Protecting bees isn’t a trend but proof that nature is for everyone.

Sophie Sleeman, 17, from Dorset is an activist with the UK Youth Climate Change Network. She says it’s time to get off the sofa and let the wild back into our lives.

Bees. At every climate strike so far, these humble creatures have been waved in the hands of teenagers – on signs, on clothes, in words and on faces. In a world where nature recedes from our visions every day, the bee has stayed with us.

What the resurgence in attention for such a small creature tells us is this: We are longing, yearning, aching to be reunited with the living, breathing, buzzing evidence of the earth.

But we’re stuck in a story that for years has been accepted as truth. This story labels us ‘human’ and everything else ‘nature’. We’ve divided our landscape into pieces, regimented it into safely controllable chunks, and split the wild from ever reaching us. We live in a society of separation, one where ‘nature’ remains a monoculture, a faraway fantasy available only for the special few.

There are many environmental problems plaguing this country but one of the deepest sown is this: people are removed from nature.

Sophie Sleeman. Image first published on bigissue.com.

In Britain, we relegate ‘nature’ to the national parks and lost places miles from city dwellers. Cities, which are increasingly planned to shift nature into big parks and squeeze it out of smaller areas to make room for roads and real estate. Real estate, which prioritises neatness over wildness, infecting the country with a pandemic of perfect lawns and the pressure to uphold them.

In Britain, to blame the collapse of the natural world on individuals alone is unfair. We live in a system designed to keep us detached. Our schools weigh children down with the burden of exams, barring them from exploring the woods, wetlands, and lessons of the earth.

But we – the children – have broken out of this mould of apathy. We’re rediscovering the wild, the deeper natures which sit inside of us. Voices we didn’t know existed bond us together, one striker to another. These voices have arisen from absence – from childhoods spent watching the living world begin to die.

If the youth strikes provide hope that the natural world is seeing a revival, then what we must do is break down the boundary between us and ‘nature. We must let the wild in. Let the grasses by the side of the road erupt into bracken and wood. Let our city parks swarm in seas of wildflowers. Let the tiniest bees find sanctuaries in uncut lawns.

Recent research has proved how effective nature-based solutions will be in achieving carbon negativity, and while this seems like a faraway goal beyond even our hopes for neutral emissions, the principle remains. We must let the natural world heal us, and like our NHS, its healthcare should be available for all.

The bee has begun such a resurgence. It is universally loved – not a private fantasy available only for mountain men and those blessed with life in the woods. What the bee teaches us is that what should be for everyone is nature.

Sophie is writing about conservation at onthinkingatfifteen.wordpress.com

The above article by Sophie Sleeman first published on bigissue.com in Apr, 2019.