Millennials call for a future rich in wildlife

| 11th August 2016
The new Vision for Nature report uses creative writing, art, photography and policy to set out the vision young people have for the future of the natural world in the UK
The new Vision for Nature report highlights what young people want to see politicians doing to protect the environment. And there is nobody better qualified to make these demands than the generation that will inherit the future, writes MATT WILLIAMS
Nine out of ten 16- 34-year-olds feel it is important (very important or quite important) for politicians to take care of the environment

Three years ago, an unprecedented partnership of organisations published the State of Nature report. Their work revealed that 60% of species we know about in the UK have declined in the last 50 years. This work drew new attention to the decline of wildlife in our country.

At the time, I wrote that as well as a state that looked back, we also needed a vision that would look ahead. I argued that no one had more legitimacy to write such a vision than the young people who would inherit the future we decided, as a society, to nourish.

In a piece for the Ecologist website that same year I also wrote about diminishing childhood connection to nature. This, I believe, is one of the greatest threats to nature: if fewer people experience it and care about it then protection for it will diminish too.

That's why I've spent the last three years of my life working at the heart of the burgeoning youth nature movement. And why we've just published our Vision for Nature report. You can follow its progress and take in this initiative using #VisionforNature.

This new report uses creative writing, art, photography and policy to set out the vision young people have for the future of the natural world. We've taken into account the views of over 200 young people, through surveys, focus groups, interviews and other conversations. At the heart of A Focus on Nature is a practice of working with other generations.

We're very grateful that Sir David Attenborough has backed our report. We also know, from new polling we conducted, that these 200 or so young people are far from alone. In the polling we've had commissioned, nine out of ten 16-34 year olds feel it is important (very important or quite important) for politicians to take care of the environment.

This vision is of young people's hopes for the future of nature in the UK. We call for changes such as the development of ten city national parks across the UK; the transfer of all subsidies and tax breaks for fossil fuels to renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies; and for the reintroduction of lost apex and keystone species and the re-wilding of large areas of land. And we believe that these changes will take us towards a future where people live lives far more connected to nature, in far more sustainable towns and cities, where they eat local and sustainable food and where the landscape is buzzing and brimming with wildlife.

Most importantly, we challenge the existing UK Government. They have recently announced a delay in publication of their 25-year plan for nature. We believe that protecting nature for one generation is not enough. While special places and creatures can be destroyed in the blink of an eye, it can take decades or longer for them to recover. Their future needs to be safeguarded for generations to come, not just one generation.

Nine out of ten 16- 34-year-olds feel it is important (very important or quite important) for politicians to take care of the environment

So our top recommendation is for the UK Government to produce a 250-year plan for nature, with this first 25-year plan as just the first step. We also hope similar long-term planning and thinking will be applied by governments in the other four countries in the UK.

Perhaps most importantly though, this report is the clarion call of a growing UK youth nature movement. I was privileged enough to be involved in the UK youth climate movement for five years. This movement joined up with other young people around the globe and together, I believe, they made a real impact on the progress of action on climate change, particularly at the UN level.

Every day, I learn of and connect with new projects in other countries where young people are coming together and working to secure nature's future. Too often, the environment falls out of our political debate. And even when it is mentioned, too often are nature and wildlife forgotten in favour of energy and climate change. Young people's voices are all too often forgotten as well. If the UK Government's 25-year plan is meant to protect nature for a generation, where has the consultation with young people (who will inherit this plans results, for good or for bad) been?

So, we're asking politicians and decision-makers of every ilk, third sector organisations and businesses, whose flows of private investment will be critical to building a sustainable future, to speak and work with us. We realise our vision may be ambitious, but young people, wildlife and future generations deserve, and can accept, nothing less.

In Summary:

  • The UK's youth nature network, A Focus on Nature, has launched its Vision for Nature report, setting out young people's hopes for the future of nature and wildlife in the UK.
  • The report has received the backing of Sir David Attenborough
  • New poll shows nine out of ten 16-34 year-olds think it's important for politicians to take care of wildlife and the environment
  • The same number of young Brits believe it's important to take care of the natural world for future generations
  • Two thirds of UK millennials say environmental policies are their top voting priority
  • Now is the time to stand up for nature, says new report written by young people - Vision for Nature - which sets out the future for wildlife and the environment that young people would like to see


This Author:

Matt Williams is a nature lover and photographer. He's Associate Director of A Focus on Nature, the UK's youth nature network. Follow him @mattadamw and


More from this author


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate here