A query that dampens the spirit of even the hardiest of nature-loving, or nature-employed folk. And being one of both, I wasn’t entirely delighted with the question. But it’s a valid ask, and one that has been posed by several times recently, by adults, as well as, this time, by my deep-thinking 10-year-old. And it needs answering. A quick shrug of, ”Because…” just won’t cut it. So, grab a cuppa, it’s a big one!
I’m Natalie, the new Community manager here at The Wild Network. I’m here to support the tremendous work of our director Mark – our Chief Wild Officer. He’s the passionate nature warrior (my words, not his!) who took over when David Bond handed him the baton – the Marketing Director for Nature business card – after the huge success of Project Wild Thing.
The Project Wild Thing film really pricked the conscience of hundreds of thousands of people, with children, through nature, via conservation, education or parenting. If you haven’t seen it, you can buy the film on our website, or host a community screening, too. You’ll love it, I guarantee it. It made me cry. Although I do have a habit of that, when I watch things that hold a mirror up to the life I’ve been creating for my three children...
I cried at Sir Ken Robinson’s now legendary RSA talk about creativity and education in childhood (you can watch a short and brilliant animation, too). Oh, yes, and at Craig Mod’s Do Lectures talk on books and technology. I can get quite emotional when I see the exact issues that they talk about manifesting themselves in the once simple worlds of my children. And that has a tendency to upset me.
These children I write about – they’re awesome of course. They are pretty hard work. They’re quite tall, like me. And varying shades of redhead. They are the reason we get up in the morning and the reason we work to provide for them.
I’ve three girls, MJ, RJ & The Renegade: FJ. They are 10, 9 and 7 respectively. They are – of course – children of the 2000s – generation Z? Za? Zx. Who knows. What we do know is that they taught themselves to use technology as they learned to walk, they learn coding in school, and they think that it’s perfectly reasonable to spend entire swathes of their life on screens and devices…
We can’t blame the kids, of course – although it’s much easier, let’s face it. It isn’t their fault.
They didn’t learn to use smartphones by fluke. We handed ours over during times of desperation, to make our lives easier! That first haircut trauma? Don’t worry! Here’s Peppa Pig going to the hairdressers… ho ho, silly daddy. Tick! Haircut done. The pre-school jabs? Wait! Let us just whip out Bear Goes to the Doctor on iPlayer. Ta-daa! Not interested in reading those boring old paper books? Fear not! We have every Dr Seuss title on earth! Animated, of course, complete with American voice-over for you. At the click your baby fingers! Hurrah!
And so, 10 years into motherhood we reached an awkward impasse. The clones are turning into mummy. In looks, in mannerisms and in all-consuming screen time. Mummy works too much. (Mummy manages a team of communications professionals and the company social media channels and therefore is justified, yet now speaks about herself in the third person!). Mummy doesn’t get enough fresh air! Enough! It’s all become too much. Fragmented, fractious, and no fun at all.
Just around the time that the world felt like it was imploding, I saw a job advertised: Community Manager for The Wild Network. Three days a week. From home. Working to support an amazing new venture, backed by National Trust, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, and more. How to re-wild your children, you say? Where do I join, I say…
Naturally, it was all more formal than that. There were applications, presentations, interviews, Skype interviews, but I made it! While we were desperately trying to knit - who am I kidding - I can't knit?! I mean desperately trying to claw our family back together with a week in the Scottish Highlands, I got the job at TWN. I resigned from the office job immediately. We need this. Our children need this. Mums and dads, carers, grandparents and teachers nation-wide need this. But most people aren’t lucky enough to get the opportunity to actually do this on their own. And that’s what The Wild Network is all about.
So, when people ask me, “Why bother?” I tell them:
I bother because we need to bother.
Children need to grow up with a connection to nature and, all around us, they are losing it. And they are losing it by accident. By system design. By modern life – people like me – people blinded by technology and sleepwalking into a world without it.
Why? For the activists. Those who, thanks to them, while we’ve been sleeping, have been holding off developers and fighting for that last bit of green space in their community…
For those educators who agree with Sir Ken and hundreds of others, who know how important change in education is and complete forms after forms to go outside for 10 minutes.
At the risk of sounding intense (sorry) it’s for all the people want to, who can’t – and for those who just don’t know they should.
So, why should we all bother? Because together, we are louder, stronger and more effective. We can collectively bring and share inspiration, knowledge, tools and support through this amazing community called The Wild Network.
Try our Challenge! Take 10 minutes to get outside into nature on any day. We share our 10 easiest tips.
Guest blog - how wildness helped one woman survive childhood.