Sustainability in a Anthropogenic World


2014 was the warmest year around the globe ever recorded and 2019 was the warmest year in Europe. 2020 has seen Australia fighting one of its worst bushfire seasons known to exist in the country, fuelled by record-breaking temperatures and months of severe drought.

Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent.

Welcome to the Anthropocene!

It is somewhat difficult to ignore these figures and statistics that have been consistently shared through the media, during climate change conferences and through environmental documentaries.

But we humans can be easily distracted by life.

We all have to work, we all have to study, we have families to look after. We all have to focus on what we will eat and drink, what we shall wear, or perhaps where we will live. There is much to contemplate about and this often leaves the health of our planet and thinking about sustainability in the drawer of our unwanted things.

“My time at university has changed this for me though. I’ve been tuning in with the media, teaching myself about the facts, and even currently enrolling on a climate change module.”

I’m a final year BSc Animal Biologist, so beyond the media and the textbooks I’m also really lucky to have seen the world first-hand, and being correctly informed so we can spread the issues that our planet is facing to wider audiences is for me of utmost importance.

So, come with me on a virtual tour – from Borneo to South Africa, Scotland and Sweden. Here’s what I’ve learned, and why we all need to act.

Borneo

On a once in a lifetime residential fieldwork opportunity with the School of Natural Sciences in 2019, the Global Sustainable Development Goal ‘Life of Land’ became very real to me – the threats from deforestation, wildlife hunting and mining along with need for land conservation were everywhere.

Seeing a Critically Endangered Northeast Bornean Orangutan mother and her baby particularly put those environmental variables into perspective!

Walking the forests of Borneo’s Danum Valley

South Africa

Later in 2019 I travelled to four different game reserves in South Africa to collect my dissertation data. Here I learnt (that even for Animal Biologists) there are much bigger issues than working directly with endangered species alone. Conservation issues are linked to education, inequalities of power, poverty and a dependence on subsistence agriculture for example.

Working towards lion conservation in South Africa with Wildlife ACT

Scotland

Heading over to the Alladale Wilderness Reserve in Scotland in November 2019 was probably one of my most favourite experiences, as it made me realise that you do not have to only fly out to the Americas, Africa, Asia or Australia to do effective and rewarding conservation work.

Most areas in Scotland has been heavily impacted by deer herbivory, overgrazing, and other combining factors (destructive management through burning and clearing) and overgrazing which limits the chances of original native forests returning.

I have been working closely with The European Nature Trust since 2016, whose primary role is to connect people to nature, and a key project at Alladale which stood out for me was their 2020 Legacy/Alumni Tree Planting Initiative which includes both Native woodland enrichment planting and Alpine planting.

Connecting people with nature makes them more likely to look after it responsibly

Exploring the conservation, restoration and rewilding work at Alladale Wilderness Reserve

Sweden

This one wasn’t a conservation trip.

A weekend city break to Sweden with my girlfriend in December 2019 helped me see why Sweden isn’t called the ‘Most Sustainable Country in the World’ for nothing!

Around 95% of all shops, cafes and restaurants in Sweden no longer took paper cash and it was encouraging to see that ever street corner, bus stop and underground train service had electric scooters parked outside, most vehicles were either hybrid or fully electric and the entire underground train system has been running on green electricity since 2017!

Quite an inspiration!

So in conclusion……

This blog wasn’t really about my travels, but rather about how different countries and contexts have shown me the links between people and the planet – challenging and inspiring me to think and act differently.

I’ve begun to realise how much work needs to be done for the sustainability of our planet.

We need to observe and listen to what is happening around the world. Take it all in, look at the issues deeply, get well informed, do meaningful research, collaborate with likeminded individuals that want to make our planet sustainable – then take effective action!

In January 2020, I launched the Hats4Nature© Project, where I create and sell eco hats with my Ways of the Natural World brand on it, and donate 10% of all hat sales to The European Nature Trust and Alladale Wilderness Reserve Project towards their ongoing conservation, rewilding and restoration work efforts in the UK and Europe.

You can do anything and start anywhere though. Take a look at the Global Goals and practical things you can do to  help the world achieve each of the goal targets.

Tolga Aktas | Biologist, Writer & Environmental Photojournalist

>Final year Animal Biology student<

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