I think it’s fair to say nature is not seen as ‘cool’ in today’s teenage society. This is something I feel passionately about, and which needs to be changed, especially as I had first-hand experience of being teased (not exactly bullied) about my love for nature late in primary school. Because of this, I sadly felt the need to hide my passion and have denied it multiple times, many of these at high school. I also know of many other young birders and naturalists who have suffered the same fate.
It is harrowing to think of the talent that is, or could be, out there but is being suppressed within people due to immature teasing. Talent which could change the world. I’m not just talking about scientific talent, or talent that could advance our knowledge of nature, but all forms of talent can end up being suppressed due to young people feeling the need to ridicule anything that is slightly different to what they are used to. Ecological and conservation talent is especially important considering the challenges our planet faces in the future, with an ever-growing population.
Now I have got rid of my (relatively) childish embarrassment and am no longer hiding my love of nature. I assumed people would judge and think less of me as a person for it but, in reality, no one would have acted differently towards me. I’m now confident if more people found out about my love for nature, it wouldn’t change their opinion of me. It’s easier for me to realise this now, because I’ve gained the respect of my peers, as I am in my final year at school and no longer feel any need to prove myself to others.
Sadly, children who are younger than me may be in a different position, feeling they have to fit in with their peers and need to prove themselves to others by trying to act hard. In my opinion, that is not the type of person you should aspire to be and you should never be afraid to be yourself. Eventually, everyone will respect you for your own character and not your quirks and interests, that is something I have learnt. Just take a look at Findlay Wilde, a young naturalist, birder and conservationist who has nearly 3000 followers on Twitter and has already been on national mainstream television. He is a prime example of what can happen if you go after your goals and open yourself up to what you feel passionate about.
Besides, nature hasn’t always been an uncool and ridiculed pastime. Around the time of the Second World War, nature was a cultural mainstay in England, especially loved and interacted with by teenage society. Activities like butterfly and bird’s egg collecting brought teenagers into contact with nature and, although in most cases they were extremely detrimental to the species which they involved, it inspired future conservationists and nature personalities. It’s ironic that destruction of species in the past, led to the conservation and protection of species in the future. It demonstrates that the conservationists of today, or in the near past, were enlightened about nature when it was a ‘normal’ activity to pursue. This is a scary prospect for the future, for if oppression by peers stops people interacting with nature, I fear there will be a significant lack of conservationists and nature-lovers in our future.
This poses a huge risk at a time when humankind needs conservationists the most. It is quite clear to me the biggest problems affecting us as a species are the problems created by ourselves. For example, threats such as global warming and intensive farming are damaging the delicate links between species which make up the wider web of nature. The ecosystem that we are damaging provides us with fresh drinking water and oxygen so it’s clearly something we need to take care of. These are all problems caused by us.
My Rant for Change is for teenage society to accept wildlife watching for what it once was, a normal pastime. Clearly this isn’t going to happen overnight so celebrities, nature personalities and organisations need to get involved. I feel there are a couple of solutions to this issue. There are brilliant projects currently in action run by organisations such as the Wildlife Trusts – inspiring people who would not otherwise have any stimulus to look at the world around them in more detail. There are children in cities who don’t know where the food they eat comes from.
If all children were given the opportunity to experience nature at a young age it would be particularly effective because, as these children get older and grow into their teens, they’ll become less judgemental and more accepting of change and new things. This could be further implemented by creating a space in the national curriculum for a lesson of ‘nature studies’ or something similar. This way, pretty much every child in the country could be brought closer to nature and, even if not everyone becomes a naturalist, birder or conservationist, new generations will be more environmentally aware and more inclined to make a difference to the future of our planet.
I think it’s clear that something needs to be done socially too. I’m sure that many celebrities, nature ambassadors and those who govern education could really help change this. Then young naturalists, birders and conservationists can be free from the judgemental eyes of teenage society and be allowed to embrace their passions. Hey, maybe one day walking out onto the street with a pair of binoculars might be cool?
“I can’t stand the way they slam today’s gifted”- Tech N9ne
Harry Witts, aged 15
Author Profile: Harry Witts
Harry is a young naturalist and aspiring nature writer and blogger who has loved the natural world ever since he can remember catching sticklebacks in rivers and watching Bill Oddie as a very young child. He is also a birder and nature photographer and tries to help conserve wildlife at all opportunities. He has a special appreciation for butterflies and is usually found in a bird hide or meadow in Yorkshire.
Harry’s Twitter is @secretharry20 and you can read his blog here.