Field Notes: Conservation in London

Helping people and nature thrive in the big city

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At our London Members’ Gathering event in December, we were joined by Krishna Sharma, a member of the Keeping it Wild Young People’s Forum. Here she writes about what inspires her about nature, and how she is working to help nature and people thrive in the capital.

What inspires me about the natural world

Almost every change in an ecosystem, no matter how small, will result have effects on the broader network that exists between plants and animals. This connectivity between the different levels of life that make up a system enthrals me and is among the key reasons for my engagement in climate activism and urban wildlife conservation.

Like most people, I was unaware of how insect numbers could affect a woodland’s ability to sequester carbon. I had little prior interest in how they can shape the community structure of insectivores that feed on them. Many can cite knowledge of the importance of bees in pollinating pretty flowers, but how many people are aware of other insects’ importance in the decomposition of leaf litter?

Why I got involved in the Keeping it Wild project

After completing a degree in the biological sciences, I was led to believe that the tough part was over, that it would be smooth sailing from there. What people failed to tell me was that vacancies in the conservation sector are few and far-between. Without this knowledge to hand, each rejection I was facing – from trusts, charitable organisations, and sustainability consultancies – became increasingly disheartening.

Nevertheless, I ploughed on, seizing every opportunity to meet people in the field. Networking in the hopes of meeting someone who would see that I was, in fact, an impressive candidate. One such networking event was the A Focus on Nature ‘Now for Nature’ conference, where I met a Keeping it Wild project officer, who told me about the Young People’s Forum and encouraged me to apply. Safe to say, I didn't need much convincing.

Here was a project dedicated to increasing inclusivity and diversity in a sector that is typically only accessible to those who can afford to volunteer their time, or those who can support themselves while undertaking generally low paid roles. Keeping it Wild provides a platform for young people, a dramatically under-represented group in the sector, to share their insights and help to improve London Wildlife Trust’s engagement with their peers.  

Young Peoples Forum London

^Members of the Young People's Forum with Chris Packham 

It gives us a great opportunity to be in direct contact with the Trust’s Board of Trustees and its senior management. In particular, the Forum enables young people from minority backgrounds to be more represented in the world of urban wildlife conservation. As a young Asian-British woman of colour, it’s incredibly heartening to work alongside other young people from so many different backgrounds, including those from the LGBTQ+ community, young BAME people and those with some form of disability.  

What I gained from the John Muir London event

I must also take time to commend the Keeping it Wild team for their tremendous efforts: They never fail to alert us about exciting workshops, fun conservation activities and opportunities to engage with partners of the Trust. I was lucky enough to be invited to the John Muir London Members’ Gathering, where I learnt a great amount about the management of rural green spaces. I was enlightened to the issues that these spaces face, such as the impacts of tourism, and the effects of grazing on re-wilding efforts. Here, I spoke in depth about the lack of representation in the conservation sector, the members were welcoming and very receptive to my thoughts and ideas.

What I plan for 2020

In 2020, alongside starting a new and exciting job in scientific publishing, I aim to continue my efforts in urban wildlife conservation. I will be building – and teaching my friends and family how to create – bug hotels to provide space and nutrition for insects. Alongside this, I plan to continue to encourage others to join me in cultivating rooftop gardens. I also hope to keep working closely with London Wildlife Trust on a range of issues related to the capital’s wildlife and getting more young people involved.