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girl standing on a rock over looking a lake
Maud Brown

Thursday 12 August 2021

Using my passion to support the environment

Being autistic, I have many intense passions. I love geomorphology, the study of how and why land appears. I also love organising hikes, excessively searching the map of the UK for interesting landforms and trails. 

Aligning with these passions, I can appreciate how I see the world differently. Naturally functioning like clockwork as a network of nutrient cycles, water cycles, tectonic motions, ecological patterns — interdependent and stable.

The incident is that humans are disrupting this, through pollution, and causing the rise in greenhouse gases ejected into the atmosphere. This alters global temperatures, a phenomenon known as human-induced climate change. 


What is climate change?

Climate change is a disturbance in the carbon cycle, relative to the high concentrations of carbon dioxide now in the atmosphere. A disturbance in this cycle causes disturbances amongst other cycles and patterns. Temperatures change, worse natural disasters occur, ice melts, species disappear. We must reduce carbon emissions and care for our natural environment to reverse these upcoming effects. 


Being an environmentalist currently can feel overwhelming. Coming across news articles about wildfire disasters, floods, waste mismanagement causing water pollution, and politicians and corporations not doing enough about it. Being young, you feel so helpless. 


It was the experience of university in lockdown when all intertwined for the better. Online learning kept me indoors, so much that I desired to go outside and experience Bristol, experience nature and physical learning. After online searching, newsletter-joining, and emailing, I started volunteering. 


environment images


Volunteering for the planet

I joined the Future Proof Parks initiative. This involved litter picking, scything and weeding in green spaces around Bristol. It was fun learning about conservation and seeing a tidy, clean green space fit for wildlife and healthy soils. I also joined the local toad patrol, collecting toads on streets and transporting them to safety during migration season! 

I participated in citizen science, collecting data for scientific projects. I travelled to Gloucestershire for the Severn Rivers Trust ‘Shad count’, monitoring fish species nearby. I learnt lots about fish, all whilst relaxing in the country.

I find that volunteering can be anxiety-inducing. But in green spaces, it feels different. You’re always welcome, you can choose what you want to do, the various tasks are straight-forward, and discourse isn’t necessary. The best part is seeing the result of your hard work in the end. 


I feel that volunteering in nature acts as an equalizer for neurodivergent and neurotypical people, productively working together to support the environment. And we need this more than ever. 


Volunteering in this sector gets you directly into your local natural environment. You can instantly connect, becoming more environmentally conscious, gaining knowledge and appreciation.

So, go online, find, and contact your local wildlife or river trust, or your local TCV (The Conservation Volunteers) group, wildlife charities, initiatives like ‘Keep Britain Tidy’, even your local park friends’ group. 

This all enabled me to realise the key to reverse our damage to our environment is by working together and starting locally. 

Imagine the result if everyone around the country joins in! 


About the author

Maud Brown is a Year 2 Geography student at the University of Bristol, just recently diagnosed with ASD and ADHD. Within geography, she is interested particularly in climate change, urban green spaces, queer geographies and the philosophy of nature. She is also a member of our Ambitious Youth Network.