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How to become an environmental activist

Updated: Jun 15, 2020

How do we stop plastic pollution? What can we do to raise awareness of important issues? And how can perseverance save the planet? These are just a few of the questions our Inspiring Guests, Dr. Jane Goodall and Cal Major, answered this week on AimHi.

Thousands of you tuned in to meet and interact with the two incredible conservationists, who shared their personal stories and top tips on being environmental activists. Our founder, and fellow environmental activist Matthew Shribman, hosted the lives and got us all laughing when Jane asked him to imitate monkey expressions.

Dr. Jane Goodall asks Matthew to imitate a scared monkey

Learn to persevere

Both of our Inspiring Guests have worked determinedly to raise awareness of environmental destruction and protect the planet.

Perseverance enabled Jane to build a career in conservation. From a young age, she wanted to study wild animals in Africa. Unfortunately however, the cost of university was too great, so she took a secretarial course and got a job in London. Everything changed when a school friend invited her to Kenya.

Jane saved money to travel there by boat. On arrival she was told about a famous Paleontologist, Dr. Louis Leakey, who worked in the natural history museum. After boldly going to meet him and impressing him with her immense knowledge, she received an offer to be his new secretary. With a bit of luck, Jane’s determination got her a job that changed her life forever! And that drive continued to push her as she moved into activism, and took on animal testers and habitat destroyers.

Cal Major’s commitment to protecting animals and the ocean has forged her a career as an environmental activist. Cal fell in love with the ocean while learning to scuba dive aged 18. Her passion for water sports took her to fantastic beaches all over the world. But while travelling she grew increasingly upset with the plastic pollution she observed. Driven to act, Cal set up the Paddle Against Plastic campaign. She paddled 1000 miles, the length of the UK, talking to people about plastic and raising awareness of its detrimental effect on the environment (go Cal!). By consistently channelling her anger and energy into action, she's inspired people across the UK.

Cal Major shows HiSchoolers the route she took when paddle boarding across the UK

Take action

Being an activist is tough. Both Jane and Cal mentioned that many people don’t feel connected to environmental issues, and aren’t always receptive to change. To overcome this Jane says we must talk to people and connect with them through stories. Most importantly we should speak to people who appear to have very different views from our own. In her own words, 'if you don't talk to somebody, how can you possibly ever expect that they'll change'.

Cal finds that taking action can stop you feeling overwhelmed by the scale of environmental challenges. She believes that no matter what action you take, you can have a positive impact, as even small acts can lead to system change. So talk to friends and family about issues, write letters to your MPs, or change your shopping habits to send messages to companies.

Get involved

Both Cal and Jane recommend finding others committed to the same cause. Meeting like-minded, passionate people can keep you inspired and motivated, and increase your impact. Cal got involved with marine conservation charity, Surfers Against Sewage. Jane set up Roots & Shoots in 1991, to get young people who care about people, animals, and the environment, to work collaboratively on projects that improve the world. Roots & Shoots now operates in 86 countries, and their drive to empower young people to positively impact their communities is stronger than ever. Jane encouraged viewers to join their local chapter, or set one up.

If you missed the lives you can now catch up, and find out what's coming up this week. We hope you enjoyed these top tips on becoming an environmental activist. Let us know your tips at @aimhilive on Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, and Facebook.

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