Welcome to our 2016 Advent Calendar series (#AFONAdvent)! This year, our theme is “The Gift of Inspiration”. For each day, one of our members has written a blog post about someone who has inspired them, and how that inspiration has lead to them being where they are today. Each member is a shining example of a young person who is acting Now for Nature. We hope that you enjoy the series and have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
When thinking about who has given me the wonderful gift of inspiration, I was instantly reminded of a tree. My name means oak in Irish, so this is no surprise! Being a thing of many parts, its beginnings are in the roots and my root, my anchor on this earth and the person who inspired in me, not only to see nature physically but to feel it emotionally and then to put those feelings down on paper is my mum, Róisín. The trunk, which is enabling me to rise, look upwards, embrace my voice, to speak up: is Chris Packham. I am but a sapling, but I am growing and because of these strong foundations, I hope I can grow into a strong and perhaps mighty oak tree.
Everyone always assumes, that because I am wildly enthusiastic about nature, it’s because my dad is a conservation scientist, this may be true but this means that my mum becomes sort of invisible and this should not be! Although knowing what you are looking at and knowing how it fits ecologically is important, the emotional landscape of nature is what brings it alive, it’s what inspires us. Not only that, my mum gave me the words to make the landscape vivid and extraordinary. It’s not just beautiful, it’s mesmerising and light-dappled. It’s not just stunning, but look at where the light falls, the slanted shadows and the delicate change of colour. My mum gave me a palette of words and emotions that I could then use to write my blog. Without her, I would not have had the courage to do more than just record wildlife and remember facts (important too!). My blog is making my voice stronger every day and although it might seem unique to some, it is rooted from her. My love, passion and deep connection with nature and my self-expression comes from my mum, who challenges me every day to see the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Róisín McAnulty with Dara, his brother Lorcan and his sister Bláthnaid
When your voice becomes stronger, you realise you can use it for good, to fight for what you believe in and become a force for change. Chris Packham for me, is the epitome for this and not only that; as a young person with Asperger’s, knowing that Chris can overcome his obstacles to become a great presenter, naturalist and communicator, inspires me to believe that perhaps I could do the same.
Chris Packham is fearless and passionate in his love for wildlife and the protection of it, because of him, I became involved in the Hen Harrier campaign. I wrote a blog about the plight of the hen harrier and became another young voice (the only one it seems, in Northern Ireland) impassioned about campaigning not just the plight of this one bird, but all wildlife and important habitats. I had never felt so empowered, so humbled and so surprised, that I could actually make a difference. This empowerment has given me the hope that I can realise my dreams of communicating my love of nature to others. So, I made my first video and entered it into the Cairngorms Nature competition – if you had told me four months ago that this would happen, I would have thought it was possible to live on Mars!!
Through my words and my voice, my mum, Róisín and Chris Packham have given me a path to journey through. I am only starting this journey at 12 years old, but I realise how lucky I am to be travelling it and it just would not have been possible without their influence and inspiration. To both of you, heartfelt thanks.
Dara at Hen Harrier Day 2016