A Focus On Nature

A Focus On Nature

Proud To Be A Geek – Beth Aucott

Something happened to me not that long ago that has really stuck with me; for the first time in a very very long time, I got laughed at and called a geek, because of my love of nature.

Admittedly the geek comment was a little understandable as it was aimed at the fact a Lapwing ‘pee-wit-ing’ is the notification sound on my phone, a result of one of my more enthusiastic moments. The laughter was because I’d been to a  little-known thing called ‘Birdfair’.

The comment and laughter themselves don’t bother me; water off a ducks back and all that. I think what did shock me was the fact that it happened at all. Apart from the odd comment from my siblings, who do what siblings do and make fun, I can’t bring to mind a single instance where someone has said anything negative or scorned my love of nature. Not everyone completely understands it, but they can see how much it means to me and are happy to humour me when I go off on one about butterflies or putting up fences. They can see that it makes me happy and that’s enough for them.

What the comments made me realise was how incredibly lucky I am that the people who surround me share the same values and passions that I do. I’m comfortable and confident enough in my interests that I can brush off derogatory comments. My love for the natural world influences nearly all areas of my life; it’s an underlying theme in a lot of my relationships with people and I’m embarking on a career where I can help to protect it, but there are a lot of people out there who are not so lucky.

Not everyone has that support or understanding to be so open about their interests and little comments like those directed at me can be enough to permanently knock someone’s confidence. I know of quite a few people, particularly youngsters, who have suffered more than just the odd comment because they love nature and have different ways to express it. It saddens me to think that harsh words can cause people to suppress their passion, maybe even give up on the interest completely, because people judge without even understanding.

I think it all boils down to a theme that pops up again and again – a growing disconnection with nature. The people that make these negative comments see nature as something separate to their own lives. They don’t see that no matter what we do we humans are still connected to the natural world – something that often manifests itself without us even realising; who doesn’t coo over baby animals? And when it’s a nice day where is it that everyone longs to be? Not cooped up inside four walls but outside sat out on the grass under skies of blue. Surprisingly the comments directed at me were made by a colleague; a ranger, and one of the last people I expected to hear it from.

It made me think about how important groups like AFON and NGB are. In those groups are people I’ve only met in person once or twice, yet our passion for the natural world gives us a connection that makes it feel like we’ve been friends for years. These groups give people a safe place to share their knowledge and enthusiasm without being ridiculed. They provide a platform to meet like minded individuals and talk about their passion without fear of being misunderstood. Most importantly they are a place for people to realise they are not alone, that there are those out there to provide encouragement and support to help one develop an interest.

Once I used to feel incredibly self conscious about venturing out alone with my binoculars on display and the comments and looks they might provoke yet now I don’t think twice before draping them around my neck. This change has come since finding these like-minded people and making friends with those who share my passion. Knowing I am not alone has given me confidence in expressing my interest in nature and sharing it with others. Because of AFON and the people I have met through it I’m proud to be a geek. And I’m proud to have all my wonderful nature geek friends!

(c) Katie Nethercoat

Beth Aucott is currently working for the National Trust at Dunstable Downs. She is a committee member of AFON, and co-ordinator of the University Birdwatch Challenge. You can follow her on Twitter at: @BethAucott and via her blog, Beneath The Boughs.