You don’t have to be a tree-hugging hippie to care about nature (although we highly recommend hugging the odd tree now and then – it’s good for you). Chances are that as a lover of exploring the outdoors you do care. A lot. But sometimes trying to combat the multiple threats our wild places face can seem a bit overwhelming for a solitary human. Not to worry. James Stuart’s got some ideas on how little ol’ you can make a difference right now.
You love getting outdoors, right? It’s the reason you’ve started reading this article and why you’re on this site.
It’s easy to imagine that the places we love to explore will continue to exist as timeless places for us to walk, run, camp or climb in (and, more importantly, for the unique flora and fauna that call them home).
But, if us outdoorsy types take our wild places for granted, then their future is far from certain. In NSW (my home turf), the National Parks and Wildlife Service has been gutted over the past 10 years, eroding the organisation’s ability to care for our parks (with programs like this one*, eradicating Hawkweed from Kosciuszko National Park).
*Warning: link has photos of adorable dogs
New land-clearing laws are already having major consequences for wildlife too. Unnecessary, third-rate coal mines threaten the fringes of the Blue Mountains World Heritage area’s biodiversity. Further afield, Donald Trump’s administration is rescinding legislation and opening up public lands to exploitative industries.
If we get so much out of nature – think of the joy you get from setting up camp in the back country, or taking your friends to a gorgeous, secret swimming hole – then we need to give back too. Renowned environmentalist Calvin B De Witt puts it this way:
“Conservation means to serve and be served, in a community relationship.”
And making a difference is easier than you think: you don’t need to become a card-carrying member of the Greens (though that wouldn’t hurt) or live in a tree-top for two years. Here are a few things you can do in a flash.
How You Can Protect Our Wild Places
# 1 Become An Outdoors Champion
Share the love! It’s a truism that people only care about the things they know and love. So set up a nature-speed-dating service and expose your friends and family to the wonders of our wild places. If you have kids, get them outdoors.
# 2 Join A Bushwalking/Outdoors Club
Sign up: you’ll visit some amazing places, learn new skills and be part of something bigger. Some of Australia’s greatest conservation victories have come about because groups of like-minded adventurers have teamed up to advocate for the places they love. The story that sums it up for me is how the Sydney Bush Walkers club all chipped in to save the old-growth Blue Gum Forest in the Blue Mountains Grose Valley from becoming a walnut orchard(!). That was in 1931 and it’s now a sacred tree grove that’s been enjoyed for generations. Other groups, like Crag Care, help maintain access to places for adventures (climbers in this case).
# 3 Subscribe Or Donate To An Environmental NGO
If there’s a piece of wilderness nearby that you love, the odds are that: a) someone has bad intentions towards it, b) some amazing people are actively campaigning to save it (or expand it). Get involved by donating or, at the very least, subscribing to their mailing list and supporting their petitions to government. There are many groups – do some research for your local area. I’ve listed a few at the end of this article.
# 4 Join Your Local Landcare Group
If you’re more of a hands-on person, then pitching in to help your local Landcare group could be just the ticket. Landcare is a grassroots movement where communities are empowered to get together and take action in their backyard. It might be stemming coastal erosion or rehabilitating a creek bed. Whatever the project, you’ll be having a tangible impact. We Are Explorers partners with Intrepid Landcare, a youth-focused land care initiative that’s combining environmental protection with adventure all over the country!
# 5 Keep The Bastards Honest
Don’t be part of the silent majority: if you’re incensed about an issue, a proposal or a piece of legislation (like the aforementioned land-clearing laws in NSW or QLD), then tell your elected representatives. Make a submission as part of community consultation for proposed developments. Sign a petition. Be heard. Oh – and tell your friends and family who now LOVE the great outdoors after you took them to a pristine swimming hole (see point #1).
Have I missed something? Want to add an NGO or issue to the list? Leave a comment below and, more importantly, take action!
Environmental NGOs That You Can Support In Australia
This is a brief list of groups who all care for the wild places we love. Some are smaller groups, some larger: all of them are worthy of your support. I live in Sydney so the list is biased to NSW. Leave a comment below to add a name to the list.
New South Wales
Colong Foundation – Australia’s longest-serving community advocate for wilderness
Nature Conservation Council – The Nature Conservation Council of NSW was established in 1955 to provide a shared voice for community environmental organisations from across New South Wales.
Environment Centre NT – The peak community sector environmental organisation in the Northern Territory, Australia
Front Line Action on Coal – The awesome people presently disrupting construction of the Adani project rail line. These kinds of groups always need support because they do what needs to be done and are essentially all volunteers. (courtesy of Aidan Kempster – aka Great Forest Rider)
A few from Aidan Kempster – aka Great Forest Rider
Goongerah Environment Centre – Forest defenders of East Gippsland. Doing really important work to stop the logging of old growth forest.
Flora and Fauna Research Collective – Presently trying to get a case to the supreme court on logging of old growth forest.
Wildlife of the Central Highlands – Surveying for endangered species to protect the surrounding forest.
We heart nature…