A Focus On Nature

Articles from October 2017

A Focus On Nature

Conservation Optimism: not quite what you might think

Optimism. It’s an odd word. It’s often used to describe people who are unfailingly cheery even in the direst of straits; those people to whom the glass is always half-full, almost to the point of denial. The optimist is the person who, at the approach of a threatening storm cloud, grins manically and says “it’ll pass” …as the sky as far as the eye can see turns a permanent shade of steel grey.

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A Focus On Nature

We’re Recruiting!

We are currently recruiting for two A Focus On Nature committee roles – a Project Officer, and a Fundraising Officer and Treasurer. Read on for details! [Read More]

Now for Nature

The ‘V’ Word – why you shouldn’t turn your back on volunteering

Volunteering, a word that can strike dread in those looking to pursue careers in conservation, ‘’not another unpaid position, what are my parents going to think!?’’. This to some may be seen as an exploitation, however in a sector which is so competitive and where experience is so highly revered volunteering can be a fantastic opportunity.

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Books and Reviews

Book Review: Linescapes by Hugh Warwick

Hugh Warwick’s Linescapes is an uplifting and heartfelt review of our landscape here in Britain today. The result of 11,000 years in the making, we sit upon a fragmented patchwork of application – we have made this island our own. The people whose feet stomped the dusty path beneath mine have built a prosperous nation, a safe haven for humans but at an indifference to the ecological consequences of continued progress. [Read More]

A Focus On Nature

A Day in Burghead

The drive to Burghead was beautiful. This small seaside town is situated on the edge of a peninsula protruding into the Moray Firth, so it’s surrounded by open ocean on three sides. As we made our way up the high street it felt like we were at the edge of the world, and in a way we were. More of northern Scotland could just be seen in the distance, but the space between still seemed vast.

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Richard Benwell – AFON Mentor, Environmental Policy

Introducing Richard Benwell, AFON Mentor and Parliamentary Programme Manager for the RSPB.

Why did you decide to become a mentor for AFON?
The thrill of the law… the terms for a teacher… the hope in medicine… the gadgets in science… When you’re a young person choosing your path in life (or picking your way day by day), there are a thousand different options ahead. So many young people with green hearts and wildlife-filled lives end up settling for grey day jobs because of the perception that more traditional career paths are safer or more grown up. Certainly, it’s hard to get a foot on the nature jobs ladder. So, as a mentor, I hope to help one or two more young folk convert their conservation conviction into conservation career. The more people saving the world the merrier!

How have you helped/could you help potential mentees?

Not all conservation careers start with binoculars on a windy clifftop (sadly), or with a science degree. My route has been via academia, politics, policy and Parliament. It’s been fun and fascinating. I’d be glad to offer some guidance to anyone interested in environmental policy.

What’s your top piece of advice for a young person starting out their career in nature conservation?

Remember what we’re fighting for and never let it become just a job! With every career, there will be some tasks you don’t take to and some days that are difficult, but remembering we’re part of a movement keeps every day feeling positive and worthwhile. As it happens, that’s good for your state of mind and as well as your career – we’re always on the lookout for folk with the drive to make a difference. Good luck and have fun!

Flick through our mentors and find out how to apply


Ceri Levy – AFON Mentor and Filmmaker, Writer & Producer

Read on to find out more about Ceri Levy, Gonzovationist.

Why did you decide to become a mentor for AFON?cerilevy_web

I have often mentored people in the past and enjoy the teaching aspect as this always teaches me something new as well. There is nothing more satisfying than helping younger people to articulate their skills and thoughts through the medium of film. Learning the art of storytelling with visuals is an important part of film making and one that is imperative in this day and age when everyone has the capability to capture an event, thought or action on film. Expressing this in a cohesive way is vital to stand out amongst the noise of the 21st century.

How have you helped/could you help potential mentees?

Again, I would suggest that having written several books and made an amount of films and videos I am in a position to understand what makes a decent vehicle for a message to be related to an audience. Creativity is about bouncing ideas around to find the perfect way to tell a story. Sometimes the simplest thing can be missed when working solo. Teamwork is an essential part of creating film. Writing less so, but I have always relied on my editor to help me on the final ascent to completion of a book.

What’s your top piece of advice for a young person starting out their career in nature conservation?

Try things. It is important to experiment. There is no such thing as a mistake. As my partner-in-chief on our Gonzovation Trilogy of books, Ralph Steadman says, “ A mistake is an opportunity to do something else!” Always allow a breath before ignoring something before you.

See the whole list of mentors and find out how to apply