!
Back to your Roots
For all my life I have been fascinated by nature, and inevitably the more you love something the harder it is to see it get hurt. Hedgehog. Turtle dove. Water vole. Stag beetle. European wildcat. Otter. Dormouse. Bumblebee. Tortoise-shell butterfly. All of these British wildlife species are in trouble. They’re in trouble because of our attitudes toward nature. To most people nature is now seen as little more than unnecessary pretty things, but we need to change this attitude by reminding people about the exciting, magical and often breath-taking side of nature. I use the word ‘remind’ instead of teach as I believe that everyone begins life loving nature. The endless hours of jumping in puddles and jam-jarring frogspawn would have been an ordinary pass time for many…but now-a-days times have changed. Videogames have replaced countryside walks and outdoor learning has been substituted by computers. Appreciation of our natural world has been lost, and my generation is now labelled as the ones who lack connection with nature. In many respects this is true, but there are exceptions to this rule…those who have fought against the crowd and dodged the computer games, as well as those who have actually successfully worked with technology to get closer to nature. No one can say that technology is bad for us; after all if it weren’t for technology I wouldn’t be speaking to you now. But like lots of good things…too much of it and it’s bad for you. This is definitely the case with technology. We need to change this.
There is one thing that confuses me however. The older generations are the ones always telling their childhood stories of climbing trees and building dens in local woods. They, from what we’re told, were the generation immersed in nature…no technology to be seen. If so, then why has this said generation seen a 58% decline of UK wildlife in their lifetimes? My guess is this… Up until relatively recently nature has been completely idealised, shown to have a dome of peace and prosperity protecting it from our intrusion. Wildlife documentaries are wonderful, but the majority fail to mention the serious issues. Tilt the camera just a few degrees to the right and the viewers will realise that these “wild places” are in fact just small pockets of vulnerability. This idealisation of nature has actually led to an attitude that nature is expendable. Apart from a one-off Geography lesson on Amazon deforestation our natural world has been portrayed as an idyll, which is seemingly resistant to the interference of humans. We need to change this by revealing both the joys of nature but also the harsh realities of its current fragile state. Not only do we need to teach the old dog new tricks but we also need to work with the education sector focusing on bringing up children with a balanced opinion of nature, illustrating both the glories and the problems.
My idea is this…
A new topic within the Biology syllabus should be created for both primary and secondary schools…Natural history and conservation. This balanced equation would be echoed in the subject’s textbook, which would be built around an alternate page structure, with the left hand page educating the reader about a particular species: it’s behavior, their most remarkable adaptations, their communication abilities and so forth. This would educate the reader about the magical world of flora and fauna, hopefully bring to the fore their innate connection with our natural world. On the right hand page, the reader would be informed of the future of this species, whether good or bad. It would also suggest ways of how to help the species in a clear way therefore not making the information too over-whelming! Balanced education is key to developing a positive attitude towards wildlife, ensuring that the protection of our planet doesn’t seem like a burden, but more of an enjoyable responsibility. After all…nature is truly magical.