Dive into action with UK Youth4Nature | Members’ Spotlight

Learn about UK Youth 4 Nature's Creative Campaigning for Biodiversity and Nature Conservation.

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About UKY4N

UK Youth 4 Nature (UKY4N) is the leading UK youth movement calling for urgent action on the nature crisis, and they have been cherished members of YEE since 2022. UKY4N’s mission is to mobilise and empower young people to advocate for decisive action on biodiversity in the UK, emphasising the importance of protecting and restoring nature and wildlife to address the consequences and issues of climate change. March 14th marks the International Day of Action for Rivers, and we find this the perfect occasion to put the spotlight on UKY4N and its creative river projects.

 

Started in 2019 as a simple Whatsapp group with the mission of bringing nature into stronger focus within political discussions, UKY4N has rapidly evolved into an active organisation with a solid volunteer base all across the UK. The organisation has strategically focused its campaigning efforts on nature rather than climate issues and has today successfully positioned itself as a prominent advocate for biodiversity. We have met with co-director Ellen Bradley, to hear more about UKY4N’s creative campaigning and imaginative projects on rivers, hoping to inspire others to take action on this important topic!

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How can you help freshwater?

  • Support nature-friendly farmers, where possible buy organic, local food.

  • Banish pesticides and herbicides from your garden!

  • Celebrate freshwater ecosystems and raise awareness of the threats, share a photo on social media, tag UKY4N and use the hashtag #NotSoFreshwater

  • Research and learn more about the state of freshwater in the UK, sign up for the UKY4Ns newsletter to keep up to date with our campaign.

  • Join the team! UKY4N is always looking for new members to help fight for nature. Email UKY4N at ukyouthfornature@gmail.com to find out more.

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Making waves for freshwater conservation 

Freshwater ecosystems are the lifeblood of our planet. In the UK, around 3% of land is covered by freshwater and with an intricate network of 200,000 km of streams and rivers the freshwater ecosystems in the UK are of international importance. Thousands of lakes, ponds and ditches provide homes for diverse wildlife species, ranging from dragonflies to water voles. And yet, no rivers in England, Wales or Northern Ireland are considered to be in high ecological health, and in Scotland, as much as 92% of rivers do not meet these standards either. 

Recently, freshwater systems gained more media focus on regulating sewage and plastic pollution, advancing freshwater protection. However, agricultural pollution, affecting 40% of all freshwater bodies in England, remains overlooked. In addition to that, targets for cleaning up waterways, such as the goal set for 2027, have been pushed back to 2063, giving the protection of freshwater systems in the UK an urgency that cannot be ignored.

With the campaign Not so Freshwater, UKY4N launched an awareness campaign giving agricultural pollution a much-needed spotlight. The goal is to cut the use of pesticides in half by 2023 as well as restore field margins and riverside ecosystems to reduce field run-off. Ellen emphasises creative campaigning to facilitate positive change, celebrating sustainable farmers and advocating for political action.

On the 23rd of May 2023, UKY4N was able to host a successful event, summoning a variety of politicians and NGOs. The Chemical Cocktail Bar was one of the highlights of the event, which received a big positive response and even more importantly, political attention. The concept behind the Chemical Cocktail Bar is simple, creative and yet effective. Cocktails, named after UK rivers like the Mersey and Thames, the bar creatively highlighted freshwater pollution. Presented as beautifully designed cocktail recipes, these cards added a lively touch with real added proof of the urgency of freshwater pollution, proving that campaigning for political change does not have to be boring or dry. 

Beautifully designed recipe cards show the pollution of some of the biggest freshwater systems in the UK in a fun and engaging way.

The event successfully brought together young people and politicians in a positive atmosphere, fostering constructive discussions on environmental challenges, as Ellen tells us. UKY4N maintained a balance of fun and passion, ensuring engagement while addressing urgent issues facing our natural world.

UKY4N offers practical guidance for individuals to make a difference in preserving freshwater systems, including a five-step guide for reducing pollution. Additionally, they provide a template for a letter to your regional Member of Parliament to advocate for improved chemical standards and freshwater regulation. Later this year, UKY4N will host The Senedd, an event in Wales, allowing young people to engage with Welsh politicians on nature and freshwater issues.

With its campaign Not So Freshwater and a creative, positive and fun approach UKY4N inspires us to get involved in the movement for cleaner waterways and a more sustainable future. Let yourself be inspired too!

The UKY4N team during the event promoting the end of chemical pollution in freshwater systems in the UK (from left to right: Juliette Bone, Ellen Bradley, Lottie Trewick, Hannah Branwood, Joe Wilkins)

Crafting change with creative campaigning 

The fun and creative methods used in the Not So Freshwater project were not a one-off, but rather lie at the very heart of UKY4N’s approach to advocating for nature. Creative campaigning entails using creative and imaginative methods and employs artistic, cultural and interactive strategies to make an impact. Ellen tells us that the main goal of this approach is to get young people excited about an issue and encourage them to make a positive contribution, even if they are not experts on issues such as the environment, sustainability or politics. That way, different people can contribute in different ways, and that makes it more diverse and even more impactful! 

Another example of UKY4N’s bold creative campaigning was in their project Nature Loss: Lines in the Sand. On March 23, 2022, a 50-metre drawing depicting biodiversity in Britain was created on Scarborough Beach, featuring four biologically significant species that are declining. This symbolic act aimed to address the alarming depletion of nature in the UK, urging authorities to prioritise conservation efforts. Their creative ways received public recognition and an international audience, and if you look at the pictures of this impactful mural it is easy to understand why!

An overhead shot of the beautiful mural created by UKY4N on Scarborough beach.

UKY4N also regularly hosts workshops to introduce young people to creative campaigning, the next one to be held in Brighton on the 23rd of March 2024

In addition, UKY4N is currently dedicating their time to work relating to the general elections coming up in the UK this year. With the voting turnout among people in the age between 18 to 24-years in the UK in 2019 reaching 47% (compared to over 74% in the group of over 65-year olds), getting young people more enthusiastic and interested in the election is a crucial issue. As Ellen shares with us, only 50% of young people in the UK think they learn sufficiently about politics in school, so another focus of UKY4N lies on knowledge-sharing and capacity-building on the voting system. In order to be able to navigate the different and sometimes confusing party manifestos, UKY4N explains each programme from relevant political parties for everyone to understand. The main reason for that is to underline the importance of casting your vote to support certain policies and causes, as they so aptly put it on their website, “[n]ature cannot vote in elections. But many of us can!” With important elections coming up across Europe this year, not to mention the European Parliament elections, this is something many of us can keep in mind!

And with that being said, it is easy to see the problems that unite us. UKY4N is tackling the problems of the depletion of nature in the UK, but we are seeing similar problems worldwide. Although freshwater ecosystems are so important to nature and human well-being, they are also the most threatened in the world. Since 1970 freshwater species have experienced an 83% decline – twice the rate experienced within terrestrial or marine sources. Let us therefore stand united on this International Day of Action for Rivers, and reflect on the importance each and every one of our actions plays in the protection of our water systems!

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Dive into action with UK Youth4Nature | Members’ Spotlight