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Fourteen Year Old Photographer Indy Kiemel-Greene: "The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, and it's only going to get worse."

14 August 19 interview: Eve Smallman
photos: Curtis Powell
photos: Indy Kiemel-Greene

It’s not just adults that are raising more awareness about the environment - more and more young people are getting closer to nature too. Indy Kiemel-Greene is just fourteen, and is already a keen wildlife volunteer and photographer. We spoke to him about his work, attending the Time for Now lobby, and how people can help wildlife to thrive...

Tell us a bit about yourself…
I've always been into wildlife, but I really started getting into it at the age of nine. We used to have a woodpecker who would come to the peanut feeder outside the front door, and every time we would open it he flew away. After a while, I just started to sit in the garden instead of opening the door and scaring him away, and watched the other birds on the feeders, and wanted to know what they were. That's how I got into learning about the ecosystem and nature. 

What sort of things do you do while volunteering?
I mainly volunteer at Sherwood Forest and Budby South Forest for the RSPB. Tomorrow at Budby I'm actually going to cut some of the grassy areas so people can walk through them, as well as making habitats for the various bugs and bees in the reserve. Then at Sherwood I do guided bird walks and things like being part of the welcome crew. I really enjoy that, it's a really nice team over there. 

I also volunteer with Notts Wildlife Trust's youth group Keeping It Wild, which has between 30-40 members. We've got our own nature reserve at Woodthorpe Meadow, and we have a habitat that we provide for over 60 species of birds. We're always going on residentials, doing bird races, picking up plastic from beaches, and just brilliant stuff like that. I love that group too.

What was it like going to the Time For Now lobby in London?
It was really, really good! The best part was seeing the young primary school kids out. When they came through, everyone was just applauding them. It was really informative and I met lots of people too. We spoke to our local MPs as they came out as well, and we had a chance to interview them about our local problems. 

What’s your favourite thing that you’ve photographed so far?
Swallows are always really good fun as they are a proper challenge, as they whizz through the sky so fast. I've got a couple of shots as well where they are just turning and you can see every individual feather. I have also photographed a red headed cardinal beetle. I saw some of them in the larvae stage inside an oak at Sherwood Forest, during some volunteer work I do to preserve the oak. They spend about five years as a larvae inside an oak, then come out as a beetle and live for about a week! Red kites are also fun as they have absolutely amazing colours, and have been described as pieces of paperwork floating in the wind. They're probably my top three.

Why do you think it’s important for young people to be conscious of the environment?
The UK is one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, and it's only going to get worse. Everything is in decline and nature needs us. When I went to the protest, I thought it was just going to be some adults, but there were lots of young children as well. I didn't have much faith in the next generation until that day really. Now I think there's a bit of hope. So long as those children realise what's happening with climate change and the environment, we can educate more and more about it until the whole next generation knows about it and we are all doing our best to protect the environment. 

What do you hope people’s attitudes will be like towards nature in the future?
Very very positive, I hope. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't know how many people actually realise how therapeutic and good nature is for you. Also, even in my lifetime I've seen the amount of flies that used to hit the bonnet when you’re driving, and now you're lucky to get one in the evening. There's been this massive insect decline, and that's why we need lots of wild patches in people’s gardens, which will help the ecosystem. We need to have a positive attitude, while knowing the environment is in trouble and knowing how to help it.

What are wild patches?
If you've got a lawn - or even if you don't and just plant some flowers - then you can leave a metre square which can grow up and grow longer rather than being cut. This gives a chance for flowers to grow. Even if it's just a corner of your garden, you can dig over it, plant some wildflower seeds in the winter, and make sure it's in the sunshine. I guarantee that you can get nature come to it, as nature is always looking for a home. In our one we've spotted a really rare moth, loads of different flies, thick legged flower beetles, and about six different bee species.

What advice would you give to young people, or anyone, who wants to start helping the environment? 
Get a pond. That's the best way, as you can sit by a pond for hours and you can see all the different frogs, dragonflies coming over, and it's just amazing. You can leave it to its own devices and nature will just implode on it. Get into a bit of wildlife photography, and submit photos to websites so you can get your discoveries identified. That will then start to make you think if you've got anything else in your garden. But firstly, I'd get a pond, as they're fabulous.

Indy will be joining Tim Birch for a debate on the natural world at the Wilder Woodland Gathering on 21 August

Woodland Gathering event

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