Written by Stephanie Rowe
Conservation to me, has always meant something deeper than what it represents for the environment as such. I truly believe we are connected to nature, in such a way, that it is only a holistic approach that can be used to move forward with it. I want to take this space forward with it being known that I pledge to always take self-conservation seriously.
Worldwide, we are going through A WHOLE LOT. Times are really flippin’ tough, meaning it’s more important than ever to take care of your wellbeing. You see where I’m going with this? Without conserving yourself, you won’t be in a position to conserve others and the environment.
While I have always had a passion for wildlife, I do think that it is only in recent years, that I have begun to think about what nature really means to me. Like so many others, and perhaps yourself, having access to outside spaces during the recent national lockdowns, have provided me with a kind of relief that I’m not sure I could ever express enough gratitude for.
My journey into conservation and the process of learning, has ignited my passion for wildlife and has instilled within me, a purpose. I am lucky enough to have been able to create opportunities for myself to engage with wildlife and for that, I am immensely grateful.
There was a time when, excuse the pun “I couldn’t see the wood for the trees”. I have stumbled through my struggles with depression with those closest to me. I have come to points in previous years, where I have confessed to precious friends that I didn’t want to carry on anymore. I have also felt my heart break for those friends experiencing a similar anguish, whose pain I wish I could have felt for them. I appreciate some may feel this is over-sharing or a bit “gloomy”. However, we must accept that sadness is a natural, important and valid emotion. Feelings of low mood are something we all experience at multiple points in our lives. I have watched as conservations around mental health have been started in recent years and I sadly think it’s a topic that had become somewhat glamorised. There is still much work to be done in instilling into our culture, the importance of mental wellbeing.
On my path to discovering new coping mechanisms, I now feel I understand exactly what nature means to me. Nature represents to me, something that is undeniably resilient. After all that is thrown at it, somehow, trees still manage to grow, animals to reproduce, plants to flower and so on. I recently read a quote from a book, “for the love of trees,” where winter trees are described as “vulnerable but steady”, while they await the inevitable better times. Winter trees facing “unimaginably hard times,” are likened to those similarly difficult times that we face throughout life. How beautiful.
For me, nature offers a space of non-judgement. It doesn’t care whether you’ve got a mortgage, a career, a partner, 2 kids and a Labrador. It offers up its resources, beauty and grace.
I think nature is my constant. It’s difficult for me to feel lonely when I have unlocked an awareness of being a part of something so interlinked. Spend enough time in nature, and you find yourself acknowledging that you are apart of something much bigger than you can comprehend. The global network of life.
There is of course, the science to back up the mental health benefits of spending time in nature. An increasing number of scientific journals are now publishing statistics on the positive correlation between nature and mental health. As we have become disconnected from nature, its no wonder our sterile and nature-deprived lives have resulted in a mental health crisis.
Finally, but perhaps most importantly, one of the biggest issues needing to be tackled imminently, is the mass of environmental injustice faced by a staggering number of people across the world. Those without access to safe outside spaces, along with the multitude of other issues, are inevitably more prone to experiencing mental health issues. It is crucial, that we hold environmental justice with the highest regard, when we work on conservation issues.
I will leave you with a quote from my favourite podcast host, Elizabeth Day, who champions that “Life is texture”. I think nature represents just that.
For more of Stephanie, check out @stephs.eco on Instagram