The past year and a half has been beyond anything anyone could ever comprehend. The Covid-19 pandemic put a stop to most people’s plans and put a huge strain on family life, businesses, schools and charities - and it was no different at Plogolution. Our funding dried up; our community plogs came to an end; and our school plogging programme ceased with immediate effect. Of course, in the grand scheme of things we got off lightly, but it was truly devastating for us. However, what it did give us, was time to think. Think and plan. And that is exactly what we have been doing for the past 6 months.
We have thought long and hard about how we see ourselves going forward and what we want to achieve. How we can use our experience in conservation to make a more impactful difference on the ground, and how we can work with the many amazing organisations we have met along the way to achieve real change.
The last three years at Plogolution have been nothing short of incredible. We have seen the organisation grow from one small event with 16 people, through to regular huge community events with up to 120 people; as well as an education programme, which has seen us present to thousands of children across the UK and set up plogging clubs in 34 schools. Those clubs have gone on to clear thousands of bottles, cans and cigarettes from the environment and will continue to do so for what we hope will be as long as needed.
We have always said at Plogolution that ultimately our goal is a strange one; almost to make ourselves redundant. We want to live in a world where we don’t have to pick up rubbish, where you can be anywhere, and litter won’t pollute bushes, rivers, parks and seas. A world where we’re not so heavily reliant on plastic and therefore avoid the devastating consequences of its production.
But the natural world is facing a much wider threat than just plastic pollution. A climate disaster that will result in the displacement of millions of people from their homes, no longer habitable places to live. Ecological breakdown that has led us, headfirst, into the sixth mass extinction this planet has ever seen, yet the only one that has been human induced. And the destruction of habitat after habitat to make way for agriculture and products for human desire. Our over consumption and mindless greed has put us in nothing short of catastrophic situation. One where we have just a decade to put right the wrongs of the last 50 years.
But what it is that is driving the mess that we are now facing head on? We believe that it is humans’ disconnect from the natural world. Our biggest downfall is that we see it as a commodity - an endless pit that will help us achieve infinite economic growth. An incompatible mix when the planet’s resources are very much finite! We buy products that we use for around 5 minutes that will then exist on this earth for hundreds of years after we discard it. We show little regard for how what we eat, what we buy, and how the way we live will impact the world around us; both in regard to people living on the other side of the planet, and the ecosystems that are at breaking point as a result of those very actions. We know climate change exists but too many of us rely on the fact that someone else will save it. We don’t have time for someone else to save it!
So how do we fix that? We need to bring people back to nature. We need to get people fascinated with the wonders of the natural world around them and make them feel part of the living world, instead of a separate entity. We need to connect people back to the planet on which they live. If people feel a disconnect to nature, then they are far less likely to be driven to protect it. But humanity simply cannot survive without it.
So, in order to address those needs, we have expanded what we want to achieve and how we want to achieve it, and part of that remodeling was to apply for charity status. Last week we got the best news that our application has been approved. So, in what seems to be the perfect timing for us, Plogolution CIC will now officially be Connected Planet Foundation, registered charity number 1194783. We are overcome with pride and joy at what this means, the doorways it unlocks and the opportunities we now have to make a real difference to the planet.
So what does that mean for the Plogolution? In fact, very little. There will be very few changes to our Plogolution programme, but instead it will now be one of three programmes that we are running. Our community plogs will still be taking place, as well as our school plogging clubs. So far, our plogging clubs have cleared over a staggering 4,000 plastic bottles from the environment. We know they will pick up many more as our programme expands. Our goal to rid the world of litter and encourage people to ditch single use plastic is still very much alive and kicking.
Our second, is our Reconnect programme. Through an extensive and hands-on education programme, we aim to bring people back to planet earth. Working with local environmental groups and experts in the field, we will be delivering fun, in-depth, activities that will leave people fascinated with what is going on in the natural world around them. Tree planting, wildlife surveys and habitat protection and restoration will some of the activities our participants will be getting involved with; as well as amazing talks from conservationists in all fields, so people can learn what it means to look after our planet. Taking part in hands-on conservation work will mean that we aren’t just learning through textbooks and classrooms but are getting to experience firsthand about the world around them. What better way to learn than to get stuck in yourself? By connecting people back to nature and completely immersing them in it we aim to leave them in a better place to a) understand it and b) protect it.
Our third project is the Ubuntu project, which will delve into community conservation across the globe. Ubuntu is an African philosophy which describes humanity; ‘I am because we are’. One of our favourite descriptions of Ubuntu comes from a teacher of the language of isiXhosa at Ubuntu Bridge, Craig Makhosi. He says:
“Ubuntu is when people are aware of the intricate and immense inter-connectedness on many different levels between themselves, all other people, their environment, nature, spirit and life, and thus act accordingly in every moment.”
Our Ubuntu programme will connect schools here in the UK, with schools in one of the poorest areas of South Africa, in the villages that border the famous Kruger National Park. A unique opportunity to help protect both people and wildlife!
We will be working closely with our friends at the amazing Nourish Eco Village, to run a programme designed to partner schools up with the children connected to Nourish Eco Village, in what will very much be a two-way learning opportunity. Learning about each other’s cultures, environments and conservation challenges as well as setting challenges to each other around plogging, upcycling and other environmental activities. Yes, Nourish are keen ploggers too! The partnership will provide a great opportunity to communicate with people on the other side of the planet - whose lives are very different to ours - building friendships across the globe, as well as fundraising opportunities that will enhance the lives of families in South Africa, funding educational equipment and trips into the Kruger!
In summary, it’s a very exciting time for us at Connected Planet Foundation. We have a unique opportunity to build on 3 years of environmental work with Plogolution as well as an array of conservation work out in Africa and Borneo over the last 3 years including anti-poaching, community conservation, and rhino and orangutan rehabilitation.
We have the right team in place, as well as the right networks to drive Connected Planet forward so that we can bring as many people back to nature and each other as possible. Through a collaborative approach to conservation, we hope to make a lasting difference to many people’s lives and to the environment around us. In the very spirit of Ubuntu, we aim to build on that interconnectedness so that people feel part of the nature around them, not just admiring it from a far. There is so much out there to admire, to study and to protect. A whole world of discovery sometimes right on our doorstep. We have so much to learn from systems that have naturally evolved over millions of years; their complexities often mind-blowing. But in order for us to survive then we must protect the world in which we live. The world that feeds us, protects us, fascinates us, and fuels us. The world that gives us everything we need to survive. We must stop taking and start giving back. We must connect to planet earth.
We look forward to sharing lots of exciting news with you over the new few weeks and working with you on our new and existing projects. We have so much in the pipeline, so many exciting plans both short and long term. The planet is in our hands now, lets make sure we don’t let it down.
Connected Planet Foundation team