There are runner beans at the bottom of my garden. My two children love to pick them, pot them and cook them up for supper. It’s a guaranteed way to get them to eat their greens: make them fetch them fresh from the garden.
When I started making my new film Project Wild Thing, I doubt my young son and daughter had even heard of runner beans. Now, they love getting out into the garden. Just at the moment they can’t get enough of learning about how things grow.
It’s a far cry from two years ago when, coming downstairs one morning, I discovered a pair of zombies in the sitting room. They had got up early and turned on the TV. Their eyes were glassy and their faces were blank.
It was time for a change, I thought.
My children’s lives were consumed by stuff - television programmes, games on the computer, plastic toys… They spent all their time being sold things by brands and they didn’t do much of what I enjoyed most as a child: just getting outdoors and messing about. My children’s existence was focused on indoor things; they had retreated from the wild.
And they are not alone. Across the UK children are spending less and less time outdoors. As a consequence, they are becoming more disconnected from nature. It’s affecting their health, their wellbeing, and their attitude to the natural world.
In Project Wild Thing, I wanted to reclaim nature for British children; to reconnect them with the natural world around them. Taking the view that children are sold everything under the sun, I appointed myself Marketing Director for Nature and sold them the sun itself. I launched a massive marketing campaign to sell children the ultimate adventure, the best thing they could want: nature.
Along the way, I talked to all sorts of people: children from across the UK, conservationists, play experts and marketing gurus. The more people I talked to, the stronger my conviction became that children in Britain want nature. In fact they need nature. But there are so many other pressures bringing themselves to bear on children’s lives, that they don’t always get nature. As conservationist Chris Packham told me when I interviewed him for the film, "it’s not the children who don’t want to put their hands in the mud…it’s the adults who have said no."
Making the film made me realise that we all need to become Marketing Directors for Nature and do all we can to reconnect our children with their environment. If we fail, the future for our children and for nature looks bleak.
The film isn’t the end of this mission to get children back to nature. Released today (Friday October 25th 2013), Project Wild Thing is launching a wider campaign to get children in the UK back into the outdoors. It’s supported by 'The Wild Network' - a movement of over 300 organisations including the National Trust, RSPB and Play England.
To find out more about Project Wild Thing visit www.projectwildthing.com
You can join the movement, too. Please sign up here www.projectwildthing.com.
Project Wild Thing will be released in cinemas nationwide from Friday 25th October, with special event screenings all over the country. You can find a screening near you and buy tickets at https://projectwildthing.com/film.
To find out more about 'The Wild Network' visit http://projectwildthing.com/thewildnetwork
We also have a kids page in Permaculture magazine, which is written and edited by the kids themselves!
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