The lessons for the conservation movement held within Common Cause for Nature are deep and many. But I would argue the most important is the simplest of all, and comes before you get beyond the cover. It is the title – Common Cause for Nature. This is a call to arms to all of us who work in this space not just to work and campaign separately on our own specific ‘bits’, but far more importantly, to get beyond those bits and work together to create a proactive, persuasive, powerful whole.
This requires a substantial shift in thought and behaviour. Too many of us currently look at each other as competitors, watching carefully to see who is outgunning us for share of the ‘days out in nature’ or the ‘caring for the planet’ market, identifying unique positions relative to one another and staking out our territory. Yet while we rearrange these deckchairs, the world changes around us, with people spending more and more time on screens and in cities, and less and less time in nature. While we scrap over where the boundaries lie of our slices of the nature pie, the other organisations and sectors – TV, online games, and so on – that are our real competition for people’s time and affection are munching away at the other side of that pie, making it smaller all the time.
This is a point that was most powerfully made at last year’s Natural Childhood conference by film-maker David Bond. We invited David, whose film Project Wild Thing is due for nationwide cinema release in October and has already been shortlisted for an audience award at the prestigious Sheffield Documentary Festival, to address a diverse group of nature organisations. He chose to do so in his adopted role for the film, as (tongue-in-cheek) Marketing Director for Nature, calling upon all those gathered to see ourselves as part of his team. And his killer chart was a sales curve for nature. Plotting time spent outdoors and in nature against time spent indoors and on screens, David showed us that we are losing. Badly.
I think of Common Cause for Nature as the brains behind the charm and humour of Project Wild Thing and the Wild Network of organisations including the RSPB, National Trust, the NHS, but also Hackney City Farm and over 100 others that is now coming together around the film, intent on acting as one to ensure that every child has the opportunity to develop a connection with nature. This report shows that by doing so we will not each undermine our individual business models, sacrificing share to one another; rather, we will grow the size of that market, at the expense of pursuits that disconnect and undermine wellbeing, for the benefit of all.
I would encourage everyone and anyone to read it. Then get stuck in.