The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) will provide free entry to its nature reserves for young individuals as part of a “youth revolution.”
The biggest wildlife conservation organization in Europe is providing free entry to all of its reserves for individuals aged 16-24, in an effort to spark a “youth revolution” and connect young individuals with nature.
According to a document distributed to volunteers, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has announced that the two-year trial program will be implemented nationwide in the UK starting November 6.
Children in their early years are often described as being active and inquisitive when it comes to nature, but studies have revealed that as they enter their teenage years, their connection to the natural world decreases. According to the document, our influence on individuals between the ages of 16 and 24 is currently quite limited.
The RSPB owns approximately 200 reserves, making it one of the largest landowners in the UK. Non-members must pay an entrance fee at 21 of the most popular sites, which make up half of all reserve visits. Currently, individuals over the age of 18 are charged an average of £6, but this cost will be waived for those between the ages of 16 and 24.
The document states that this is only the initial phase of our internal “youth revolution” as we commence the process of changing how the RSPB collaborates with young individuals.
Some of the top destinations include Rainham Marshes in Essex, Minsmere in Suffolk, and Pulborough in West Sussex.
Adults with children aged six to 15 will receive free admission for their first child. Any additional children will be half the regular price. Children under six will always receive free admission.
Additional initiatives include having members of the organization’s youth council participate in trustee meetings and hosting a summit called “Youth in Nature” in February of next year.
The RSPB established its youth programs 80 years ago, with the first being a birdwatching club for teenagers. However, there is still a stereotype that birdwatching is primarily an activity for older white men. Recent studies show that children are more skilled at recognizing Pokémon characters than real wildlife and flora, with 50% of kids unable to identify common plants like stinging nettles and bluebells.
A study conducted for the UK government revealed that there has been a 50% decrease in children visiting natural areas over the course of one generation. The primary obstacles identified were the expenses associated with activities and the challenges of accessing remote destinations like national parks and forests with inadequate public transportation.
Several scientific studies requested by the Wellcome Trust discovered that walking in a forest or park can alleviate anxiety in young individuals. However, they often underestimate the positive effects of being in green environments and do not utilize them to improve their mood.
Emma Marsh, the RSPB’s executive director of digital technology and communications, expressed a strong desire to eliminate the obstacles that individuals encounter on a daily basis.
She stated that eliminating entry fees is an initial action and it is a worthwhile decision to make.
The RSPB does not gather information about the age of its visitors, therefore the exact amount of income it will lose is unknown.
Marsh stated that in the environmental sector, there is a common goal to make it easier for the younger generation to get involved.
Nikki Williams, the leader of advocacy and community efforts at the Wildlife Trusts, stated that the school protests initiated by Greta Thunberg in 2018 were a powerful reminder for conservation and environmental organizations.
She stated that they were pushed and it was necessary. This made them realize that young individuals wanted a place to express themselves, take action, and make an impact. They recognized that they were not meeting this need and took a closer look at their organization. They then made changes based on the input from this particular demographic.
According to the findings of the Wildlife Trusts’ study, there are various activities geared towards families and school-aged children. However, the main option for involvement, volunteering, is primarily taken up by retired individuals. The study’s spokesperson explained that there is a lack of opportunities that are perceived as relevant for young adults.
According to Williams, the issue of young individuals becoming disconnected from nature may have been ongoing for more than five years, but it has likely gone unnoticed by most.
The absence of involvement prompted activists to urge the UK government to establish a new GCSE in natural history, aiming to provide students with a greater comprehension of the environment. Other conservation organizations are also making efforts in this regard.
The Woodland Trust maintains over 1,000 woodlands throughout the UK that can be visited for free. In 2019, the organization established the first Young People’s Forest in the country, where 250,000 trees were planted by children. The trust’s youth forum is responsible for determining the activities that occur in the forest.
Several trusts currently offer youth forums, councils, and programs for young rangers. Nottingham Wildlife Trust has selected youth trustees to allow them to have input in the management of the organization.
According to Marsh, the current generation has the potential to be key players in preserving nature. Despite the urgent state of our natural world, society as a whole has not fully acknowledged it, making it crucial for all generations to take action and actively work towards protecting nature.
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This article has been revised to specify that individuals under the age of 24 will not have free entry. Families with children aged six to 15 will receive free entry for one child, but will have to pay half the price for any additional children at certain reserves.