Being kind to the planet pays off, especially for these three people, who speak to Positive News about their work in working with nature.
Working to protect the environment is rewarding, despite its challenges. Positive News meets three women whose careers are about being kind to nature.
Rivers and Communities Officer Brent at Thames 21, a charity working in London to improve rivers for people and wildlife
“I grew up by the sea in Brazil, so I always felt a connection with nature, I was always on the beach, looking at animals there. Once I started studying environmental science in college, I just fell in love with it and did my masters in freshwater environments.
There is no such thing as an average day or week for me. Some of my work is very practical, like installing large pieces of wood in the river to restore habitats for fish and other wildlife there, which also helps filter the water and reduces the risk of flooding. I monitor water quality and biodiversity, and now I also seek to work with local artists and storytellers.
News: sometimes you can see Carolina Pinto wading a river
Community involvement is a key part of my job: we teach local people how to care for their waterways, to increase their sense of ownership and belonging. The benefits are enormous. I have taken teenagers who had never seen a river before on a tour; They are amazed by the sound of the water, the birds and the fish. I also worked with a charity to help people with mental health problems experience the river, and it is gratifying to see the powerful effect that nature has on their well-being.
See the wildlife return thanks to our restoration work it is exciting. I was so surprised to see a large eel recently in a section of the river that has suffered from contamination; I could barely hold my phone steady enough to take a photo.
It has been a challenge trying to get local people involved in volunteering in one of London’s poorest boroughs, where residents face many pressing problems. But since the pandemic, there has been more interest; I wonder if people want to get out more to do something for their environment. The message I want to convey to you is: this is your river, for you to enjoy it.
Volunteer for a local conservation charity if you can; Find out if there is a river restoration project near you. And wear a reusable, non-disposable cloth mask! “
RSPB Property Manager Hope Farm, Cambridgeshire
“I have always been interested in animals and conservation. I grew up on a farm, then studied biology at university and did a masters degree in zoology. I became increasingly interested in conservation and agriculture, and how the two can come together, as well as the obvious fact that they don’t always come together well, and that aggressive farming has a negative impact on wildlife.
Georgie Bray manages Hope Farm, which leads the way in wildlife-friendly farming
The RSPB bought Hope Farm in 2000 to research gentler farming methods and show that nature-friendly farming can pay off. There has been a huge improvement in wildlife since then, with a more than 400 percent increase in the number of butterflies. The farm now grows peas, beans, winter wheat and spring barley, as well as millet, which is processed and sold as bird food.
I’ve managed the farm since 2016, doing everything from research to making sure the bird seed mixes and wildflower margins are in good condition and providing wildlife with what they need.
Someone once said that we must stop treating soil as dirt, and that is true. We need to treat it kindly, like the living thing that it is, and healthier soil is more resistant to the extreme weather that comes with climate change. It is not the minerals, the dead matter, in the soil that helps you grow, but the organic matter: bacteria, fungi, worms, insects that move up the food chain.
There has been a great improvement in wildlife, with a more than 400 percent increase in the number of butterflies
And if you have all that biology alive, that’s a [bottom layer] food source for wildlife too. Whereas if you drive a big plow through an ecosystem, it will crush it and the things that live in it will not be happy. Instead, we grow crops with root systems that keep air pockets in the soil, to prevent it from becoming too compacted, rather than growing it every year. It sounds like a fairy tale to say that if you take care of wildlife, they will take care of you, but there is actually a lot of science behind it.
How to be kind to the environment? Shop for local wildlife-friendly produce. Farmland covers three-quarters of the UK, so the more you can support sustainable farming, the better. Take an interest in nature, download a bird app, take binoculars on your walks – the more you appreciate your surroundings, the more you want to preserve it. “
Farmer in Plaw Hatch Farm, Sussex
“Growing up, I always wanted to be a farmer. When I was little, I would read Dick King-Smith’s books about a girl named Sophie who wanted to be a ‘farmer’, and we often visited family friends in Wales who kept sheep. I would help them bottle feed the lambs.
Gala Bailey-Barker has been with her herd for eight years, forming close bonds with the animals.
Now I take care of sheep and chickens. Biodynamic agriculture is about trying to create a closed system, where a whole cycle is happening. Our goal is to depend only on our own animals to fertilize the soil instead of buying compost, and to use as much of our own crops as possible to feed the animals.
Spring delivery is incredibly hard work. I get up at 5 in the morning and I can be out until very late, but I love it. Seeing all that new life come into the world is just amazing – we get about 100 new lambs in two weeks. Pregnant ewes have a strong maternal instinct just before they are about to give birth; sometimes you have to prevent the stealing of other sheep’s lambs.
I get up at 5 in the morning and I can be out until very late, but I love it. Seeing all that new life come into the world is just amazing
When sheep give birth, I watch closely to see if I need to intervene. Lambs are very playful: they jump and have lamb runs. Their mothers yell at them at night to calm down, because they can’t grab them like human fathers do. I bottle-feed lambs that have been rejected by their mothers, and those usually remember you forever, even though they go through a phase of adolescence where they are a bit more distant.
Buy organic food – or biodynamic food, if you can get it – is a way of being kinder to our environment. Visit a local farm if you can and buy their produce. And avoid fast fashion, it is very harmful to the planet. “
Main image: Carolina Pinto in the photo working in the field