Welcome to my blog…and how to cure Nature Deficit Disorder

First of all let me take the chance to thank you for clicking on this link to my new blog, “Wildlife Warrior”, with Sci@StAnd.11215730_453696394792152_6414500704238823858_n

My major hope is that this blog will help to inspire you to do your bit for our planet’s wildlife, as well as being interesting, fun and thought-provoking! Each week or so, I hope to deal with current topics in wildlife conservation, bringing them to your attention and hopefully leaving you better informed about what is going on in the world of conservation biology and what you can do to help. The blog’s name is inspired by conservationist Steve Irwin who sadly died from a stingray attack in 2006, after he coined the term ‘wildlife warrior’ with his wife Terri, to represent hard-working people from all walks of life who wanted to make a difference to the protection of our planet’s wildlife. This blog aims to carry on his great work in educating and enthusing people to advance wildlife conservation and promote environmental stewardship of our amazing planet.

Now to introduce myself. My name is Alec, I’m a 3rd year marine biologist studying here at St Andrews and ever since I was young I loved wildlife. In fact apart from walking with dinosaurs and being an astronaut, there isn’t much else I’ve ever wanted to do with my life.000_0169

However, I’m a rare case. I was lucky enough to be brought up in an outdoorsy family with great parents who loved getting out into nature and cared about the environment. Not many people are as lucky as me.

In fact, a shockingly high number of children these days (and adults too) have very little connection with the natural world. According to recent surveys by the TV channel Eden, 64% of kids today play outside less than once a week1. The RSPB claims 4 in 5 kids lack a connection to nature2 and the distance our kids stray from home on their own (their home range if you like) has shrunk by 90% since the 70s with 43% of adults suggesting that a child shouldn’t play outdoors unsupervised until the age of 141. I would argue these figures would be even worse when it comes to adults.

So undeniably we can see that there’s a cut-off, a divide, a chasm, an impassable barrier between people and nature that many have no idea of and yet are deprived of so much by it. In my opinion it strips children of a real childhood and adults of a fulfilling life.

We belong to Homo sapiens. This species of hominid is just another animal (albeit a clever, resourceful and extremely successful one) that lives on this little blue marble floating through space. Why is it that unlike any other animal, human children and adults have become so disconnected from the outside world? Let’s be honest, we could go into all sorts of problems with technology or the industrial revolution etc. that have contributed to this. However, there are still many people today that, in spite of all of today’s distractions, are connected to nature and do appreciate the natural world.



I’m not referring to jungle tribes here, I’m actually talking about quite urbanised people who spend part of their day, every day outside in the natural world. That could be anything from walking through a forest, along a beach, through a field or sitting on a park bench or by a pond just watching, just listening and seeing what happens. I’m not ashamed to say for part of my teenage years I did grow disconnected from nature. I spent less and less time outdoors and just seemed to forget about what was really out there. Just by listening and observing and really looking (and I mean really looking, not walking along thinking about work, girls or boys or both, dinner or that Facebook message you should really reply to) you can see so much more than you usually do.

I’ll regularly walk along to a small pond here in St Andrews and see herons flying by, a stoat running across the grass or a tortoiseshell butterfly flutter on by. I then look around me and see lots of other young people, just like me, but they’re not looking up or around. They don’t even notice this is going on all around them. They’re fixated on their mobiles or have Arctic Monkeys blaring from their headphones, putting up the barrier I was talking about earlier and isolating themselves from the natural world, even though they are in it! This is clearly what many conservation and environmental organisations like the RSPB and National Trust have been calling Nature Deficit Disorder or NDD.












If I was a doctor, the best medication I’d prescribe is sitting out in nature for at least 15 minutes per day every day for the foreseeable future. I don’t have my PhD yet but trust me on this it will do wonders not only for your appreciation and understanding of the natural world but also for your emotional and mental wellbeing. Sitting and watching even the most common birds or mammals like robins or squirrels can be very rewarding, watching the interactions with other birds or animals, listening to a robin’s beautiful song or admiring the agility of the squirrels as they skip merrily through the trees. The key thing is you are outside, in nature and you’ve knocked down the barrier that creates NDD.

Anyway, let’s hit the nail on the head here. It’s all very well me saying go outside, look at nature, we need to conserve the natural world, species are going extinct, help save this species, humans are destroying wildlife…yada yada yada… But what is the point? If you asked me why this matters, a few years ago I would have stuttered and been taken aback a bit – as if the answer was so obvious to me that it couldn’t and shouldn’t need explaining. “We must save wildlife because it’s wildlife, why on Earth wouldn’t you?!” I would probably have blurted out. Since then I’ve forced myself to put some key points together to justify why I want to dedicate my life to this kind of work and why you should care about it too. If you stay tuned for my next post I’ll be dealing with the key reasons why wildlife is worth fighting for and how these reasons mount a formidable argument for the protection of the natural world. In later posts I’ll deal with issues such as ocean acidification, plastic pollution in our seas, solutions to poaching and controversies such as whether conservationists should prioritise certain endangered species over others

Thanks for reading and get out into nature!

“No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced” – Sir David Attenborough

Wildlife photos – ©AlecChristieWildlifePhotography


1. www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/aug/16/childre-nature-outside-play-health

2. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/what-we-do/big-issues/nature-and-outdoors/natural-childhood/

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