My summer journey of discovery, touring our wonderful portfolio of Estates has helped me gain a better understanding of a wider range of different perspectives and opinions. I recognise that I’m privileged to spend a huge amount of time in an environmentally focused bubble and have a reminder in my to-do-list every Sunday to find a wider range of experiences and opinions.
Several key themes have presented themselves during the hundreds of conversations I’ve had. One that has caused much reflection has been the role of education in the fight against climate change and biodiversity loss, and by extension, the role of education in our work as we seek to Scale Conservation.
The Importance of Education
Without a doubt, every single person I’ve spoken to whether from the highlands of Scotland, the lowland of Norfolk, or the rainforests of Devon, has recognised that there is still so much more to do to educate people about the causes, risks, and realities of climate change.
Over the last two years of the Oxygen Conservation Project, we’ve seen recognition of the issues increasing at a rate much faster than at any other time in history. At the same time, the volume and venom from those that are opposed to a change in their way of life has also increased dramatically – is this the result of a lack of environmental education? Maybe?
The Next Generation
I think education in the broadest sense has done an excellent job of teaching young people about climate change. In that envelope, I include the traditional views of education with people sitting in classrooms or lecture halls reading from books or listening to learned professors. But I also include activists and campaigners, on social media and increasingly on traditional visual and print media; I don’t think my generation or my parents’ recognises that, for large numbers of young teenagers, Greta Thunberg is their rock star!
That’s not to say I don’t think several aspects of the traditional education systems could not be enhanced. I think more time could be spent teaching young people how to learn (and build successful learning habits continuously through their lives), to communicate better on a personal level, and to follow their passions, to critically examine the world around them and engage in exploratory debate and civilised argument. I think it’s important to stress that this paragraph was significantly improved following feedback from one of the country’s leading teachers – highlighting the value in leaving formal education to those that do it best!
Overall, however, I think teachers do an incredibly difficult job wonderfully well, so thank you.
Lack of Education or Wilful Ignorance?
I can only conclude that where I think education is lacking is with the government, the decision makers, the businesses, and the vast majority of people living in wilful ignorance. And if this isn’t a lack of education then we can only conclude its something far more sinister, but let’s not do that now.
The horror stories, the fear, and showing anger to those aggressively exploiting and polluting the planet isn’t working anymore. We need to engage with, listen to, and persuade those who are the hardest to reach. It’s however not all doom and gloom as I think there is much we can offer from an education perspective in this exact way!
Education by Elevation
We are committed to elevating and professionalising the environmental sector, creating a business and by extension, an industry that is both aspirational and inspirational. In this way we hope to tap into a range of emotions that are much nicer to feel, more powerful in their ability to motivate change and long lasting – hope, excitement and pride!
Education by Inspiration
Our mission is to Scale Conservation, delivering positive environmental and social impact, and to generate a profit as a result of what we do, not the purpose. In this way, we will build natural capital to become the world’s biggest alternative asset class, and mobilise the capital investment needed to combat the biggest problem our planet has ever faced. Who doesn’t want to be part of that mission?! We’re incredibly fortunate to find more and more people that want to help; including an increasing number from my generation not just amazingly talented young people.
Money talks, and when we become the world’s first conversation-focused unicorn company we will open the hearts and minds of politicians, decision makers, financiers, and perhaps most importantly, the many millions of individual investors (including my parents’ generation). These investors just like you and I will have the option to put their pension contributions towards growing a sustainable income for their future whilst simultaneously delivering a positive impact and giving us all a chance of having a future at all!
Education by Culture
We are also seeking to elevate the entire environmental sector by creating a genuine high-performance culture based on environment, impact, and adventure. A culture that is achieving in attracting, developing, and in the future, launching the most talented future leaders across the industry. In the short history of Oxygen Conservation we’re delighted to have helped launch and support a number of new environmental businesses and hope to be the inspiration or catalyst for so many more. If we can help you with your next start up idea don’t be afraid to connect and drop me a line.
