THE WISE BLOG

Armchair Activism - How To Become An Eco Expert & Influence People

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Most of us have an inner rebel (mine's called ‘The Rowe’) - a voice that wants to stand up for what we believe in, and a bravery to do so despite what other people might think and say. We’re seeing inspirational young people like Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, using their voices to powerful effect to drive change.

My passion is the environment and conservation, and even though I use my platform with The Wise House to talk about the subject, I’m not yet brave enough to brandish a placade, or become more actively involved in a group like Greenpeace. I was once invited onto BBC Radio 5 Live, but came out in a cold sweat at the thought of talking on live radio and bottled out!

However, one thing I do know is that you are never too old to learn, to become something of 'an expert'. You then have the power to challenge the status quo and influence other people. The youth of today are leading the way, forming groups like the UK Student Climate Network. We should take a leaf out of their book, sit up and start questioning the world around us. With so much information at our fingertips, we too can become activists (even if it is of the armchair variety!).

Read All About It.
Remember the further reading you were required to do when studying? To become an expert, you need to do a bit more than just scan the headlines of your daily newspaper. Seek out books, magazines, news features and read, read, read! Here are my personal finds;

Books (I have Read)

  • Wilding - By Isabella Tree
    My top pick, everyone should read it. Knepp Estate in Sussex was transformed from an intensive farm, to a completely wild space where nature was given free reign. The results are incredible, and you will learn facts about things like oak trees, funghi and rivers that will amaze you. Even my hubby read it (he of the lesser non fiction book reading variety) and declared it to be very interesting.

  • Meadowland, The Running Hare, The Woods - All By John Lewis-Stempel
    As well as being a beautiful observational nature writer, Stempel is incredibly funny and has made me LOL on many occasions.

  • Ivory, Apes & Peacocks: Animals, adventure and discovery in the wild places of Africa - By Alan Root. 
    I picked up this book from our local second hand book store and loved it from page one. Root was the first producer to make real wildlife documentaries, looking in detail (by living with them for a year or more) at how animals - from termites to hippos - really live. A very moving, funny yet often shocking, story of his life and times in Africa. It gives a real sense of how drastically altered the natural world has become within a short passage of time.

Books (I plan to read)

  • The Future We Choose: Surviving The Climate Crisis - Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac. Written by two climate change scientists who are also lead negotiators of the Paris climate agreement. They lay out two scenarios - one where we do nothing and another where we adapt and act. Definitely a must-read.

  • Feral: Rewilding the Land, Sea and Human Life - George Monbiot

  • This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate - Naomi Klein

  • The Great Derangement (Brilliant Title!) - Amitav Ghosh

  • A Wood of One's Own -  Ruth Pavey

  • Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet - Mark Lynas

  • Merchants of Doubt - Eric Conway and Naomi Oreskes 

  • Staying Alive In Toxic Times - Dr Jenny Goodman

News/ Magazines/ Journalists
Mainstream news is very selective as to what it reports on, but not all news providers are created equal - here are my top picks for honest, up to date news on the environment.

  • The Guardian - best all-round provider of news on climate change and the environment. Sign up for their weekly Green Light Email, which gives the latest stories and developments from around the world, including a much-needed good news feature. They include an interesting summary of Co2 levels compared to the previous year and safe levels (not so good news). https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/oct/19/sign-up-to-the-green-light-email

  • World Economic Forum - I follow WEF on Instagram for their excellent videos, and they also have some very informative ‘global perspective’ features on their website.

  • Evening Standard (for London dwellers) - an increasing amount of column inches given over to issues around the environment, with good examples of innovation and inspirational stories. A good one for discovering community projects and ethical businesses and products.

  • The Conversation -  an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community. It covers a range of topics, with an excellent Environment & Energy section. 

  • Positive News - ‘Positive News is the first media organisation in the world that is dedicated to quality, independent reporting about what’s going right.’ Only just heard about this one, looks like some great articles on their website and there is also a quarterly magazine and a weekly email.

  • Lucy Siegle - a journalist who also presents on The One Show and writes a weekly ethical column for The Observer. I’ve always enjoyed her writing, which is direct and humorous.

  • Sophie Pavs - a young nature writer on Instagram. Brimming with positivity and very funny, she is helping to make nature cool!

