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Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Sustainable nettle soup

I recently taught a class on sustainable food as part of a course on environmental sustainability for  A-level students visiting Moulton College. It's probably true that eating nettle soup and making elderflower wine won't save the planet but it's the kind of thing which helps develop enthusiasm for nature. If the students had come to college and sat in a classroom and been subjected to a lecture on food miles, pesticides or global warming their lasting memory of the course would have been one of abject boredom and disinterest in the subject.  
Instead they sat around a campfire, drank nettle soup (which they actually enjoyed), looked at methods of growing and harvesting willow for biofuel manufacture and at methods of purifying drain water through a reed bed. They were able to get involved in all these activities and engage with nature and at seventeen years of age most of them had very little experience of 'nature' beyond country parks. 
Two of these students went on to enrol on a full time countryside and environment course at the college if they had been bored by their first experience in the 'sustainability' course would they have enrolled? possibly not. 

As educators we need to encourage an interest in, enthusiasm, appreciation and love for nature before people will care about declining species, pollution, global warming, desertification, agricultural intensification, non-native invasive species etc....... see didn't that list of environmental issues depress you? Before you can care enough to try and save the environment you have to love it and before you love it you have to experience it first hand, at the bottom of a garden, the corner of a farmers field, watching birds soaring on thermals, climbing mountains, breathlessly stalking a deer and not caring whether you manage to shoot one or not because you've just had an opportunity to spend time outdoors.    

If we can't offer those first hand experiences of nature to children, young and old alike there are going to be a lot of people who can't or won't seek out that connection for themselves and they are going to be missing out on something truly amazing.  

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