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This week sees publication of the first in a series of columns from our new occasional columnist on the environment – Holly Gillibrand.
A second year pupil at Lochaber High School, Holly, 13, from Kinlocheil, recently featured in our pages after she launched of a series of school strikes protesting at the lack of climate change action from politicians and government.
Holly’s new column is entitled A Cry for the Wild and will tackle various environment-themed topics. The first is printed below.
It’s Time to Reconnect
All children are born with a love of nature. Every worm, every butterfly, every flower is an object of fascination for them. I have seen photographs of a one-year-old me poking a stick into the ground so I could eat dirt. I learned what soil tastes like and it didn’t harm me.
Growing up I have developed a strong passion to protect the natural world. But with ever advancing and addictive technology, many children are finding it hard to fight the tide of disconnection with things that are not on a screen.
Thirty years ago, X-Boxes didn’t exist and kids played outside, climbed trees, fished for ‘tiddlers’ and made dens and tree houses without constant protection from harassed parents.
But now, wild places are getting harder to find. Young children are under constant guard with no chance to learn how to be independent and experience nature for themselves, and we are now at a stage where wildlife is seen as a hazard.
Not only is our disconnection growing, wildlife in Britain is being decimated by our lack of understanding of natural systems and balances. Pesticides are sprayed over crops killing the insects that pollinate them.
Hedges and wildflower meadows have been uprooted, gardens are deserts of gravel or mown grass, and our few nature reserves are carefully managed and controlled.
Parents are too anxious about the possible dangers of their children being outside. Disconnection from nature also adversely affects our mental health. A rise in depression, anxiety, stress and dementia have been linked to reduced exposure to nature, and it makes sense.
For thousands of years humans hunted wild animals, foraged for fungi and plants, completely in tune with their surroundings. We are now rapidly losing something fundamental to who we are.
No matter how civilised or superior we deem ourselves, humans are just another species and to survive we have to understand and protect the natural world on which we depend.
Children are rapidly losing the opportunity to see and feel what older people have seen and felt because everything is depleted and decimated.
So, to save Britain’s wildlife, we must nurture in our children a love of the natural world. With knowledge comes love and with love comes the will to protect.
When you have finished reading this, grab your jacket, leave your phone on the table and go outside. Let birdsong fill your ears and fresh air fill your lungs. Feel the mud squelching underfoot, watch the way the trees dance in the wind, listen to bumblebees buzzing from flower to flower. You won’t regret it.