Thank you Nick Baker and the Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust for hosting an evening to discuss the state of nature in the UK – it was phenomenal. Having grown up to Nick enthusing my childhood with wildlife on TV, it was so satisfying to see that he was just as inspiring and encapsulating in real life. He had the same excitement for every story that he told, be it about the capture of the rarest salamander living in one single cave in Slovenia (the bug, not Nick), or regarding the capturing a silver-backed beetle, waist deep in pond water in England. Nick left nobody in the room doubting that he was an asset to the UK in the fight to protect its wildlife.
Nick’s talk began by introducing himself, his childhood, and briefly how this led to him becoming one of Britain’s most favoured naturalists and TV presenters. I could liken many aspects of his life to that of Gerald Durrell. This child-like wonder and curiosity that never left him, but only spurred him on to find the next fascinating creature under the next stone to be unturned. Even the short clips of film taken from his adult career demonstrated that he still held the same giddy excitement, chiming with a very familiar feeling of everybody else’s there that would be rekindled by any raw contact with nature. From his childhood excursions with his father and a Dipper by the river to the christening of acceptance into a badger clan, Nick had us hooked.
After an entertaining beginning that had me itching to jump out into the wilderness with a pond net and tray, Nick turned to a more serious issue in the state of UKs nature – our sheer disconnectedness to it. Adults are shunning a connection with nature, becoming repulsed by the exciting presence of a beaver, and asking for ways to remove the bees from their very own gardens. Children are becoming less involved in wildlife, through an epidemic of overprotection, a strangling mass of health and safety regulations, and the easy alternative of modern technology. Nature has to compete with abstract adventures in incredibly realistic games, telling stories of death, violence, and war, allowing a deep connection to wildlife to fall by the wayside. One key point to the talk reminded us that without a generation caring about nature, who will be there to care for it?
Following this heavy hitting message, Nick continued to tell us of some hopes at the end of this dark, concrete tunnel, showing the current efforts amongst adults and young people to keep nature alive in all of us. The petition for a GCSE in Natural History was mentioned, whereby children could gain a real experience for surveying wildlife whilst being educated on how important nature is for our own well-being. The talk then moved on to some of the fantastic projects the Wildlife Trusts like Nottinghamshire’s are launching and running to involve children and young adults in wildlife conservation. I was also very proud to be a part of New Nature and A Focus on Nature, as they both received very good reviews from Nick, as nature movements promoting the connections between young conservationists through social media.
After a fantastic talk that had spoken so many truths about the state of nature in the UK, some equally intelligent and thought provoking questions came from the audience. Discussion moved from climate change to the questioned role of the BBC’s series Planet Earth II in promoting wildlife conservation, before steering to the very difficult question of restricting public access in fragile ecosystems such as Ancient Sherwood. Nick tactfully responded to each and every question, with so much thought that you knew his life was so invested in and in many ways dependent upon the UK’s nature. After this evening I am beginning to believe that whether we know it or not, everybody else is dependent upon nature too.
Image courtesy of Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.