Written by Elliot Connor
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
Rejections are hard to stomach. I got two just trying to write this article. Because when you’re 16 years old, it’s tough trying to break into the field of conservation – and every chance counts.
For ages I started almost all of my emails in the exact same way- “My name’s Elliot Connor, I’m 15 years old and passionate about nature.” I must have sent dozens of emails out to environmental charities and organizations of every shape and size. Most of them declined to respond – and of the few that did, most spoke of duty of care, lack of resources, etc. If I was lucky, it might end with “But keep up your passion for nature.” Thanks.
I was – and still am – hugely idealistic. Older people might call it naivety, framing it as a weakness; but I disagree. Greta Thunberg wasn’t shouted down as a lazy bugger and a truant for skipping school on Fridays. She had a vision and she saw it through to completion, surely far beyond where even her imagination could have led her. This is the latest stage in my life: my own vision forward.
Forgetting my age, that old email quote above would be just as true now as the first time I wrote it, if not more so. And yet my message has changed, and in a non-too subtle way. Recently my messages have begun with “I’m a 16-yr-old Sydneysider who’s fed up with how humans view other animals.” Similar, but different. It continues: “but what’s more, I’ve got a vision to fix it.” And it wasn’t an easy path getting there.
Two years ago now, I made my first break into the field. Having been casually interested in the environment for as long as I can remember, it was a ridiculously late time for me to join the fold – and for good reason. In the eyes of a shy, self-conscious adolescent, the organisations that be loomed tall and intimidating, full of academic dignity and impenetrability with no option of ‘just helping out.’
This frustration has stayed with me, festered in me for years until now – until I found my solution. Just over a week ago I set up the Human Nature group: a gathering of nature-lovers, environmentalists and activists from all walks of life united with a single purpose: to connect people with the planet, reminding the human race of our place alongside other life forms. You see, it is with action that I have found my salvation.
Jane Goodall once wrote that “The greatest danger to our future is apathy,” a remark surely made ever more pertinent with each passing day. But I have found out how far-reaching such a statement is, applying not only to society but to myself. So my message would be this- to take action, no matter how small, because it is only through action that we see the way forward.
For more of Elliot, follow @elliotconnor36 on Instagram