My passion for wildlife was stimulated in my teenage years, mainly thanks to my Mum (a biology teacher) who made me look at the world differently and being inspired by writers such as Paul Colinvaux. This early interest developed into biological research in my 20s, when I did practical conservation work in places such as the Comores and Mongolia.
Today, any free time I have I spend pottering around the flatlands of East Anglia or escaping to our hut on the Northumberland coast looking for wildlife and castles with my wife and children.
I studied Biological Sciences at Oxford and Conservation at UCL, and worked at Wildlife and Countryside Link before spending five years as Conservation Director at Plantlife.
I joined the RSPB as Head of Government Affairs in 2004, became Head of Sustainable Development in 2006, before becoming Conservation Director in 2011.
Today, my boss Mike Clarke was at the Natural Childhood Summit hosted by the National Trust where he announced that the RSPB will be part of an exciting movement to bring about real change in the relationship between young people and nature. Here are his reflections and a few more details on the Natural Childhood Partnership.
It’s widely accepted that today’s generation of children are less connected to nature than ever before. Yet, there is now overwhelming evidence to show that contact with nature brings benefits for children and affects people’s life-chances. Indeed, disconnection from nature, especially among children, is a strategic threat to the natural world and humanity’s ability to live within safe environmental limits. Today’s children will become tomorrow’s decision-makers.
The first encounters between children and nature are so important. I was lucky as a child to have access to the woods and marshes of Shorne and Cobham in Kent, and discovered the amazing diversity of life on the edge of my town. I couldn’t have known then that those memorable experiences would stay with me, and spark a commitment to saving nature that has been with me ever since.
To many it would seem unquestionable that exploring the world around you is a critical part of childhood. That’s certainly something the RSPB believes, and children have been at the core of our work for more than 100 years, from our ‘front-line’ activities with junior members and field teaching, to behind-the-scenes influencing on education policy. That’s why we’re delighted to announce the RSPB’s full participation in the Natural Childhood Partnership. We’ll be joining the National Trust, Play England, the National Health Service Sustainability Unit, Arla Foods and Greenlions Films as part of an exciting movement to bring about real change in the relationship between young people and nature.
More information on Natural Childhood can be found here.
Fair point Glossy Ibis. We'll try and do a bit of that. What did Mrs Glossy Ibis say?
When this was previewed on Countryfile on the BBC on Sunday, I said to Mrs Glossy Ibis "haven't they heard of RSPB Wildlife Explorers!" Behind-the-scenes is all very well but I think the RSPB should raise their profile here and not let the National Trust take all the credit when we have had a very active and well supported system for children and wildlife for many years.
I feel that this is particularly an issue for working class children in the cities and for children as they say in USA "of colour". I can say that I suffered quite severely from a very dislocated childhood and it was the love of nature , learned in Africa, that pulled me through. I am quite sure that alienation from nature aggravates mental illness and its most extreme manifestation scitzofrenia which is more prevalent in people "of race"; even this language that I use is coloured, in this sensitive area. However I hope that the poetry festival that RSPB has endorsed will seek to embrace the many cultures and histories of this increasingly polyglot nation..........Islam's traditions of verse are profound with many references to "the reed" and "the Garden" and this can be perhaps an opportunity for a diverse outreach ; together with the symbiosis of "migration" which is another theme with heavy resonances for children of "the diaspora" wherever their's may be from. Children need these symbols and references that they can associate with their experience; I speak from a place of knowledge here.