A Focus On Nature

A Vision For Nature

Nature in the balance – by Billy Stockwell

Welcome to our series of blog posts in the run up (originally) to the general election (7th May 2015). Over this month AFON members will share their own Visions for Nature: what they want the natural world to look like by 2050 and how they want to get there. Despite the election being over, we have decided to continue the series as more posts keep arriving from our members! We have created a hashtag on Twitter so why not join the conversation? What’s your #VisionforNature?

What came first, the chicken or the egg?

Now think about this: What came first, a child’s fascination of the natural world or their desire to protect the natural world? I suspect for most it was the former. The endless hours of jumping in muddy puddles and jam-jarring frogspawn. Don’t get me wrong, I strongly believe in this traditional, physical contact with nature. It is sometimes the best way to get young children into the wonders of the natural world. However for me, it was the latter.

I have always loved climbing trees and rolling down hills but most of my childhood years were spent trying to protect the natural world and its raw beauty. I spent my time, not catching butterflies, but making persuasive posters to staple to trees around the village concerning the dangerously low population of the African Wild dog (still dangerously low!) My parents always used to say “that’s for the big people to worry about,” which I knew was true, but I also knew that one day I was going to be one of those big people, trying to make a difference. There is one crucial piece of information though; I rarely got sad about these problems, as I didn’t really see the point. I was however disappointed when things didn’t improve like I wished them to, but I suppose all that did was make me try harder. What I’m trying to say is that, in educating young children about the problems within the natural world, you are not placing a burden upon them but just giving them balanced opinions. It certainly didn’t harm me.

When they’re told that spring won’t come

That tides will never rise or fall

That the drone of the bitten will no longer hum

That mother earth’s chant will not call


When they’re told that there will be no dawn

That the clouds won’t ever loom above

That species will never be hatched or born

Nor will they experience trust or love

When they’re told that deer won’t rut

That beavers won’t build their homes with the wood they’ve cut

That corals of life will decay and wilt

As will the forests where sets are built


When they’re told that offspring’s cries

Will be heard from cities and New York skies

That it’s our fault and ours alone

We killed the vulnerable and took their home


When they’re told, no change will come

They wont repent the things they’ve done

For habit and greed are all they know

They refuse to change for friend or foe


What would your reaction be, after reading my heart-felt plea?


I can understand after reading that poem you may be thinking ‘what a depressed person…’ but I can assure you; I’m quite the opposite! This poem, which I wrote when I was 12, was meant to make people think. To make them think about the beauty of our natural world and the devastating effects of ignorance towards nature. For me, and many of you too, the natural world is simply magical. And there is no better way to experience its wonders than by simply sitting, listening and watching. I have recently installed a glass-backed bird box in our garden shed. The birds are totally unaware of my presence because there is a one-way acrylic panel separating us, allowing me to delve into their microscopic world. The emerging oak leaves above our shed act as a stain glass window, projecting tinted light through the nest box hole and down onto the hay which lines the bowl. I must have sat for a good two hours watching the female Blue Tit constructing her home, delicately placing every feather around the edge of the nest, as if they were scatter cushions. Her paint brush-flicked eggs lying dormant until she decides she’s ready for the springtime sit-a-thon; her male companion paying her occasional meals-on-wheels visits before returning into the trees again. I can tell them apart due the male’s loss of feathers around his beak, possibly caused in a fight for females or something similar. Every time I see him on the patio bird feeders I get goose bumps, and an overwhelming feeling of pride. Nature is truly magical.

Anyway, lets get back to the main point of this blog. My Vision for Nature: By 2050 I would love to see the natural world included more in primary school and secondary school syllabuses, not only including the pure mechanics of biology, but also natural history, animal behaviour, and general animal welfare.  For generations we have learnt about global warming in Biology, and the deforestation of the Amazon Rainforest in Geography…but has this changed anything? No. The problems are still with us, and they’ve only got worse. But lets stay positive! My idea is this. The textbook would be built around an alternate page structure, with the left hand page educating the reader about animal behaviour of a particular species, their most remarkable adaptations, their communication abilities and so forth. This would educate the reader about the magical world of flora and fauna, hopefully bring to the fore their innate connection with the natural world.  On the right hand page, the reader would be informed of the future of this species, whether good or bad. It would also suggest ways of how to help the species in a clear, but exciting, way therefore not making the information too over-whelming! I believe that this balanced structure would not only lead to balanced opinions, but also an all-round knowledge of the natural world, including the harsh realities. The students would be assessed in the form of exams, but the majority would be coursework, allowing them to get outside and conduct individual projects. Education is key. But we need to educate in the right way, showing the next generation that every single person can do something to help the natural world. Like I said, if done with positivity it can be the opposite of a burden; It can be truly magical. As yourself, are you doing all you can?

Billy Stockwell is a 16 year old nature lover, who is captivated by the wonders of wildlife, whether in his back garden nest boxes or the Peruvian rainforest. His passion has developed throughout his life so far, and he has great ambitions for the future. Follow his blog at wildlifebilly.blogspot.co.uk and his twitter at @StockwellBilly