As the name of the society suggests, the main aim as a society is to create a community of like-minded people who share a similar interest in environmental conservation. We set weekly volunteering tasks in nature reserves and gardens around Durham. The tasks range from tree planting, managing paths in nature reserves, conservation of a historical garden and more recently, conservation of food waste.
A lot of people join the society hoping to improve the environment of Durham but the reality is, there’s not much change that can be seen around. A lot of the times, tasks aren’t even necessarily conservation – like the time we burned some wood that we cut down, or spent 4 hours trying to pull a stump out. However, what you will soon realize is that just giving up a morning to volunteer makes you and those around you smile, and that’s what is so special about the society. The organizations we work with are always happy to have us, providing us with yummy snacks, hot chocolate and hosting bonfire nights (with mulled wine and jacket potatoes of course). It creates a sense of community and belonging, which makes members want to come back to tasks again.
Tasks may be as simple as moving branches from one place to another or raking grass for a few hours in the morning but the community of people created through that simple action. in my opinion, is priceless – which is what makes members want to attend more tasks despite the piling up of summatives in Epiphany term. In a way it’s therapeutic, using a scythe at full force, pruning bushes and tidying up the environment around us while listening to people sing, talk about their week or complain about how much work they have to do.
When studying in Durham, it’s so easy to be contained inside a small bubble – college, lectures, city center. It gets repetitive and mundane with a lack of connection to nature. Sure, there are more trees and open spaces than London or any other city, but there are so many times when I spend my week contained inside a radius of a few hundred meters. Conservation Society is what gets you out of the bubble, to be in touch with nature even if it is just a few hours during the weekend. It is a great way to discover the hidden nature in Durham.
Living in a developed country such as the UK, it is difficult to experience first-hand the changing climate, but we are the ones contributing most to environmental degradation, and therefore, even if the impact conservation society makes is not visible, it is now more important than ever to be conscious of our environment, and to connect with those who think the same with the same passion. We’re not advocating for action, but we hope to, as a society, inspire other students in the university to be more involved in taking action, being conscious of the environment and reconnect with nature.