Sunday, 21 September 2014

Vision For Nature - Vision into the Future

On the 5th & 6th September I attended a conference organised by AFON (A Focus On Nature). The theme of the conference was a "vision for nature", a brilliant title that really got everyone thinking even before the conference began. We arrived reasonably late to our hotel the night before, and I was glad to get some much needed sleep for the following day.

The first day started off great. The organised event was located in Cambridge, and was taking place in the Depart of Engineering Building of Cambridge University. It was an amazing place and got me thinking about how I will one day hopefully be studying something to do with conservation in a big lecture theatre like that.

Almost instantly I met up with Lucy McRoberts (organiser of event, along with Matt Williams).  In fact we helped her carry stuff from her car into the conference rooms.  We were quite early, but as more and more people started to arrive, I recognised more and more faces; people I had met at Bird Fair, people I have tweeted with and people I have got to know through my determination to help nature.

Over the period of the conference I learned an awful lot, and of course this started with the very first introductions, discussions and debates.

So I would like to start off with the first discussion that grabbed my attention about the importance of nature/wildlife education in schools, (which might keep popping up in future blogs). But before I talk about the facts I've picked up at the conference, I'd like to talk about my personnel view on environmental education. 

Now earlier in the year I did quite a large survey on all the Primary Schools in Cheshire on whether they would like to make environmental based subjects available to their pupils. This research was done for a guest blog I wrote for Mark Avery. Most of them actually said they would love to but it depended on cost and if it was part of the curriculum. Sadly it still isn't working at this current moment, not just in Primary Schools, but also in High Schools.

Now I think there is a little bit of nature based study done in Primary Schools however I think this relies on the school having a teacher who is a wildlife enthusiast, but it should be a key part of education in schools as well for the 11 to 16 year olds. This is because at this kind of age they really start to understand how their actions impact our planet and also they can chose the path towards what they want to do.

I can understand this because, now that I am 12, I have really got to understand conservation better and I know the direction I want to take in life. This is why I KNOW that environmental studies should be else are we going to reverse all the damage that has been done to our shared home.  I also think that High School kids will understand the deeper issues and then maybe engage better, unlike the Primary school children who will enjoy the experiences but maybe not link them with the changes that are needed.  It doesn't even need changes in the curriculum to make a difference. Why can't we bring things like the university birding challenge into schools and things like that. I still think the NGOs need to do more with schools as well, using their network of volunteers.

In my case it was the school kid going to the conference, how about we take the conference on a tour of the schools.  And by the way, I am really grateful to my school for letting me take the time off to attend the conference.

Anyway, back to the conference............

I learnt so much from the conference. I built up lots of knowledge by listening to the talks and especially though hearing different opinions in the debates.

 Of course, over the course of the weekend I met lots of new people and people I needed to catch up with. It was great to see Dave Leech (who I missed at the bird fair due to me being sick). We talked a lot about Blackcaps and the RAS I helped with earlier this year. It was great to see him again. It's always great to catch up with people like Mark Avery, Andy Clements and Rob Lambert. It was also nice to talk to Alex Berryman and Josie Hewitt who I met last year at another AFON conference at the BTO Nunnery. We had a brilliant evening in the pub where loads of the conference people turned up to chat.

One of the other talks I went to was the one run by Peter Cooper, a wildlife journalist.  His talk made me more aware of how important my blog is, i.e. how to get my thoughts heard by more people and it may even help when the time comes for me to get a job (I will have a diary of all the practical work and knowledge that I've learned). I don't like the idea of it being competitive, but it is competitive for jobs in any type of business (I learnt that as well).

So the conference was brilliant; I learnt lots and like I said at this kind of age I am realising and finding my real passion, and understanding how I can help it.

I'm ready, I'm passionate, I'm determined and I can make a difference. And I feel even more ready to face whatever the future brings. 

Thank you for all the AFON members for this amazing event. It has only made me even more determined to make a difference.  


  1. Wow seems like you had a great time, see you soon

  2. I'm greatly encouraged by the maturity of your observations, Findlay. I think that you're one in a million, and whilst this has very postitive connotations as far as yourself is concerned, the ratio has negative ones for the future of the planet. One in a million is way off the required ratio - even one in ten isn't totally satisfactory. The whole planet needs to be aware. So you're totally correct - education is the way forward, and in schools is a good starting point. Keep up the good work - you're an inspiration!

  3. Nature/conservation in the curriculum is such a tricky subject. Problem with schools is they have to follow what is handed to them from central government. Central government seem to think it's making sure your generation is fluid in foreign language and computers etc. Sadly I think they're right and when it comes to conservation it is going have to come down to determined individuals like yourself to pick what subjects will be important sadly this probably won't be until university time. But where it means perhaps a lot youngsters miss out on nature it also means those who like yourself choose conservation they are doing it because they're passionate and really want to do it (good) and not as a second career option (bad) like some do.
    As far as getting more people you tuned into nature maybe local wildlife trusts need to revive the Young Ornithologist Club, as an after school club, I did see the other week a Scout gathering near me, they had navigate/ramble their own way back to camp but they also had to gather certain leafs and tick off certain animals which I thought was quite good and perhaps the way forward ie via youth clubs, Scout movement etc