5th June is #WorldEnvironmentDay!
So what, I hear you say. It’s just a hashtag. Maybe, but it’s a way to highlight the many and varied threats to our planet and the importance of the goods and services it provides.
So, it got me thinking. Thinking about the environmental highlights of my professional and family life. What gave me that buzz, that feeling of awe and connection with the world around me? With no apologies, this is a very personal view. But, what I would say is try it yourself - take yourself back to those special moments with nature; immerse yourself in those feelings of connection; rejoice at those experiences and, most importantly of all, recommit to being a voice for this planet we call home.
From an early age, I was dragged off to the ancient landscapes of the Wiltshire Downs for family walks. The flower-rich chalk grasslands were my playground, although at the time I was largely unaware of their fragility, the diversity of flowering plants beneath my feet. But, along with time spent among the ancient trees of Savernake Forest, it grew a love of nature in me that led to a career in biodiversity conservation.
The rare privilege afforded to me, as an 18-year old, to stand at the edge of the Zambezi River, at the point where its waters thundered over the stunning Must-a-Tunya Falls, was also a seminal moment. I was struck by the awesome power of nature, the stunning beauty of this spot, carved out over millennia; and the sight of hippos, crocodiles and other amazing wildlife around me.
Closer to home, I’ve been blessed with the chance to work in some amazing places, often alone with my thoughts, surrounded by trees, the sound of early morning birdsong, the roaring or red deer during the rutting season, and that wonderful chance encounter with a startled pine marten, as it crossed the track in front of me. Exploring ancient forests in Eastern Europe, full of massive lichen-clad trees, getting up close and personal with a female wild boar and her litter; holding sleepy, curled-up dormice in the palm of my hand; walking through drifts of wild garlic, its overpowering aroma filling me with joy.
To swim on the Great Barrier Reef, to see those unreal colours and patterns; to climb to the top of the Gloucester Tree in Western Australia; to bob up and down in a small boat, surrounded by breaching grey whales off the coast of British Columbia; to come face-to-face with a wedge-tailed eagle. These are moments that stay with me forever.
And now, as a parent, sharing my love for the natural world with my daughter. What greater pleasure and duty can there be. It’s her world, her future, and we owe it to the next generation to work together to protect, restore and enhance biodiversity, treading more lightly and ensuring a more sustainable relationship between us and our home.