Watch And Learn On The Gogglebox.
Terrestrial TV has finally upped its game over the last 18 months, with established programmes like Spring/Autumn Watch, Countryfile and even Gardeners World confronting climate change. Other programmes available on I-Player are;

  • War On Plastic - Hugh F- W and Anita Rani

  • Drowning In Plastic - Liz Bonin

  • Stacey Dooley Investigates - Fashions Dirty Secrets & The Whale Hunters

  • Simon Reeve - any of his travel series. I’ve just finished watching Simon Reeve In The Indian Ocean. He is a great presenter, really getting to grips with the realities of life for individual people in each country he visits, and the effect that issues like overfishing and deforestation are having on both people and wildlife. You’ll discover so much more about tourist destinations like the Seychelles and Mauritius; where the former has focussed on conservation with great success, and the latter has been ruined by commercial farming and fishing.

Netflix

  • Our Planet - ‘Attenborough weaves the realities of ecocide, environmental collapse and climate breakdown into the glorious imagery. Finally, we are hearing both sides of the story – and it can’t come soon enough.’

  • True North - 16 x 11 minute episodes reporting from remote Arctic locates in order to ascertain how climate change is affecting local populations and ecosystems

  • Virunga

  • Sustainable

  • Chasing Coral

  • Frozen Planet

  • Naledi - A Baby Elephant’s Tale

  • Mission Blue

You Tube

  • An Inconvenient Truth - Al Gore

  • 11th Hour & Before The Flood - Leonardo Di Caprio

  • More Than Honey

There are trailers available for all of above, if you want to get the gist before you watch. Also, look out for small pictures on the big screens or special showings. We went to see The Biggest Little Farm and A Plastic Ocean and I spotted this one upcoming; 

Podcasts

  • Everyday Ethical with Bethany Austin

  • Desert Island Discs with Isabella Tree (of aforementioned Wilding fame. A good way to get the gist of the Wilding project before reading the book!).

  • Mothers of Invention

Be Charitable (But You May Have To Leave Your Sofa).
Hands-On
If you are interested in hands-on volunteering in your local area, look for ‘Friends’ groups and/or local conservation groups. The best place to find them is on Facebook, as they usually share the most content on their Facebook pages.

I am currently in talks with the Council and South West London Environment Network, with a view to restarting a Friends Group for our local park. A few emails have led to interesting talks and an upcoming recce of the park, with a view to making plans for improvements. All it took was the effort to start a conversation.

There are 100s of charities, here are the UK based charities on my radar;

  • Look for your local wildlife trust(s). For fellow Londoners - London Wildlife Trust. Look for specific groups for your area and/or things like bees, bats etc. For example Ealing Wildlife Group has a very active community; bat walks, dawn walks, talks and photography competitions.

  • The Conservation Volunteers - a voluntary organisation who recently re-built the boardwalk in our park, and who run Green Gyms across the country.

  • Surfers Against Sewage

  • Tree For Cities

  • RSPB

  • Bumblebee Conservation Trust

  • Wetland Trust

  • Greenpeace - regular emails encouraging easy sign-up to support a number of cause, which are quick and easy to complete and share, e.g. I completed one today to lobby local MP for ocean protection around the UK.

  • Ecocide - Probably one of the most important international activist charities and movements, as they work to make Ecocide, the mass destruction of natural areas like the Amazon by national and international businesses, a crime in the court of law. You can donate, become an earth protector, petition, and keep up to date with a newsletter.

  • Good Gifts is a charity whereby you buy people a gift that donates to a cause that they might support; for example A Bag of Footballs For Orphans In Africa, Send Warm Clothes To Refugee Camps and Plant 10 Metres of Hedgerow. There is a wide choice for different budgets and interests.

Take A Free Online Course
This is something I am looking into doing soon, with the possibility of studying for a qualification;

I have only scratched the surface of the wealth of information available to us, if we only make the effort to look for it. We can show the youth that we are open-minded, ready to learn...and who knows, maybe ready to act!

Do please leave any suggestions you have for further resources in the comments section below.

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Comments

  1. Cathy Lewis

    I absolutely loved this article! Completely agree about Wilding - going to check out some of your other suggestions. Thankyou <3 xox

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  2. Natalie Dwyer

    Thank you! That is so helpful!

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