We were very fortunate to have Manoj Gautam, FFN Award winner in 2015, in Utrecht for an inspiring and eye-opening lecture. With some effort and a bit of luck Manoj managed to find a spot in his busy schedule to come to the Netherlands and share his story with the Future For Nature Academy and all other participants.
Manoj started with a bit of background on his home country Nepal and some of its challenges. For example, Australia is approximately 54 times bigger than Nepal, but both countries have approximately an equal human population size. The growing population puts serious pressure on Nepal’s natural resources. So this begs the question: “How can we conserve what is left in a world where things are changing so rapidly?”
Manoj continued on defining the foundation of conservation through four short, but difficult questions: Why to conserve? What to conserve? How to conserve? And whom to conserve for? These questions will help everyone to get a better understanding of what conservation means for us. After that comes the identification of the problem. Interestingly Manoj told us that issues like deforestation and pollution are not the real problems. Those are actually symptoms of a much bigger problem. The real problem is our very own behavior.
Human behavior is the key driver of all major threats to biodiversity. “Problems” like habitat transformation, climate change, invasive species, and over-exploitation of natural resources are all consequences of human lifestyle across the world. Manoj explained that, in his eyes, a true conservation achievement is something that changes the behavior of people. Changing the behavior of the global population may seem like a very daunting task, but similar things have already happened. Manoj gave the example of smoking. Smoking used to be completely normal and cool in the 1960s to 1980s. In today’s world however, smoking has become increasingly unacceptable. Manoj urged that a similar change in other behaviors is needed to protect what is still left of nature.
Manoj concluded that he truly believes that the new generation is able to work to reverse the mentality of today’s consumer. Anyone can make that change regardless of background or nationality. And together we can work on the right solution. Manoj gave us a lot of food for thought and definitely challenged us with his four questions, but he did this for the right reason. He really wants the future generation to succeed in conservation and I think his lecture gave us all the courage to focus on the real problem.
By Nick van Doormaal and Mónica Vidal
Around 80% of marine plastic comes from land-based sources due to improper waste disposal and management. Even further inland, plastic litter can easily effect local environments or enter waterways and be discharged into the ocean.
In the Rhine itself, plastic litter can be found throughout the wholestretch from Basel, Switzerland to Rotterdam, the Netherlands causing damage to riparian systems and acting as a source of marine plastic. Although stopping the tide of plastics will require a combination of approaches, cleanups are organised frequently and serve as a powerful tool to inspire local citizens to help tackle the problem. Every piece of litter that is removed from the environment, and disposed of properly, means one less item that can be swallowed by wildlife or leach harmful substances.
Therefore on November 11th, the Future for Nature Academy Nijmegen hosted a city park cleanup in Kronenburgerpark. Even within a small area of the city, we were able to removea total of almost six bags of trash and a whole lot of cigarette butts from our local environment! Unfortunately cigarette butts are the biggest source of ocean litter simply because they are cast aside so indiscriminately. They moreover are perfect bite-sized items commonly mistaken for food by animals, for instance like many of the birds in our parks.
During our cleanup, this became evident in our locality as many were found around park benches close to trash bins. Although we were hit with bad weather at the end of the event, we will be ready to get out there again when the weather is better, with a goal of raising more awareness to the harm of cigarette litter. See you then!
By Lauren Elliot
On October 27th we gathered at camping Ganspoort near the city centre of Utrecht for the second “scrum” (or brainstorm) in the life of FFN Academy. The meeting room at Ganspoort proved to be the best place for an unconstrained free flow of ideas about FFN Academy activities in 2019. The great thing about FFN Academy is that it is young and dynamic: students and young graduates join for shorter or longer times, network, get inspired, and inspire others. We welcomed new members, we learned from things that could have gone better in the past, and we jump into the future with the same enthusiasm.
Our internal structure-and-communication will be improved, making it easier for new people to find their way in how we operate, without compromising the simple and “flat” structure of our movement. This should be operational before 2018 comes to a close.
We listened, thought, talked and discussed past events, and figured out which ones could be replicated at other locations without putting too much pressure on the shoulders of the organisers. Logbooks likely enable us to see more citizen science projects (such as “Zooniversing”), pub quizzes, public lectures with general public involvement and other activities across several locations in the Netherlands. A location calendar will help too, whereas we remain opportunistic. After all, if an FFN award winner or other conservation hero is around, we will create a platform at short notice to meet & mingle. Never waste an opportunity to get infected with their passion!
Another highlight was Ruben’s presentation on his recent travels to South East Asia, where he visited several FFN award winners’ projects in the Philippines (Patricia Davis, C3), Indonesia (Rudi Putra, Forum Konservasi Leuser and Farwiza Farhan, HAkA) and Vietnam (Thai Van Nguyen, Save Vietnam’s Wildlife), concluding with a trip to Iran. Ruben took a year off from his studies, worked to fund for his travels, produced blogs and vlogs (see http://ffnacademy.org/future-for-nature-academy-report/) and spoke passionately about his experiences, originating from him actively taking part in the FFN Academy Day on 30 March 2017 (http://ffnacademy.org/events-overview/page/3/). How one event changed his life! His experiences rocked our emotions; we were touched by his talk and his concluding video. Ruben’s powerful performance gave rise to discussing how the conservation experiences by other FFN Academy members can also be spread across our networks. We will continue the “Report” section on our website, so stay tuned!