Education by Opportunity
One of the ways we’re helping create the environmental leaders of now and the future is by developing a wonderful annual paid internship programme, which will soon start its third year. In the future also plan to hold annual development camps for passionate environmentalists to learn from our experiences, achievements, mistakes, and adventures. We have already seen two interns successfully secure full-time permanent positions as part of the central Oxygen Conservation team and hope to see that pattern repeated in the years to come. It’s important to remember these incredible people have secured roles because they’re better than us in a meaningful way, we don’t sacrifice our performance bar for anyone or anything.
We are hugely fortunate to have far too many incredible candidates for the limited number of roles we can offer. We would therefore love to explore partnerships with other environmental organisations where there are vacant positions– if you’re reading this and that’s you please let us know!
Education by Opportunity
Our work has and will continue to present us with an incredible array of impossible problems, social / political contradictions, environmental compromises and operational challenges. Some of the most interesting of these challenges have included working to demonstrate that it is possible to create debt financing facilities back by natural capital, acquiring sites with blue carbon potential ahead of the development of an independent blue carbon code, findings ways to use legal instruments to stop the burning of precious moorland, establishing agroforestry as part of an regenerative farming system and building a recruitment campaign inviting the misfits, the rebels and the crazy ones to be part of the Oxygen Conservation adventure.
Education by Collaboration
As we rose to meet each of these opportunities, we invited the smartest minds we could find, including those that understood the problem best and sought to collaborate to find a deliverable solution. This commitment to collaborative experiential learning and sharing is as fundamental to our culture as wild swimming and sharing food, it’s just who we are as people and it’s not going to change.
Education by Transparency
In everything we do, we’re committed to transparency, accessibility, learning, and sharing as much as possible. This doesn’t mean we will give away proprietary information or commercially sensitive materials, but we strive to be as open as possible about everything else.
To achieve this level of transparency we’ve invested in elevating the standard of visual media in the environment space, through world-class photography and videography. This is showcased on an elegant, and easy-to-use website (all feedback welcome), updated regularly and featuring honest, accessible, and timely content. We’ve also provided a reference library and recommended books to help people that want to learn more about the environment, conservation, natural capital and high performance culture.
Education by Visibility
In addition to video and audio materials, this year alone we’ve published around 30 articles capturing our experiences, we’ve been shorted listed for awards, covered in print and online media and appeared on podcast; and in the coming months will launch our own OC Podcast, the “Shoot Room Sessions”. This will be filmed at our very own Shoot Room at the Mornacott Estate, giving the heart of a former pheasant shoot new life as our centre for shooting quality visual content. We’re oversubscribed for interviews and podcast appearances but please do contact us if you’d like us to add you to the forward look. We have also recently launched the OC Newsletter, which you can sign up for here and which so far has been wonderfully well-received.
Education by Accessibility
It is our intention that this content inspires people to become more engaged with the natural world, to want to find out more and do what they can to help Scale Conservation.
We also believe that people need to experience the environment if they are to love it, respect it and want to protect it. We’re therefore committed to find the right balance between protection and accessibility. At an individual Estate level, we have an increased range of ecotourism opportunities alongside our portfolio of long-term local residential lets. These can be booked following this link allowing people to visit and experience Oxygen Conservation in action. Over the coming months and years, we will add more Oxygen Conservation Escapes to our website and hope to see as many people as environmentally appropriate visiting.
Education by Experience
We are driven by creating high quality, luxury ecotourism offerings, which is very much a work in progress as we always seek to better our experience. By targeting individuals, families and large groups we hope to attract those hard to reach people, ideally those that arrive because of the exclusive experience and wanting to learning more and become more involved in conservation. That feels like education.
Educating the Harder to Reach
Whilst we’re absolutely committed to creating aspirational and inspirational roles for future generations, our education efforts today are more focused on my generation and my parents’ generation, the harder to reach, the harder to persuade and the generation incentivised to choose wilful ignorance over climate action.
When we first started Oxygen Conservation, we knew education would play an important part in our work but naïvely I thought it would be about educating the next generation. The reality is that the next generation is already far more engaged, informed, and motivated than mine and it’s them that are educating us.