I don’t know if you have heard, but we are facing a serious issue in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s not a new issue, but it’s escalating – and escalating fast.
We cannot attract or retain young people in the area.
As a young person who moved to live in the Yorkshire Dales and work in the National Park a year ago, the barriers for those wishing to do the same in rural and protected areas have been brought to my attention.
Back in April, I was given the opportunity to be part of a EUROPARC Youth Manifesto Workshop – you may have seen my blog about it: The Young People of Rural Areas Want to be Heard
I joined 30 young delegates from across Europe in the Cairngorms National Park. We shared ideas and experiences faced by young people, and collaborated to create a document: the Youth Manifesto.
The workshop not only opened my eyes to the variety of issues young people face across Europe, but also to the lack of opportunity that presents itself to us in the decision-making process within many organisations.
Our Manifesto was presented this September to delegates at the EUROPARC 2019 Conference: ‘Inspiring the Next Generation’.
This blog continues that journey.
It was a great opportunity for someone like myself to attend such a large conference. I listened to some fascinating speakers, such as Richard Louv, an American author and journalist, who spoke about how young people will lead a new nature movement. He introduced a new term for me – ‘nature-deficit disorder’ – the idea that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors, and the belief that this change results in a wide range of behavioural problems.
I also felt inspired by Hendrikus van Hensbergen, the Director of Action for Conservation, who believes all young people should feel moved and empowered to protect the natural world.
As part of the conference, ‘younger’ delegates took part in a Youth Workshop which involved bushcraft, outdoor games and tree identification. As many of us were already keen conservationists, this workshop was not about teaching us how to light a fire, but how we ourselves can get children to connect with nature in a fun and engaging way, and pass on positive messages about our treasured landscapes. This means not necessarily getting them to tell an oak from a pine, but just to experience the outdoors and use their senses.
We presented the Youth Manifesto on the final day of the conference.
The manifesto is a call for change. It is a source of ideas and inspiration for decision makers in protected areas and rural communities to ensure the involvement and empowerment of young people, with the aim to create a vibrant future for them, for nature, and for our rural areas.
The video below will give you a taste of how the Youth Manifesto was created and the journey we have been on.
I am delighted at the response people had to the launch of the Youth Manifesto and the positive conversations that are taking place already, both within the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and externally. Ignace Schops, the president of the EUROPARC Federation – the largest network on natural heritage in Europe – even stated he was taking it to the European Board of Commissioners.
I just hope it is the beginning of much greater things for young people in rural areas. We may have a small voice individually, but collectively, when we unite, we have a strong, powerful voice and we hope our message is heard.
Now, more than ever, this topic is coming to the forefront of people’s minds. There are numerous projects currently being undertaken to support young people, including Great Place: Lakes and Dales, which aims to understand and help address some of the reasons why fewer 16 to 34-year-olds than the national average live and work in the South Lakes and Yorkshire Dales.
Grab a copy of the Youth Manifesto and see how you can make a difference in your area.