Promoting youth action for people and planet

As a UK-wide conservation charity - dedicated to the experience, protection and repair of wild places – we believe that wild places are essential for people and the planet. Tackling climate emergency and biodiversity loss is core to the work of John Muir Trust.

We work with hundreds of organisations every year who, in turn, engage individuals and families in our national John Muir Award. Each year Award participants are encouraged to connect with, enjoy and care for wild places – with around 90% under the age of 25. Flexibility is built into the Award’s Four Challenges, enabling young people to help shape their activities and challenge themselves from where they’re at.

“Think global, act local” is a message often referenced in conversations about planning Award activities. It resonates well with youth work approaches, enabling exploration of the issues that matter to young people and reinforcing self-belief that everyone can be a positive force for change.

The Award encourages meaningful time in nature and tackling bigger-than-self challenges through real-world learning. As one young person describes it, exploring Learning for Sustainability through local action “gives a sense of perspective and connection with the greater world.”

During Scotland’s Year of Young People, we audited how Award participants took action for wild places. Nearly 19,500 young people undertook over 29,000 days of practical conservation activity to benefit climate and nature. Their total contribution was valued at over three quarters of a million pounds.

From tackling plastic pollution by organising community litter picks or tree planting for flood management, to pollinator-friendly planting to help urban wildlife flourish, every Award participant takes pride in the difference they make. Young people can be empowered to broaden their impact, using their voices to advocate and campaign for the importance of our wild places in building a more sustainable, happier and healthier society.

Research from the #iwill movement tells us that young people want to make a difference to society; and taking action from a young age is key to forming habits and future participation. Nurturing connections with and action for nature benefits people too. Supporting young people’s health and wellbeing is key to ensuring they can fulfil their potential, and for many, nature has a lot to offer. The outdoors also gives countless opportunities for learning, skills building and personal development – whether developing leadership capacity, honing navigation and surveying skills or learning to assess and manage risks.

There’s never been a more important time to expand opportunities for all young people to deepen their connection with nature. From politicians and wider society to local communities, organisations and youth leaders, we all have a part to play. We’re continuing to support youth workers, educators and other practitioners to inspire our young people by encouraging them to connect with, enjoy and participate directly in caring for wild places. Listening to young people’s concerns around climate and nature and creating space for youth-led discussion, problem solving and conservation is a fantastic place to start, ensuring a brighter future for our young people, communities and planet.


T @JohnMuirTrust

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