The big day we’ve all been looking forward to had finally arrived: the (first) Future for Nature Academy Day!
On Thursday 30 March, at half past three, a bus arrives in Wageningen, carrying 25 Future for Nature Award winners. The day prior to the ten year anniversary of the Future for Nature Awards, we are lucky to have invited all the FFN winners of the past decade. Upon arrival at the GAIA building in Wageningen the winners are welcomed by their ‘buddies’; more than 30 students who were selected for a special Meet&Greet and will take on the role of spokesmen for the winners at the ceremony Award show the next day. Prior to this day, the buddies worked hard to make beautiful and informative flyers about their conservation heroes, to spread amongst students and other people who are interested.
The winners and buddies meet over a cup of tea and, excited as they are, the buddies are eagerly listening to the motivating stories of the winners. In the meanwhile, the GAIA hall is filling up with almost 200 enthusiastic participants. At 16:00 o’clock, everyone is warmly welcomed by Rascha Nuijten, co-founder of the Future for Nature Academy, and Louise Vet, director of NIOO (Netherlands Institute of Ecology). With her words “So, I think it is time for a movement”, Louise Vet sets the tone for an inspiring and optimistic event.
During various workshops the winners, buddies and all other participants discuss important topics in conservation. The role of science, communication, finances, policy making and engaging local communities in conservation are topics covered during lively debates. The first-hand examples from the FFN winners were inspiring and food for thought for all participants. We learned that what is taught at University provides a good foundation, yet when it comes to hands-on conservation work in the field, there is much more to learn and we need a broader toolbox. There is no ‘Blueprint for Conservation’ and many challenges to be dealt with occur along the way, such as almost ineradicable corruption. “This is not a 9 to 5 job”. “There are no holidays in this job. It’s a passion” are Patricia Medici’s (FFN Award Winner 2008) closing words for the evening. Is there a Future for Nature? “It’s tough, very tough. But we have to. And yes, there is hope if we all work together”, according to Ofir Drori (FFN Award winner 2011). He adds that by working together “we all get to do what we love”. Conservation is not a job, it is something you are.
By Sofie te Wierik