Across the world nature is under pressure from habitat loss, climate change, hunting, invasive alien species and diseases. We need people who are willing to stand up for our natural world and protect it for the future, not only for its own sake but for our sakes, for the beauty and interest it provides, the relaxation and the potential new cures for diseases.
Yet children, the next generation who should be the conservationists of the future, just aren't spending time in nature (according to a report from the Wildlife Trusts, 78% of parents are concerned that children don’t spend enough time interacting with nature and wildlife. If these children aren't interacting with the natural world then how will they care enough to protect it in the future?
I have to admit when I was growing up I wasn't allowed out by myself beyond our own garden and those of our closest neighbours. Yes it's a moderately sized garden, with a small, overgrown patch of trees and bushes at the bottom, but its not really wild (though admittedly the overgrown patch seemed much bigger when i was a child than it does today when I visit my parents!). Most of my excursions in the outdoors were supervised trips to local parks, the local woods and occasionally to other places.
I learned most of what I knew of nature from books and observations in the garden. Yet when I studied Botany at University I could recognise more wild plants than most other people on the course, most of whom had probably spent more time outdoors as a child than I had. And now I lead nature walks and volunteer outdoors with the Water of Leith Conservation Trust.
So I am perhaps proof that a protected childhood with little genuinely wild time outside isn't an obstacle to becoming a naturalist and conservationist. Having said that, it's a very worrying trend that children aren't being offered opportunities to spend more time outside, learning about nature. It's not only good for the future of nature that children learn to understand it, it's also good for the children themselves, in terms of offering opportunities for creative play, exercise and learning.
The Wildlife Trusts have therefore launched a new initiative #EveryChildWild to help reconnect children with nature. As part of this, they're encouraging people to blog on the issue. You can read their official bloggers' posts here and find out how to take part yourself too.
It's a great project and will hopefully help to encourage children and their parents out into the natural world.
As ever, red text contains hyperlinks th other webpages where you can find out more.