ReRoute, Scotland’s youth biodiversity panel, is certainly a project to keep your eye on. Joanne Elston, one of its members, tells us about their big plans for the future.
Young people are passionate about many things – friends and school, sport and music – yes, but we also care deeply about the environment.
How do we know? This is where ReRoute, a partnership between Young Scot (Scotland’s youth information and citizenship charity) and SNH, comes in.
ReRoute has been created to help SNH deliver Scotland’s Biodiversity Strategy by focusing on youth involvement in environmental topics. We recognise the positive contributions that nature makes to young people’s lives, such as health and wellbeing benefits. Working together on residential trips every few months, myself and the other panel members are busy exploring issues that affect youth involvement in nature, as well as how environmental organisations work and engage young people in their work.
To understand young people’s thoughts and opinions on Scotland’s natural environment the group wanted to speak directly to them. So we created a survey that we published through Young Scot’s rewards programme.
The survey received 1079 responses from young people across Scotland and challenged many assumptions that may be held about young people. We found that 86% of respondents either ‘agreed’ or ‘strongly agreed’ that we need to protect the natural environment and 75% thought that nature and the outdoors were important to them.
However, the survey also revealed that only 15% had heard of Scotland’s Biodiversity: A Route Map to 2020 or the international targets for biodiversity and the environment.
Nevertheless, this is hugely encouraging for ReRoute and has inspired the whole group to work with environmental organisations to make sure that young people can have an instrumental role – whether this is through raising awareness, their lifestyle choices, or volunteering and employment opportunities.
ReRoute will also use Young Scot’s digital platforms and rewards programmes to test out ways of engaging young people on the topics and issues before ultimately making recommendations to SNH and Scottish Government on how these activities can be scaled to have an even bigger impact.
ReRoute group members have been attending events to gather information on topics in Scotland’s Biodiversity: A Route Map to 2020, how young people can engage with nature, and how environmentally focused organisations can get young people involved.
The Race Equality in Nature conference in Bristol was an inspiring event brought about by 14-year-old blogger and birder, Birdgirl, passionately campaigning for better access to nature for people from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities. We learned that people with various religious, ethnic and cultural backgrounds can face many barriers to accessing and enjoying nature’s benefits. We hope to use these insights to ensure that they reach young people from all backgrounds in Scotland and champion equal access for all.
Other events, such as RSPB’s Big Nature Festival, Trees for Life’s Glen Affric Bioblitz and Edinburgh Science Festival talks (such as Ocean Junkyard) were also fantastic opportunities to gather information about involving young people in nature and environmental issues. However we noticed that few people aged 11-15 attended, and, after speaking to young people it was apparent that they often cannot or will not travel long distances or are unable to pay to go to these events.
We are, therefore, looking into how young people can access such events more easily, or whether other types of engagement would work better for certain age groups.
Already widely receiving recognition, for example from Scotland’s First Minister in her speech at the World Forum on Natural Capital, we have discovered so many different groups full of passionate people doing amazing work with nature in Scotland. We hope to create the right atmosphere to encourage change.
We will continue to make links with organisations, gather insights from young people and test out their ideas on how to engage them further. We will also begin to take on a more strategic role by talking to both senior staff and the board of SNH. Not only will this give us the chance to give a voice to the opinions of young people but they will also be able to co-create solutions and ideas. ReRoute are excited to take on the next phase of our challenge; we have a long road ahead, but we’re confident it can be done.
All images © Young Scot