YOUTH environmental charity Action for Conservation – who last year pioneered the world’s largest youth-led conservation project – have recently launched WildWEB: a revolutionary digital action programme designed to equip the next generation of environmental leaders with the tools and knowledge to lead a ‘green recovery’ from the COVID crisis. The programme is accessed from home and for free.
Between June and September, the programme will aim to deliver over 8,000 hours of original content to support and inspire 13-17-year-olds around the world. The programme will equip young people with effective responses to climate and ecological challenges, and help them use lockdown to learn, network and prepare to drive a green revolution.
Following a successful trial month, the charity has attracted hundreds of signups from teens around the world, forming a diverse and passionate global collective of young climate activists.
In a survey of the initial WildWEB cohort, 67% of young people agreed that the COVID pandemic has made them care more about environmental issues; and 100% agreed that when it comes to the school curriculum, there should be more teaching about environmental issues.
Participants will get to grips with a range of critical themes with the support of experts including wildlife and nature, overconsumption, environmental justice, throwaway culture and the politics of food. The broad curriculum aims to inspire young people and teach them essential transferable skills through a range of unique projects, including filmmaking, campaigning, upcycling and creative writing. The programme culminates in a youth-led action project where participants can apply their learning and address environmental issues in a real-life context.
Hendrikus van Hensbergen, Chief Executive of Action for Conservation, commented:
“Last year, we witnessed the beginnings of real change in relation to climate action unfold on the global stage. Passionate young people were at the forefront of it all. It’s imperative that young peoples’ efforts to make a difference are supported in a way that continues to empower and educate this next generation of changemakers. The pandemic represents a real opportunity for young people to seize upon their renewed connection to nature – and their desire to create positive change – to build a greener and kinder planet going forward.
“Being stuck at home whilst the environment continues to suffer feels overwhelming and disempowering for many young people. At Action for Conservation, we are doing everything we can to create the conditions necessary to foster tangible change from home, empowering young people to support a green recovery.”
It has been estimated that whilst 41% of UK species are in decline, 52% of the general public are unaware of the threats facing our wildlife. To address this gap, Action for Conservation is committed to empowering young people to build a greener future for the planet as we come out of the COVID crisis. The charity wants to help young activists seize this opportunity to set a new environmental agenda and ensure we don’t return to business as usual.
Hendrikus van Hensbergen, continued:
“Our tailored WildWEB programme goes beyond traditional environmental learning and challenges young people to consider the ways social, economic and political issues intersect with ecological and climate concerns. Our pioneering approach supports this community in finding their own solutions and sharing their learning with others to create a web of ideas, resources and action. I hope the WildWEB project will demonstrate the ways young people are using this crucial moment to continue their education in ways that are proactive, revolutionary, and entirely youth-led.”
Robert Macfarlane, renowned environmental writer, campaigner and supporter of the initiative, said:
“WildWEB is an amazing initiative: a weaving-together of environmental education, communication and action for and by young people, at a crucial time for the future of nature in Britain and beyond. The COVID crisis is a catastrophe — but also an opportunity to build back better, greener systems, from farmland to forests to cities. WildWEB gives young people the means and the knowledge to add their voices to the shaping of this response.”
Each young person will have the opportunity to experience 65 hours of content and activities per month. With children expected to learn from home for the foreseeable future, Action for Conservation is encouraging participants from around the world to tune in, share ideas and find creative solutions to real-world problems.
Riya, 16 and a WildWEB participant, commented:
“Whilst we’ve been in lockdown, WildWEB has been a really good way for me and other young people involved to meet up and stay connected – it’s been a lot of fun. It’s also been reassuring to learn about ways we can help the environment from home. I think it’s vital that young people get involved in protecting nature, as the world needs to adapt in order to be sustainable into the future. Lockdown has actually been a good time for us to participate in conservation efforts, as even small actions at home can make a difference. In a period of uncertainty, it’s nice to feel empowered in this way.
“The best part of the programme so far has been listening to the range and variety of different views that everyone brings. Thanks to this, I have been able to re-evaluate some of my own choices and consider how I can improve my conservation efforts. The guest speakers also bring new and interesting insights to the calls because they’re experienced with the challenges the world faces today – something we all need to engage with.”
Ethan, 15, another WildWEB participant, commented:
“While we’re all in lockdown the youth might find it difficult to connect with nature, especially young people who live in major cities with minimal access to the outdoors. WildWEB allows us, young people, to connect with nature virtually and allows us to gain knowledge on how we can help the environment from our own homes.
“For the future of the programme, I’m really excited to see how I can help my local community as well as helping change across the nation. So far throughout the WildWEB experience, I’ve learnt new things that I now look out for in my daily life, ingredients in my food that I should look out for that aren’t environmentally friendly, where food comes from and how power plays a huge role in the production of food.
“I think it’s important for young people to engage with nature over the lockdown period as it’s the best time to learn and experience things about nature in your local area. it opens your eyes to things that were always there and you had never noticed, so now is the perfect time to take action.”
Kate Stockings, Head of Geography at Hampstead School, London, commented:
“With the incredible changes brought about by Covid-19, there has arguably never been a more important time for programmes like WildWEB. All of us have come to realise the benefits of slowing down, spending more time outdoors and noticing nature all about us. But, how will we keep this up when ‘normality’ returns and how will we remember the lessons learnt during the lockdown? This is where WildWEB comes in and will be so powerful for students – the topical monthly themes will force them to think, reflect and take action regarding some of the biggest challenges facing us as a society. I can’t wait to hear how our students get on with the programme and what they learn – this will undoubtedly be something significant to build upon when we return to school!”