Environment

IMG
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO INCREASE THE DIVERSITY OF THOSE TAKING PART IN ENVIRONMENTAL SOCIAL ACTION?
Peta

Peta Foxall, Chair, The Wildlife Trusts. Peta is pictured (left) with #iwill Ambassador Yetunde Kehinde, with whom she co-chaired Environment Steering Group meetings.

The number of organisations that now support young people in a ‘green’ context is inspiring, from community groups and care farms to those providing mentoring and careers advice.

However, the lack of diversity and inclusion in the environment sector are problems that still need to be addressed.

I want it to be unthinkable that young people from any section of society should be shut out of the debate, but a lot of work needs to happen to make that vision a reality.

Government must invite young people’s opinions and listen to what they say. Both public and private sector organisations need to investigate where young people are missing from the decision-making process and make the changes that count.

Young people need access to high-quality social action opportunities where they can benefit from the restorative power of nature and wildlife. After all, it is their passion, commitment and creativity that will safeguard the future of the environment.

Peta Foxall, Chair, The Wildlife Trusts

A CONCERTED EFFORT IS NEEDED TO PROMOTE INCLUSION AND CLOSE THE GAP TO SECURE EQUALITY.

Action for Conservation trains and supports a brilliant network of early-career environmental professionals who volunteer on our programmes. Our volunteers facilitate workshops, provide support and guidance for student projects and inspire young people from diverse backgrounds with their experience and expertise. We know that young people, particularly those from minority and/or disadvantaged backgrounds without early-childhood experiences in nature, respond best to people who look and sound like them and can talk about nature in ways that feel relevant to them and their communities - so representation is really important.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals are currently underrepresented in employment terms in the environmental sector and so when looking for early-career volunteers who are representative of the communities we work with, we have come up against the issue of lack of diversity within the sector again and again. For us, the answer lies in addressing the many systemic barriers that hinder Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals from taking up employment in the environmental sector whilst broadening out our own definition of an ‘environmentalist’ in order to be more inclusive of the sectors and spaces that Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic individuals currently occupy.

Recently we’ve launched ‘Race for Nature’s Recovery’, a new project which aims to leverage Government investment via the Kickstart Scheme to place 100 young people from predominantly Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds in work placements at environmental organisations, large and small. We hope these young people will change the sector from the inside out, shape the volunteer opportunities available and enable organisations to ultimately drive a more inclusive and impactful movement. This is just one initiative of many that are needed and the beginning of our work to diversify our own volunteer base and support the wider sector to do the same.

Action for cons
YOUNG PEOPLE ARE PART OF THE SOLUTION - THEY MUST BE MEANINGFULLY INVOLVED IN DECISIONS.
Guy

Young people must take a decisive lead in repairing our relationship with nature. If we don’t, our biodiversity will decline and disappear, which will lead to environmental disaster.

Since the age of nine, I’ve volunteered on a local toad patrol, helping to educate the public and stop toads being killed on busy roads. I run social media campaigns for my local toad rescue group, write articles and speak on amphibian protection to schools and youth groups. I also train new volunteers and engage with groups on road safety.

This experience has shown me that youth social action has the power to inspire people to get involved in environmental projects.

As young people, every action we take is a step towards creating a better planet. We can all do our bit, no matter how small. Collectively, it adds up to create a big impact.

Environmentally, we face huge challenges. I believe the answer lies in bringing young people together and encouraging everyone to step up and take action in their local community. Together, we can make a real difference and create a greener future.

Guy Willcock, #iwill Ambassador

Why does youth social action for the environment make sense?
1/
Wellbeing
2/
Awareness
3/
Reduce Impact
4/
Protect Wildlife
Wellbeing

IMPROVING HEALTH AND WELLBEING

Engaging with the natural world can have significant mental and physical health benefits, with reductions in stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression. However, 1 in 10 children do not spend any time in the natural environment, and children from less affluent backgrounds visit natural environments less than their wealthier peers. By integrating environmental social action into the day-to-day lives of all young people, we could see positive improvements to health and wellbeing.

Awareness

INCREASING AWARENESS AND UNDERSTANDING

Involving young people in social action can develop their understanding of key environmental issues and create opportunities for them to lead change. By informing young people about environmental challenges and empowering them to find solutions to tackle them, we can increase not only the understanding and commitment of the young people involved, but of their peers, families and wider communities.

Reduce Impact

REDUCING ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

We use more ecological resources than nature can regenerate. Young people are already getting involved in practical clean- up and sustainability efforts, and are also showing how their voice and leadership can influence consumer behaviour, businesses and Government policy. We want to increase the opportunities available to young people to address these issues and to be actively involved, such as through increased recycling and influencing the behaviour of their peers and adults.

Protect Wildlife

PROTECTING WILDLIFE AND ENHANCING HABITATS

It is estimated that we are currently losing species at a speed that is between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate. This issue affects us all and reduced biodiversity means millions of people face a future where food supplies are more vulnerable to pests and disease. Young people are keen to help protect animals and habitats and this issue could help to engage those not already involved in social action.

Improve Patient
Experience

Offering added value and an improved patient experience

Young people have the capacity to take on some of the tasks that salaried staff may find it hard to prioritise. Comforting patients, making tea or befriending the chronically ill are vital elements of good health and social care provision. This kind of quality human interaction is shown to significantly enhance the patient experience, through programmes such as Helping in Hospitals5.