10 DAY CONNECT TO NATURE CHALLENGE, in collaboration with @RoxyTheZoologist
Earth day is always celebrated on April 22nd and this year, 2020, marked 50 years of Earth Day.
We are currently living in unprecedented times, and as a result of Covid-19, we have all been subject to drastic restrictions on our lifestyle during lockdown. Roxy and I wanted to encourage people to get outside, fall back in love with nature and make the most of this unusual time in their lives... and so, the 10 Day Connect to Nature Challenge was launched.
Of Earth's 4.5 billion year history, humans have only been around for 200,000 years and yet we have had a greater impact on the planet than any other species.
With the increase of urban landscapes and digital technology, we have become increasingly disconnected from nature. Now, in this crazy time we have found ourselves in, we have been given the perfect opportunity to change that and redefine our relationship with the natural world.
For 10 days, Roxy and I posted daily about nature-related topics, based on the challenge for that day. We were thrilled by the engagement we received on the challenge. Lots of instagram users joined us and we loved reading everyones personal take on the challenges and their journeys.
DAY 1 - READ
I am a massive reader anyway so this wasn’t necessarily a challenge for me, but I must admit I’m usually found with a fiction/fantasy book in hand. However, I’ve been desperate to read: (1) Poached by Rachel Love Nuwer, (2) The Wolf Within by Prof Bryan Sykes... for a long time, so that is my goal during lockdown (obviously with my fiction book on the side).
And of course, I had to show you all my favourite guide book to British Wildlife. This little pocket dynamite is full of information - everything from plants, fungi and lichen to mice, frogs, bats, butterflies, badgers, otters, deer, seals and dolphins! I would highly recommend it for anyone wanting to learn more about British wildlife!
DAY 2 - APPRECIATE SOMETHING SMALL
A month and a half ago, if you had told me that I would be back in the UK, in this unusual situation where you can’t pop out to have coffee with your friends, or hug your family - I probably would have laughed nervously or stared at you in disbelief.
Yet, here we are. It’s sometimes hard to believe how quickly everything changed, seemingly overnight. And yet because of this situation, I’m back home at the most beautiful time of the year.
The flowers are starting to bloom, the insects are emerging and the bees are busying themselves. Life around us is thriving and every time I step outside, I’m appreciating these small things all the more.
DAY 3 - REFLECT ON YOUR JOURNEY
Knowing from the age of 3 or 4 that I wanted to work with animals, baby Lara would never have guessed that one day she would be lucky enough to travel the world, contributing to the conservation of some of the most endangered species on earth.
She would never have guessed that she’d be lucky enough to spend 7 months tracking rhinos on foot, or get to work on a dolphin conservation programme that promotes ethical tourism.. I’m a very determined person, always pushing for the next step, the next dream job... and sometimes I have to stop, pinch myself and realise just how far I’ve come. I can honestly say that I’ve already achieved some of my dreams.
DAY 4 - ACT OF KINDNESS
I know that vegetarianism/veganism can be a really controversial topic - including the reasons that prompted the individual to make such a huge lifestyle change. I have been vegetarian for nearly 5 years now and I stopped eating meat for many different reasons:
1. It’s hard to study a course like zoology at university and not become aware of the impact of the meat industry on our planet - from emissions of greenhouse gases, to the deforestation of huge tracts of land to make way for livestock farming.
2. On a personal level, I don’t agree with the way we treat farm animals like a commodity instead of sentient beings.
3. I know I couldn’t kill an animal, so I don’t think I have a right to eat one.
In this world where we are losing biodiversity at an alarming rate and witnessing the warming of the earth, we all need to be making small changes. I would never try and convert someone to going veggie/vegan - it’s your choice. But, did you know that just by having one meat free day a week, you are actively reducing the amount of carbon emissions that are released into the atmosphere?
If every single person in the world did meat free Monday, it’s the equivalent to taking 240 million cars off the road EVERY YEAR in the reduction of harmful gases.
This is one simple way that YOU can have a direct impact on the planet! Even if you don’t think you could ever be vegetarian - pledge to have a meat free Monday and reduce those carbon emissions.
DAY 5 - INSPIRE CHANGE
Before covid-19, I was managing a dolphin research and marine conservation project in Zanzibar. As well as collecting scientific data on how tourism negatively affected the behaviour of wild dolphins, working with the local community was a key focus of the project.
Every week, we ran Conservation Club - we’d teach local school students about the marine world and how they can take care of their beautiful home.
The students loved all their lessons and we consistently had high attendance! Whilst not all the students will go on to have a career in conservation, I hope that I’ve at least inspired them to take more of an interest in the animals that surround them.
DAY 6 - LEARN SOMETHING
Just a handful of the amazing rangers at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy & Borana Conservancy who went above and beyond to help me collect my rhino data.
Learning was certainly a two-way street here - in fact, I probably learnt WAY more from these amazing humans! From being taught how to identify the difference between rhino footprints, learning how to follow their tracks, being shown how to identify what plants they had eaten, and learning the Masai names of all those plants.
Conservation cannot be successful without the support of local communities - it is vital!!! Rangers are unbelievably knowledgeable and have a natural instinct when it comes to the wildlife. They are some of the most passionate, dedicated and wonderful people in the world, and I am humbled to count so many of them as my friends.
DAY 7 - WRITE A LETTER
A letter to my future self.
The world is taking a breather.
You may not be where you thought you’d be.
You may not doing what you thought you’d be doing.
But this won’t stop you from achieving your dreams or reaching further milestones in your life.
This quote just sums everything up perfectly: Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience - Ralph Waldo Emerson.
DAY 8 - CREATE SOMETHING
Yesterday, we created a NEW compost heap in our garden (the other one is pretty full)! Compost heaps are so easy to make and have SO many benefits for your garden:
1. They create a habitat for billions of microscopic organisms as well as worms, beetles, slugs, slow worms and many more!🕷
2. Compost heaps can increase biodiversity in your garden!🐌
3. They reduce the amount of waste that you produce - saving landfill space.♻️
4. When you spread the compost around your garden, it adds nutrients and improves the health of your soil 🌼
So what are waiting for!?
DAY 9 - HELP SOMEONE
Corona virus has had devastating and wide-ranging effects on numerous businesses and industries - one of which is tourism and conservation in Africa. The majority of reserves and conservancies rely on the money generated by tourism to fund anti-poaching units, security and ranger patrols.
No one knows how long it will take for everything to return to normal... reserves have had to cut so many salaries, ask people to take unpaid leave, all the while desperately trying to keep up funding to VITAL anti-poaching efforts.
Please, if you can spare any pennies at all, donate them to a reserve like Lewa Wildlife Conservancy who do incredible rhino conservation work and NEED your help to protect this critically endangered species.
DAY 10 - HUG A TREE
I always get this incredible sense of awe when I touch an ancient tree - the fact that it’s stood there for hundreds of years, has withstood wars and seen thousands of people pass below its branches makes me feel very insignificant in the grand scheme of life... 🍃
I also feel an instant connection to nature - all her power, serenity and beauty. 🍁
A huge thank you to EVERYONE who joined in with our challenge! It was an absolute delight to see all your posts and read your stories.