What does the project practically involve?
Twenty teenagers aged 12-17 will be assigned the roles of ‘youth leaders’, taking on numerous responsibilities including planting trees, rearing livestock, and handling administrative duties such as finances and communication.
They will be assisted by conservation experts and farmers, as well as local school pupils who can also learn about nature conservation through this project. The youth leaders were all actively interested in nature before they were hand-picked by the charity.
Hannah from Sheffield says that she feels ‘very lucky – it’s a really exciting opportunity … it’s difficult to find people who are passionate about nature as I am’. Meanwhile, Lily from Cambridge said she felt this ‘would be absolutely incredible in terms of youth involvement in helping out the environment’.
The youth leaders will meet four times a year at Penpont to implement changes, and will keep up with progress via regular meetings held over video chat (they should all be used to group Zoom calls by now).
What the project aspires to achieve
The Penpont Estate is owned by Gavin Hogg who wants to see greater bio-diversity across his estate and is hoping other farms will join the scheme too.
He believes in the intrinsic value of having young people undertake the project, youths who are passionate about conservation long-term and will not just conduct ‘glorified rewilding’ on his estate.
Hogg believes that if the project is successful and continues as an ongoing venture, then “others will come here and then take away and create their own little bubbles for wildlife”.
Part of the youth leaders responsibilities will involve publicising their work in hopes of attracting new candidates to take their place and carry on the beacon once they’ve moved on.
Climate urgency and the importance of this project
There has been a great backlash from Gen Z in response to a perceived failure by governments to act strongly enough to meet global temperature targets.
This has led to mass climate change protests in the UK in 2021, where pupils walked out of their classrooms to join in and voice their displeasure.
In 2019, similar protests were far more dramatic with thousands of protestors flooding Westminster and other large city centres. The 2020-21 protests have been more low-key due to the pandemic but are still seen worldwide, such as outside Australia’s parliament in Canberra with protestors calling on their politicians to ‘fund our future – not gas’.
Australia saw a sudden and dramatic environmental catastrophe with the 2019-2020 wildfires. By the end of February 2021, they had seen nearly 85,000 square km of forest destroyed and 3 billion animals affected.
The change has not been as sudden in the UK, but the numbers are still deeply troubling.
56% of UK wildlife has declined from 1970-2013. A quarter of UK mammals and nearly half of all birds are assessed as being at risk, while a State of Nature Report declared that the UK was ‘among the most nature depleted countries in the world’.
This astonishing verdict on the UK’s ecological situation, along with the statistics, shows that astronomical changes are needed right now.
This large-scale project by Action for Conservation is at least a start, and one that has a sustainable plan of action to keep running, hopefully inspiring others as they do so.
This article was originally written by Robert Collins. ‘I’m Rob, a post-grad from City, University of London where I studied Magazine Journalism. I have a life-long interest in politics, having studied it at BA level, and am fascinated by the times we live in. Other subjects I love writing about are social change, the climate crisis, and music’. Visit his LinkedIn, his Twitter, and check out his site here.