When we created the FFN Academy just over two years ago, we hoped it would inspire young people to focus on the conservation of nature, amidst the adverse conditions of society at large. And to make them feel empowered that they can make the difference. The hope has turned into an exclamation mark. This generation rocks!
By Rascha Nuijten and Ignas Heitkönig
After the stone-age and the bronze-age, some people call the twenty first century the ‘plastic age’. Plastic is a great product, it is cheap to produce and resistant. However, an enormous amount of single use plastic ends up in the environment and pollutes nature. In order to raise awareness for this problem and to offer an alternative, the Future For Nature Academy organized a plastic reduction workshop: Make your Own Linen Bread bags. Extra special because it was organized in the Seriously Sustainable week of Green Office, and together with Solidez in Wageningen.
The evening started with an introduction by Hugo Hoofwijk of the civil waste reduction initiative Wageningen Schoon (Wageningen Clean). He explained the challenges of plastic pollution, recycling and finding alternatives. It emphasized the importance to reduce the use of plastic! Filled with motivation, the twelve participants were ready to make a difference by sewing their own linen bread bag. For all participants it was the first time behind the sowing machine. It may require some measuring and trial and error but guided by Huib from Solidez, everyone managed to make their own unique bread bag. Everyone was rightfully proud of their end result and can now use it for their bread and to raise awareness on the plastic issue. The baker in Wageningen was enthusiastic and kind enough to give participants a discount when they use their new bread bag!
Do you want to make a bread bag yourself? Email us for the instructions! firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Pauline Buffing
Primatologist, ethologist and anthropologist Dr. Jane Goodall, famous for her pioneering research on chimpanzees, recently visited the Netherlands. The Hogeschool van Amsterdam was lucky to host her for a lecture on the 24th of May, and the Future For Nature Academy organized a livestream of this event in all six locations simultaneously: Amsterdam, Den Bosch, Nijmegen, Utrecht, Velp & Wageningen!
Dr. Jane Goodall first talked about her love for animals from a very early age and about her quest to understand the world around her. One point that she highlighted strongly was her mother’s role in becoming who she is. Dr. Goodall’s mother had a supporting role in her quest of discovery. For example, Jane told us a story how she was hiding in a hen house for hours to understand how hens lay eggs, but her mother would not get mad at the young Jane.
Nowadays, Jane’s work revolves around encouraging people with an interest in making the world a better place through the Jane Goodall Institute and the Roots & Shoots program. As part of the Roots & Shoots program, two Dutch schools presented their work during the lecture. First, two young boys from a local primary school presented about their bee project. They explained how they created a bee friendly environment around their school and how they raised awareness. Then, two high school students presented their class work with the seal rescue center in Pieterburen.
At the end of the presentation, the livestream viewers in all FFNAcademy locations had the opportunity to ask questions through a few lucky FFNAcademy members who were present at the lecture. Moreover, the FFNAcademy decided to present Jane with a special gift. People were invited to write personal messages, quotes, etc. to Dr. Goodall about how she inspired all of us, which were put together in a book and given to Jane on stage, by our own Roos and Maartje! It was an inspiring event and we are hoping to organize such kind of event in future again.
By Esli Han
On the stormy and rainy evening of Friday the 21st of September, a group of about 30 enthusiasts gathered at the Hoge Born in Wageningen for an inspiring evening about the outside life. Koen Arts and Gina Maffey shared their story about their year living outside in a Swedish tipi, or sometimes even without any cover against the elements apart from a tarp. Using photos, a video and live demonstrations the FFN Academy public was drawn into their way of life and inspired by their courage.
Despite thunder and pouring rain, Koen gave a demonstration of how to split wood and make fire (in the rain). In between the showers we roasted marshmallows and brainstormed about how to live more outside ourselves. Cause, truly, how much time do you spend outside? Exactly… it is something to work on. And that’s what Koen and Gina will do in their Nature Experience Foundation that they are setting up. FFN Academy will think along with them on how to strengthen the foundation. We keep in touch with this beautiful initiative. And don’t forget to go outside a bit more!
By Reineke van Tol
Utrecht students joined a citizen science initiative via the Zooniverse web portal in an afternoon dedicated to helping conservation projects around the world.
Volunteering from the comfort of your home is now possible with tools such as Zooniverse, the largest and most popular platform for citizen science, or people-powered research. The idea is simple. Researchers from all over the globe, collect data for their research projects. Sometimes, there is just too much to be analysed by a single person or research team. That is where citizens, like you and me, come in and help these projects, by classifying all sorts of data.
