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Melissa Harrison
Every Child Wild

Posted: Monday 26th October 2015 by EveryChildWild

Part of the Every Child Wild series.

Melissa Harrison is the author of two novels, Clay and At Hawthorn Time (both published by Bloomsbury), and is a regular contributor to The Times’ weekly Nature Notebook column. A member of the London Wildlife Trust, she is also Series Editor for The Wildlife Trusts’ new series of books about the seasons, due out in 2016 in partnership with Elliott & Thompson.

Recently, while looking through my old Ladybird nature books, I stumbled on the introduction to Wild Life in Britain by John Leigh-Pemberton (1972), one of the Ladybird Conservation series:

As an uncompromising yet inspiring statement about our responsibility for the natural world, it stopped me in my tracks; I couldn’t remember reading or hearing such a stirring rallying-call for a long time. Where, I wondered, can today’s children find such clear moral and ecological messages? Who, now, is speaking to young people in quite such bold terms?

There are, of course, many organisations, broadcast teams and individuals doing brilliant work in connecting today’s children with nature. But it’s not enough. Packaged as a hobby or entertainment, nature books, TV programmes, clubs and apps have to compete with a great many other interests that children may have. The sad fact of it is this: nature is something that can be opted out of, and as such is ignored by a great many families, lost amid the hubbub that is modern life.

And yet nothing could be more important. How our children and grandchildren relate to the natural world is something that will determine the very future of life on earth – our own, and other species’. Why, then, are we allowing so many to grow up not knowing, or caring much, about it?

I believe that we must start teaching ecoliteracy in schools. Not just as a few modules, or the odd assembly here and there, but in a sustained way, from primary level right through to 16 – and with a moral, rather than monetising, approach. Fostering a generation who take inspiration from nature, rather than ignoring it, who wish to cherish, rather than exploit it, is far too important to be left to chance. I believe that it’s vital that we give all children the chance to develop both a deep knowledge of, and a felt connection to, wildlife: one that will benefit them deeply in the future, and benefit our environment, too.

And, inspired by that Ladybird book, I’d like to see all schoolchildren take a pledge – outdoors, if possible, at the end of a long day’s learning in the wild: never needlessly to pollute or destroy any part of nature; never to exploit it selfishly; never to ignore it or assume that we can live aloof from it; and always to realise, with a great sense of wonder, that we still know only the merest fragment about it.






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