Youth for Our Planet | News

Human Nature Projects International

n conversation with Elliot Connor, CEO and Founder, Human Nature Projects International 
How old are you? 
I’m 16 years old- that funny age in which you’re no longer completely blocked out by duty of care bureaucracy, but still not quite an adult. Anyway, it helps to make me stand out a little from the crowd, and there’s plenty of youth-related opportunities out there if you know how to look for them.

When did you first start getting involved with conservation and the environment?
With these things, it’s very hard to pinpoint an exact time and place. My family being British, we’d always done some very amateur birdwatching and taken the occasional trip overseas to watch wildlife. But it was probably just before my sixteenth birthday when things really kicked into place: I took up a volunteering position with Birdlife Australia at a discovery centre they ran in a local park, working with lots of very old retired folks to chat to families and other visitors. It was admittedly a little dull, but it allowed me to start amassing contacts in the environmental sector, and the opportunities sort of sprang from there.
What does Human Nature Projects do?
Human Nature Projects is connecting people for the planet because together we can make a world of difference. We are reimagining conservation, creating a community vision for mutual respect and prosperity amongst all our Earth’s many lifeforms. We come from all walks of life, from every continent, speaking many different languages- yet we are joined by Earth’s universal tongue: the appreciation of mother nature, and an undying passion to protect it.
At last count, we have about 500 members coming from 70 countries across the globe, bringing to this movement their skills and experience in all manner of fields, their passion and connections, their vision for a future world. Together we work to promote a model of simple, holistic environmental volunteering whilst raising awareness of the conservation issues at hand and equipping the young generation with the skills to solve them.
Many people say that it is ‘human nature’ to destroy our planet out of greed, exploit other lifeforms to the point of extinction, and forget of their plight in our own short-sightedness. We say otherwise. Human Nature should be a force for good- a story of connection, collaboration and community which ends in a prosperous future for creatures great and small.
It is this very same philosophy which Human Nature Projects brings to all of its activities, our powerful network of nature-lovers growing organically through experiential learning and community leadership. Our mission is to restore humanity’s appreciation of Earth’s amazing biodiversity, reminding people that we needn’t be (indeed are not) the superior species on this planet.
Aren’t there enough environmental groups already? What is it that makes you so special?
First off, we’re an open group- everyone (and I mean everyone) can get involved, and play a useful role in helping grow the collective. Because it shouldn’t be hard to help our planet, and people need to feel they can change things, that they are important. I guess you could call HN more of a movement, and we certainly hope our numbers will reflect this in future.
Second, we’re a huge believer in collaboration- working alongside many organizational partners and existing networks to show our support far more than would be expected for a charity of our size. It really can’t be overstated the need to communicate and collaborate effectively with other NFPs in the field to grow audience and funding for mutual benefit and ensure efforts are not duplicated.
Last but not least there’s our philosophy. Trying to change the way people view animals is a task that most organizations shy away from, but it’s also the most important thing anyone can do. It takes a lot of thankless work with little or no funding, but in the end, it surely will be worth it.
How can one get involved in HNP?
First off, we’d get you to complete our volunteer sign-up on Google Forms. It’s quick and easy to fill out and will allow us to link you up to the national director in your country who will get in touch for a quick chat. After that, we’ll use the information you’ve provided to link you up with one or more of the volunteer working groups we have running, headed by members of the HNP executive committee. And that, as they say, is that.
So what’s in store for the future? Any big plans?
There’s plenty to look forward to. October will see the launch of our Conservation Connection network- HNP’s attempt to walk the talk and promote some solid inter-organizational discussion. Then in the new year, we’ll be launching the Credit2Nature day, a global awareness campaign to make people think about all nature has done for us and how little we have given in return. Working with 1% for the Planet among others, we hope to make this event an opportunity to raise fundraising levels for conservation as a whole, and in doing so establish a precedent which will help tremendously for the future.
How did you first find out about the topic you are passionate about/your work focus?
Well, the long answer is that I spent two hard years trying to break my way into the environmental field: giving heart, body and soul to volunteering for more organizations and projects than I could count, sending hundreds of emails to offer my help, and generally making a fool of myself. Yet after all that, I had met zero young people, made zero useful connections… and, well maybe I had a few memorable experiences. No-one could understand my work, let alone why I did it. So I came to a decision that this wasn’t good enough, that we needed to do more to support the likes of myself- those keen young students and youths wishing to make their mark in the world. And that was how Human Nature Projects began.
What is one thing you’d like older generations to know? 
I don’t think there’s anything that they don’t know already… it’s more about reminding them of certain things. Firstly, young people do care for our planet, and above all you must not give up on them. Secondly, that we need support: mentoring, community, resources, and most of all belief that our crazy ideas, our ambition has the power to change the world. And last of all, that we forgive them for what they have done to the Earth because they were unaware at the time. All that matters now is that they help to fix it.
Do you think youth should have more of a voice in environmental discussions?
Yes, absolutely. Environmental management is a very unusual field in that it cannot claim to have existed for more than the past fifty years but still lives in a sort of no-man’s land between the world then and the interconnected, rapidly evolving world of the present day. The wizened leaders of the movement continue to hold excessive power, handicapping the success of the whole by making it inaccessible, exclusive, bureaucratic, conservative and isolated from the general populace. We need a sort of people’s planet, everyone’s environment philosophy if the movement is going to grow, and it is the sort of ambitious thinking provided by youth which ultimately will bring this about.
It must be tough starting something so epic and large-scale as a minor. How do you make people believe in what you say?
You tell me! Sure I’ve experienced my fair share of setbacks and straight-off no’s, but taking a step back to look at the bigger picture it’s mind-blowing how supportive people can be. It takes only a little courage, some unbounded optimism, and a liberal dose of enthusiasm to begin turning heads. Then, of course, once things pick up it’s you and your army with enough manpower and voices to start a nice little avalanche.
Okay- how about a favourite quote? Or two, if you prefer.
“I think sometimes we need to take a step back and just remember we have no greater right to be here than any other animal.”
David Attenborough