Here’s the first in our series of guest blogs about the Wilder Future campaign by Jessica McMaster.
Jessica is one of Tomorrows Natural Leaders, a five-year project led by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust which is training young leaders, upskilling and empowering them to inspire their peers and communities to take action on local environmental projects and campaigns across Yorkshire.
Jessica lives in Sheffield and supported on our Wilder Future campaign by writing to her MP, Jared O’Mara. Here’s Jessica’s story on why it’s important to her, how it all happened, plus some helpful advice on how you can take action too.
Nature needs protecting
As far back as I can remember, wildlife has always played a strong, positive role in my life, from watching puffins on boat trips off the coast of Britain, to sitting silently parked in our car right in the middle of a city at night as a badger trotted by outside.
I grew up on our family walks in the countryside, and learnt so much about our precious natural world from exploring its wild places and creatures here in the UK.
Sadly, I can’t say that I’ve seen more than one wild hedgehog in my whole life, and I’ve never seen the once widespread golden eagle at all, and nor can many people in Britain anymore. British wildlife is in decline, and stronger environmental legislation is needed to restore and protect our beautiful green spaces and wildlife before they are gone forever.
This is why I decided to do my bit for the Wilder Future campaign. With Brexit drawing ever closer, Britain is facing its biggest shake-up of environmental laws ever. The Government was preparing to draw up a new Environment Bill for post-Brexit UK, and this was the perfect opportunity for me to share my concerns and demand a Wilder Future for Britain.
To make my voice heard, I knew I would have to write to my local MP and arrange a meeting if I could. I knew I would be nervous about speaking to a politician, but I was far more nervous about the future of our planet, so that won out in the end!
Writing a letter
The first thing I needed to do was to write a letter to my local MP for Sheffield Hallam, Jared O’Mara. I used the form on The Wildlife Trusts website as a template for my letter. I introduced myself and why nature matters to me, and explained the problem facing native UK wildlife. I wrote about the Environmental Bill, and the key ‘three asks’ of the Wilder Future campaign – all information I got from reading through the information on the campaign page. Finally, I asked to arrange a meeting to speak with him further about these issues. I sent the email and waited for a reply.
And heard back from him the next day! An appointment was booked for the next Friday – time to start preparing!
Preparing for a meeting
The meeting was only to last 10 minutes, so I knew I needed to be ready to speak about three things: 1) why nature is so important to protect for me, for his constituents in Sheffield, and for Britain, 2) what the three asks are for a stronger Environment Bill, and 3) what I needed my MP to do, which was to support the Environment Bill and write to the Government about improving environmental protection. So, I set myself an evening to prepare for the meeting and got started.
I knew I needed to appeal to my MP specifically to capture his interest, so I went on TheyWorkForYou.com to look up Jared O’Mara’s political interests and voting history. I found out that Jared had voted positively on many environmental issues, but cared most about supporting people with physical and mental conditions.
So, I worked this to my advantage: green spaces have been shown to reduce stress and have a positive effect on mental wellbeing. I also found out some handy facts about how air and water pollution have been shown to lead to many disorders such as asthma and heart disease. By showing him that his concerns aligned with mine, I could make the Environmental Bill important to him too.
I also used ConstituencyBoundaries.uk to find out the boundaries for Sheffield Hallam, so that I could refer to places in my MP’s constituency, and provide tangible examples of what a ‘natural corridor’ looks like across Sheffield, such as the network of residential parks which connect all the way to the Peak District.
Most of my preparation came from the info on the campaign website. Not only did this tell me all I needed to know about the campaign and the three asks, but it also provided me with shocking statistics about the decline of native species, such as that hedgehog populations have decreased by 97% since the 1950s.
Knowing that I have a terrible memory, however, I wrote all of my key facts, stats and asks down to bring to the meeting – after all, this isn’t an exam, so it’s not cheating!
During the meeting
The meeting itself was relaxed and actually enjoyable – I found my MP to be very down-to-earth and genuine. Jared O’Mara kicked off the conversation himself, enthusiastically talking about articles he’d read about our natural ecosystem being out of balance. After that, it was nothing to be stressed about at all; it was simply a chat about what matters to me most – wildlife and conservation.
He listened to what I had to say, responded well to my facts and statistics, even provided his own about Sheffield’s most polluted towns, agreed eagerly with the three asks, and promised to write to the Prime Minister about the Environment Bill.
After the meeting
A week after our meeting, I made sure to follow up with an email thanking him for meeting with me, and reminded him of the three asks and the importance of contacting Government. Since then, Jared O’Mara has sent me the Government’s response to his letter, agreeing with the need for stronger environmental legislation.
I got such a buzz from meeting my MP and watching democracy in action. With a little preparation and an enthusiasm for nature, it was surprisingly easy. After all, our MPs want to know what their constituents want, and it is more important now more than ever to have your voice heard for our wildlife and make a meaningful difference that will impact the UK for generations to come.
My top 5 tips for meeting your MP
- Make it local: your MP is responsible for their constituency, so provide relevant examples
- Make it count: prepare facts and evidence that back up what you have to say
- Make it relatable: find out what matters to your MP, and relate nature’s issues to that
- Make it matter: MP’s love real stories, so how does wildlife affect YOUR life?
- Make it memorable: bring a prop, a local map or a picture of your favourite natural spot to demonstrate your points, then take a photo of you and your MP and post it on social media!
Click here for more information about this issue and contact your MP using our online form and ask if you can meet them to talk about why this issue is so important to you. We can provide information and support to help you do this, so if you’d like any assistance with contacting you MP please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.