Saturday, 2 February 2019

Post 495 - #Iwill4nature - an epic launch

Hey everyone!

It's been a while since my last post, sorry about that, in honesty it's because I've been struggling a bit especially with school. But not to dwell on that too much I know what I'm dealing with since my Autism diagnosis last Autumn and I try not to let it stop me doing the things I love.

London Zoo's Galapagos Tortoise enclosure with
Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of state for the Environment
One of the things I was determined to do was to attend the #Iwill4nature launch. Back in Post 493 I covered how I was lucky enough to be made an #Iwill ambassador. Basically #iwill is an initiative to encourage youth social action. This year is especially relevant to me as the focus is on the natural world. The #iwill4nature year coincides with the DEFRA #yearofgreenaction and this week was a joint launch event for them both.

I had the date in the diary since just before Christmas but it wasn't until the end of last week that I knew that I was going to be speaking. I quite like speaking and I guess as I did some amateur dramatics and performing when I was younger I'm reasonably comfortable in front of crowds. Saying that it was a big subject to cover and I hoped I'd nailed some key messages.

#Iwill ambassaors and Mr Gove feeding Dolly, Polly & Priscilla
The #iwill team had sent me all the information about the event, hosted by the Zoological Society of London at London Zoo, so I knew there were going to be other speakers there including the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, and the Director General of the Zoological Society of London Dominic Jermey, and a few other #Iwill Ambassadors. On the train on the way down I learnt that I was to be part of a photo call with Mr Gove, and that I'd be doing that in the tortoise enclosure. Until I'd gone around the Zoo I didn't realise they were Galapagos Tortoises! So we got to the Tortoise enclosure ahead of Michael Gove and had chance to get to know Dolly, Polly and Priscilla. They're all around 28 years old and were bred at Zurich Zoo and are part of a conservation effort to help these creatures. They weigh about 100kgs so we were told to mind we didn't get our feet underneath them in case they sat on them! We saw a fascinating bit of behaviour that these majestic creatures have retained from their evolution on Galapagos. If you stroke their legs they extend their necks and raise themselves up almost on to their tip toes stretching out their legs. This is called 'finching' and stems from a reaction to birds, finches in particular, coming to feed on the parasites that would live on the Tortoises in the wild. They'd stretch up like this to give the birds full access and to provide a handy service for the tortoise, but of course the birds don't mind as they get a feed! Even though they don't have parasites in captivity they still retain this behaviour.

Passing on the manifesto to
Mr Gove!
After this was the launch event and as we were waiting to start there was a bit of time to talk to each other. During this time I had an opportunity. If you remember in the Autumn last year there was a #PeoplesWalkForWildlfie and a few of us got to take the #PeoplesManifestoForWildlife to No 10. Well the hope was to present it to Michael Gove but he was busy that day. So happily I had taken a copy along with me and in a quiet minute ahead of the event I managed to have a quick chat with Mr Gove and pass him a copy!

Then we got into the event and the speeches. One of the first things was a video address from Prince Charles who is the patron of the #Iwill campaign. Then we had speeches from Michael Gove and Dominic Jermey. It was nice for me that one of the photos I'd taken at the Kew event has been adopted as a campaign poster and that it was the backdrop for the speeches. After Mr Gove and Mr Jermey it was the turn of the #Iwill ambassadors to take the stage. The only disappointing  part of the evening was that Michael and Dominic left before the Ambassadors spoke, which was a shame.  But, there was a great audience of lots of organisations that want to help young people have a voice and give young people chances to take social action.

In the background my photo with Yetunde and Princess at
Kew in front of a magnificent Ginko biloba
Yetunde introduced us all and set the scene. I was next up and my talk was well received, I got a bit of a laugh when I mentioned that I was glad to catch up with Mr Gove and pass him the manifesto after missing him at Downing Street. I was followed by Dara who gave an amazing speech, very articulate and very passionate. Nayha finished the ambassador's speeches with another amazing speech. I think we collectively managed to get across the message that young people are passionate about the natural world and will take action to protect it, if they are given the chance to experience and appreciate it. Many of the organisations there have pledged to help make sure this happens.
My turn to speak!
After some more networking and getting some very nice comments about the speeches we made the evening came to a close and I headed off to Kings Cross for the train home. It was a truly amazing evening and I'm so grateful to #Iwill for the opportunity. I came away proud and enthused to make more of a difference, to continue to take the message to other young people that we should care and that we can make a big difference. I look forward to helping out over the #Iwill4nature year and beyond.

Before I sign off I  thought I'd finish on a different, but I think appropriate note. On the way to the event I'd taken the chance to visit a place I love in London, Camden Market. I've been going there for years, it's a family favourite when we are in London. I love the street food, the music, the buzz of the place. I guess as I've been going since I was little I'm comfortable with all the sights, sounds and smells. So as it is close to London Zoo it was a natural place to visit on the way there and to get some lunch. There's a place you can sit once you get your food from the stalls and the Pigeons and Starlings are quite tame, even a bit cheeky. Not everyone likes that but I love it. The little guy in the tweet below hung around most of the time I was eating, even with all the hustle and bustle and with other people eating shoo-ing some birds off. It was one of those lovely moments where you unexpectedly get the opportunity to connect with nature. The Starling stood there chirping, whistling, clicking, going through its repertoire of sounds, serenading Dad and I as we ate, or so it seemed. I got a little video of it which I tweeted. I think it was quite fitting that this little chap singing his heart out was by far my most popular tweet on the launch of an initiative about promoting social action to encourage engagement with and care for nature.Nature does need to take centre stage!

Hope you enjoyed,