A Focus On Nature

Advent Calendar

The Gifts Of Knowledge And Wellbeing – Rebecca Hazlewood

Welcome to our 2015 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! For each day in the lead-up to Christmas, we have a post from an A Focus On Nature member on this year’s Advent theme: “The Gift of Giving”. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

“Without nature, we have nothing.” This was the message I chose to inscribe on my poster when I joined tens of thousands of others on the streets of London, to stand up for action on climate change on the eve of advent.

From the fossil fuel energy that allows us to turn on our lights in the morning, the cup of tea that gets us out the house or the items we use in our day to day life; mobile phones, bikes, medicine to keep us alive and healthy, or quite simply the clean air we breathe and water we drink. Everything we use and rely on to survive is provided by nature.

In my occupation as a sustainability professional I work to raise awareness and engage people in this agenda every day; helping people to realise the connection between our day to day actions and knowledge of the impacts we’re having on nature.

Seeing as nature provides us with everything, take a moment to think about which gift of the many gifts of nature do you value the most? For me, the greatest gift nature provides me with is my wellbeing.

Just before my 18th birthday I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, a challenging lifelong illness brought on by a virus caused by stress. I took a life changing decision to never let stress get the better of me and vowed never to take my health and wellbeing for granted again.

Not an easy vow to make. However, I’m lucky enough to work outside the city centre, so every day, without fail, come rain or shine, as the clock strikes 1pm, I slip into my muddy trainers and into the fields, forests and hedgerows that surround my office. I take time to relax, enjoy the sights, smells and sounds of nature, and walk off any tension or anxiety the morning has brought. I return to my desk with a renewed sense of energy and motivation for my job and what I’m working to achieve- the wellbeing of people and the planet. I’ve come to believe that one of the most powerful ways to achieve this is through reconnecting people to nature, and giving them opportunities to learn and be inspired by its complexity and beauty.

As someone who has always been passionate about conservation, this year I decided to develop my knowledge further by working to achieve my Certificate in Ecological Consultancy. I was completely inspired by my teachers and somewhat put to shame by the ecological knowledge of some of my peers. As I immersed myself in learning about the ecology of British Wildlife, every one of them gave me a different gift through sharing their own expertise; the gift of being able to identify a new bird song, a new plant, a trick in identifying mammal poo. How to hold a bat or catch a slow worm. My year’s journey into becoming a qualified ecologist has been full of joy and discovery and new encounters with nature, inspired by those I’ve met along the way.

My lunchtime walks have now become treasure hunts in spying out new flowers, bird and insect species. Playing detective and looking out for footprints and feeding signs. The hedgerows have become a game in counting woody species. My eyes feel more open and I feel more alive through my new understanding of the environment around me.

I’m now ready to pass the gift of knowledge and wellbeing on to others. Both through my work and in my own time on with friends and family. Sharing the ‘Pina colada’ scent of pineapple weed on holiday with my best friend or helping my Dad to identify the paw prints he found in the garden. (“No Dad, there’s no suitable otter habitat around here!”). The more we learn about the nature the more we can enhance both our own wellbeing and inspire each other to give something back to nature for all it provides us with.

Rebecca Hazlewood is a sustainability professional and ecologist working in the social housing sector. She moved to Norfolk  in 2007 to study for her Masters in Environmental Science from the University of East Anglia.