We’re all trying to do our bit for the environment, right? Saying no to straws and recycling plastic bottles is all good and well, but is it really possible to make a difference and save the planet? Connect With Nature is hoping to prove this is possible, thanks to a combination of modern technology and the great outdoors.
The new initiative is the brainchild of the Emirates Nature-WWF in collaboration with the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and the International Fund for Houbara Conservation. Its mission is to inspire and encourage youth in the UAE to explore the country’s natural heritage sites and to get them to promote environmental conservation and sustainable living.
The program is aimed at those aged between 15 to 30, a generation the organizers describe as the region’s “change makers.” The idea is they get inspired by Connect With Nature and pass on their newfound knowledge and passion for sustainability to their families and peers.
To make this initiative more engaging and interactive, Connect With Nature has formed partnerships with some high-profile companies and organisations to create memorable experiences for the younger generation across the UAE. Previous sessions have included desert survival skills with adventure experts Adventurati Outdoor, snorkelling to a coral garden near Saadiyat Island with Al Mahara Diving Centre, turtle patrols and nurdle hunts across beaches, plus al-fresco yoga sessions in Umm Al Emarat Park.
Understanding the thirst for technology in the region, the program also focuses on digital engagement: there is a website, games and challenges, plus a phone and tablet app that allows users to track and record their sustainability actions and initiatives. What’s more, Connect With Nature is all about development and growth. Online badges are awarded when eco-conscious actions and activities have been completed and once these eco-warriors have acquired a certain number of badges, they can register for the initiative’s leadership program.
These badges fall under the following categories:
Location, in which users have to complete a series of challenge within a specific area;
Activity, which could involve reading five articles from the website’s knowledge hub, sharing content on social media or having content they create featured on the website homepage;
Prestige, which involves completing environment-focused activities, which are rated on how much of a positive impact they had.
“Nature is incredible, and it deserves respect and protecting,” says Arabella Willing, outreach and research manager at Connect With Nature. “We are so excited about this program, as it will immerse the younger generation in the environment around them through a multitude of ways, from ‘rewilding’, where they can get out and explore the country, to [coming up with] inspiring, thought provoking ideas that will help to define sustainability for years to come.”
Connect With Nature’s mantra is formed around three pillars designed to promote positive behavioural change towards the environment:
- Explore: understanding the natural world through experiences, both on and off-line, across 30 locations including Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Saadiyat Marine National Park and Al Qudra Lake.
- Empower: increasing knowledge of the environment through advanced learning opportunities.
- Engage: where informed, confident young people are provided with opportunities to inspire action and become future leaders of change.
Once a member becomes a leader, they can launch their own initiatives and recruit even more eco warriors. Connect With Nature’s goal is considerable: to have influenced the lives of 500,000 young adults in the UAE through conservation messaging by 2022.
- Go to Connectwithnature.ae to register and access information about activities, events and challenges are taking place across the region.
Featured image courtesy Connect With Nature.
Asha Sherwood owns Abu Dhabi Review, an online and social platform that gives you the scoop on everything happening in the capital.