By Jennifer Croes, Conservation Scientist and Associate Director, Conservation Education & Leadership, Emirates Nature-WWF.
Connect with Nature is an innovative and exciting programme targeted at UAE youth between 15-30 years old to (re)connect them with nature and engage in meaningful action to change the way they see the world around them – and their role in it. It aims to inspire, motivate and equip them to shape an optimistic future for the Planet and become future sustainable leaders.
Celebrating World Environment Day has been very different for me this year. I am not swimming in the ocean or hiking in the wadis and mountains. Instead, like all of you, I am staying safe at home; looking after a foster dog, wearing disposable masks and plastic gloves and constantly washing my hands and rubbing them in sanitizer, counting the days of being stuck inside. This is not the new normal I want to live in – something has to change.
Covid-19 has given us fear, despair, sadness and uncertainty but, it is also making us reflect, appreciate, be optimistic and hopeful for a better future. There is no doubt that at the turn of a new decade on the 31st December 2019, we ever anticipated such a dramatic year ahead. However, we shouldn’t have been surprised. We have been living on borrowed time and have now reached the tipping point of living beyond our Planet’s resources. It is the age of the Anthropocene – an epoch of human-induced drivers, activities and behaviours impacting our natural world such as climate change and habitat & biodiversity loss.
For too long, we have been disconnected from Nature, taking it for granted for all that it provides us. We seek new opportunities on other, far away planets, plough its soils and cover it in pesticide and insecticide to make our vegetables and fruit look nicer, we fuel it with carbon dioxide to choke the clean air and over exploit all its resources as if there is another option for us. There is no Planet B. It’s here…Planet Earth, and with the Covid-19 pandemic grabbing the world’s attention, it has highlighted the need to live in balance with nature, and ought to be taken as our last warning sign; a chance to press the reset button.
Our global youth should not have to inherit a ruined planet and clean up our mess. They are being bold and strong, taking the lead in ensuring that they have a say in their future and be part of creating solutions. Efforts to promote conservation requires a change in behaviour, and conservation education helps in influencing people’s attitudes, emotions and knowledge about wildlife and the natural world. The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow and it is our job to ensure that we provide them with the tools and skills to be part of creating a sustainable future.
Emirates Nature-WWF, in collaboration with our co-founding partner, the Environment Agency, Abu Dhabi (EAD) and strategic partner the International Fund for Houbara Conservation (IFHC), we have proudly developed Connect with Nature; an innovative and exciting programme targeted at UAE youth between 15-30 years old to (re)connect them with nature and engage in meaningful action to change the way they see the world around them – and their role in it. Through experiential learning, dialogue and adventures, it aims to inspire, motivate and equip them to shape an optimistic future for the Planet and become future sustainable leaders.
Given the current Covid-19 crisis, we adapted our outreach and engagement activities into “Stay at Home” virtual experiences, and provide an open platform for everyone to join in. We have also launched our interactive Youth Majlis series “Reimagine”, inviting government leaders and key knowledge experts to join the conversation and provide their perspectives on various sustainability and environmental topics in an open, virtual platform, providing youth the opportunity to share their ideas with decision makers and have their voices heard.
It is time for all of us to take responsibility to make a positive change for the environment and the world we live in and make it a better place for us all. That should be our mutual vision for the ‘new normal’.
[cmsms_divider type=”solid” margin_top=”50″ margin_bottom=”50″ animation_delay=”0″]
Jennifer Croes/ Conservation Scientist and Associate Director, Conservation Education & Leadership at Emirates Nature-WWF
Jennifer is a rare and endangered species expert; a Conservation Scientist and business professional with 25 years work experience. She has an extensive conservation portfolio and is particularly interested in looking at the link between human behaviour and our relationship to nature especially around the issue of illegal wildlife trade. She’s committed to breaking down the barriers and perception of conservation through community engagement – saving species from extinction, preserving habitat – by encouraging people to reconnect to the natural world and be part of the “conservation solution”.
Jennifer has extensive media and public speaking experience and was has been invited to speak at various large engagements, including TEDxUbud. She was nominated for the Telstra Women’s Business – Community Category Award in 2010 and was awarded the Sir Edward Weary Fellowship to participate in the AsiaLink Leadership program for future leaders in the Asia-Pacific region. She has lived, studied and worked in Europe, Indonesia, South America, China and New Zealand and has travelled the globe extensively, but calls Dubai home…for now.