On thursday the 27th September, FFN Academy Utrecht joined efforts with the project “Cheetahs of Central Namibia” via the zooniverse.org portal to help classify thousands of camera trap images collected in the field. After one hour and a half of looking through the images of Namibia’s wilderness, we managed to classify ca 1483 pictures in total! In the end, each of the participants was able to select their favourite image, a memory of their conservation endeavours.
From dozens of antelopes, to a couple of cheetahs and leopards, and even one black rhinoceros in disguise, the zooniverse party was complete in the first ever citizen science effort hosted by FFN Academy. Hopefully there will be many more in the future!
by Monica Vidal
Organized to raise funds for the broken down 4×4 vehicle of Future For Nature winner Matt Shirley, the conservation pub quiz in Wageningen was a hit! Many people showed up to support the cause and have a fun evening filled with nature, beer and cake! After a short video fabricated by Matt Shirley himself to show where all the raised money would be contributed to, the quiz started with the nice presentation by Davy and Laura. There were 7 rounds to be played: natural history, animal trivia, a picture round, nature documentary/movies, nature in the news, animal sounds and the interactive round. During the first rounds brains were cracking, and especially the picture round was amazingly well scored on by all teams! In the final interactive round, after the beers had kicked in, we saw many beautiful mating dances performed by the representative(s) of each team. In the end, after all points had been added, the winners went home with each a Future For Nature Award book! The second place received some seeds from “ons zaden”, and third place got a box of chocolates. At the end of the evening, we counted all the money received as entrance fee, and from the (cake)donation box, which came down to the total amount of €359,15!! This beautiful sum of money will do good to crocodile conservation.
Thank you everyone for coming, and hope to see you next time!
By Andrea Mulder
On September 15th 2018, the first event from the Future For Nature Academy Nijmegen chapter was held in collaboration with Nijmegen Green Capital. Our hosts, Jannah and Eline, welcomed over 35 people at De Bastei, natural and cultural history museum on the River Waal. Sticking close to home, Caspar Hallman, a researcher at Radboud University, was invited to present his team’s recent findings regarding declining insect populations and its adverse effects on ecosystem functioning. Steep drops in insect populations have been documented worldwide, resulting in many terrestrial invertebrate species to land on the IUCN Red List as threatened with extinction. Invertebrates however are the least well-evaluated faunal group within the IUCN.
Caspar explained how German entomologists have dedicated over 30 years to their insect monitoring activities. Based on consistent biomass monitoring throughout protected nature areas in Germany, Caspar and his team solidified suspicions of steep drops in insect populations. A 76% seasonal decline (and up to 82% in midsummer) in flying insect biomass was documented over 27 years, exceeding original estimations and expectations. Findings furthermore indicated that whole insect communities are affected by this phenomenon, highlighting that such a loss certainly must compromise food web stability and ecosystem services. These findings however only raised further questions about the driver of the decline, and although inconclusive, Caspar’s research speculated likely causes, such as intensive agriculture and landscape homogenisation.
To end on a positive note, Caspar gave suggestions on how communities and individuals can help aid conservation efforts and contribute to saving the insects by for example, planting appropriate flora, decreasing maintenance and use of pesticides, or building insect hotels. A warm applause and question period followed, proceeded by part II of the afternoon event – building insect hotels!
Both kids and adult attendees were excited to start the construction, and even got to personalize their hotels to be home for specific insect species depending on the materials chosen. Over fifteen beautiful hotels were built and are now hung from balconies and fences or placed in garden corners around Nijmegen, turning our local community into a more insect-friendly space!
By Jacqueline Hoppenreijs and Lauren Elliot
Cleaning the entire Dutch coastline in only two weeks, that is the ambitious goal of the Boskalis Beach Cleanup Tour, a yearly event organised by Stichting de Noordzee. This summer, as much as 2,764 volunteers helped to reach this goal and a small team gathered by FFNAcademy was part of them! We spent an afternoon together out on the beach between Hoek van Holland and Monster in… let’s say not-bikini weather. Nevertheless, it was a good way of spending time outside serving a good cause by picking up every last bit of non-natural material that we could spot, resulting in a total of 440 kilos of garbage that we cleared off the beach forever.
By means of experiment, the organisers from Stichting de Noordzee had asked us to collect two kind of items separately: balloon remains and cigarette buds. The former received special attention during the whole clean-up tour to raise awareness about this specific type of pollution. As you may know, letting helium-filled balloons up into the sky is a popular tradition during all kinds of celebrations. Balloons, however, have the nasty habit of popping eventually and this often happens while they are drifting above sea. The result is of course extra plastic pollution, which negatively affects the marine environment and its wildlife.
The other items to be collected separately, were cigarette buds. Stichting de Noordzee wanted to count how many buds would be collected on just one day of cleaning the beach. What most people don’t know or don’t seem to realise is that the filters in cigarette buds are 95% plastic(!). Also, they are designed to take up heavy toxins and are easily mistaken for food by birds, fish and even marine mammals. Sadly, there were a lot out there… But the good news is that we managed to reduce the total number by 14,696 buds!
By Judith Algra