Looking back at the last year or so since the first ever innings of the fantastic Chilterns New Shoots programme, which I was lucky enough to take part in, came to an end, I am proud and more than a little amazed at how far I have come. I couldn’t possibly emphasise enough the extent to which New Shoots functioned as my founding experience of the diverse world of conservation, and provided a strong platform, enabling me to go on and take part in a plethora of exciting new experiences which, without New Shoots, I would likely never have even considered.
My intrinsic fascination with the conservation sector stems undoubtedly from a childhood spent in the stunning beauty of the Chilterns AONB, which I am so lucky to call where I live. I agree fundamentally with David Attenborough’s assertion that: “No one will protect what they don’t care about, and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” I am privileged to have experienced the wonders of nature from a young age, something which I can undoubtedly cite as the origins of my passion for its protection. Despite this, I am painfully aware of the sad truth that there are so many young people living with a strong disconnect to our natural world, a fact which it is imperative to do something about if we want to succeed in galvanising large-scale action for nature among the next generation, something which will be essential in saving our planet in the years to come.
To this end, my route into conservation, stemming from the fantastic experience of New Shoots which transformed my passion into concrete action and involvement, has ultimately led me to the RSPB’s Youth Council, which I joined last year. The Youth Council is a fantastic group of inspiring young people working to increase the RSPB’s engagement with young people, breaking down any barriers to involvement, whilst also bringing a youth perspective to the organisation’s policy, campaigns, and governance. My route into the council took me through a plethora of brilliant opportunities in the last few years, including a Young Darwin Scholarship with the Field Studies Council, and various volunteering opportunities which helped me to consolidate my interest in conservation and ultimately pushed me to apply for my role on the council.
Writing this soon after our first major in-person meet-up as the current incarnation of the Youth Council, I am feeling more inspired and certain of having made the right decision than ever. The group is pure energy, our friendship forged from a common goal already strong, and I feel certain that tangible change is on the very near horizon with our collective momentum and the results that we are currently working towards. In the nine or so months I have been on the council, we’ve had the privilege of being involved in, and influencing, so many exciting projects, including the launch of David Attenborough’s landmark Wild Isles series, co-produced by the RSPB and WWF. This was an opportunity I will never forget; being involved in the behind-the-scenes campaigning and initiatives associated with the series was undeniably fantastic. The embargoes we had to keep before the release of the series made it seem all the more clandestine and thrilling!
The current project that we are working on as part of the wider Save Our Wild Isles campaign is a truly inspiring one, that gives me real hope for our goals of engaging with a more diverse community of young people across the UK. Young Voices for Nature is an inter-organisational collaborative project with the aim of amassing a diverse community of 300 13-25-year-olds from across the UK to join us in telling their stories of how young people care about our wildlife. We are working to harness the power of storytelling to make change for nature, eventually culminating in the production of an entirely youth-led documentary associated with Wild Isles itself. The project is already well underway, and the progress that we are already seeing through this landmark RSPB/WWF/National Trust coalition is hopeful and inspiring beyond belief, and serves as a constant reminder of my passion and motivation for the cause.
Our film, Our Beautiful Wild: Young Voices for Nature, was shown at the Chesham Climate Cafe at Chesham Town Hall on Saturday 2nd December 2024. It is a shared vision for the future, showcasing the inspiring actions that young people are taking for the natural world, while sending a powerful message to decision-makers to step-up and play their part too.
On a more local scale, New Shoots also prompted me to get involved in a variety of community-based projects and volunteering opportunities, perfectly complimenting what we are working towards in the Youth Council. Having completed a week-long work experience placement with the Chiltern Rangers not long after New Shoots ended, I was able to supplement my experience of practical conservation and habitat management which underpins so much of what the RSPB does. Other projects including volunteering for the sustainability-inspired Chesham Repair Café, and local environmental restoration work with Chesham Environmental Group, culminated in my being nominated for, and winning, an award for my environmental contribution in a recent youth awards ceremony. I was immensely proud that my work had been recognised in this way, and the award only served to reinforce my drive and commitment to the work which I so love to be a part of.
Since then, another highlight was being asked to open the first ever Chesham Community Climate Café along with my local MP, Sarah Green, and I massively enjoyed the opportunity to hold some important and inspiring conversations about young people’s role in the climate and biodiversity crises, as well as a wealth of other topics, and found it incredibly uplifting that Sarah shared many of my passions and concerns for the environment.
This sense of hope is what functions as my underlying motivation in all that I do. Trying not to get bogged down in the negatives, but instead focusing on the hopeful positives that are indeed manifesting themselves all around us is absolutely vital, and on this note, I am immensely looking forward to the future of conservation work, cannot wait to see what awesome successes lie around the corner, and through it all, remain eternally grateful to the wonderful New Shoots, for giving me the kickstart into this incredible world.