Can nature blogging make a difference?

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I have written before about the virtues of blogging from a personal perspective and the ample benefits it brings in terms of personal development, networking and general enjoyment. As such, it will come as no surprise to learn that I thoroughly enjoy blogging and, in turn, derive great pleasure from reading the virtual musings of others. Recently, however, I have found myself pondering the value of it all.

I, personally, know many conservationists who also identify as bloggers, and on the reverse, know many bloggers who also call themselves conservationists. It is these people, those who do not necessarily spent numerous hours in the field committing grandiose acts in aid of nature, who are the subject of this post. Can these people, those who spend the majority of their time at a keyboard as opposed to their local nature reserve, call themselves conservationists with a clear conscience? Well, yes, I believe so.

One of the most common questions I receive from individuals curious about my blog is what difference does it make? Well, I do not profess to have the best blog on the internet nor claim to be the purveyor of the most interesting content; though I do believe that blogging can and does make a positive difference. I believe that the webs growing community of eco-bloggers have a huge role to play as we strive to safeguard the natural world, and whatever the particular theme of a blog, believe all forms of virtual commentary are important.

Do nature bloggers make a difference? Well, that depends on the content they produce. Some endeavour to inform the wider public of worrying trends in wildlife populations, highlight practical conservation efforts and generate discussion around pressing environmental issues. All of which help raise vital awareness and may, if done correctly, lead to a shift in reader attitudes, a shift which may itself inspire direct action on behalf of nature. Perhaps readers will feel compelled, upon hearing of the decline of a particular species, to take action on its behalf; or perhaps others, after heeding a particular message, will take the time to rewrite and reword it so to inform their own networks. Thus aiding in the dissemination of vital messages and increasing wider awareness.

The virtues of print in this regard are widely known when it comes to influencing public opinion, but with time progressing towards a distinctly more virtual age, blogging, in my opinion, has become just as important when it comes to getting the message out there. Whatever that message may be. Something which rings equally true for more traditionally dry, educational content. Indeed, the recent surge in #Scicomm bloggers is most welcome as scientific writers begin to make technical content accessible and, more importantly, palatable for the wider online community.

On the other side of the coin, we have those that dedicate their time to highlighting the beauty and allure of nature. These, those blogs that detail personal adventures in the natural world and muse on the appeal of species and wild spaces, are by far the most numerous blogs out there. Just look at the thriving BBC Wildlife Magazine Local Patch Reporters thread. While these people may stay clear of tackling the controversial, they are, in my opinion, of equal importance when it comes to conservation.

By highlighting the beauty to be seen in the countryside and sharing their own experiences in nature, eco-bloggers have the same effect as a well-written book or expertly presented documentary: they foster an appreciation of the natural world. Nature writing in general, online or otherwise, has the power to motivate people to seek out wild intrigue, to visit new places and experience new spectacles. Something which, in turn, gives rise to endless possibility. Perhaps those propelled into the field off the back of an expertly worded article will find their calling and decide to etch out a career in environmental protection? Perhaps they will decide to take with them their kids, their parents, partners or friends, thus sharing the joys of nature with others and instigating a shift to a more sympathetic, appreciative attitude. Is this sense, nature blogging is a vital piece of the puzzle when it comes to combatting nature deficit disorder.

Giving more thought to the matter, the virtues of nature blogging are hard to ignore. Blogs can motivate and inform, just look at the blogs of Mark Avery and RPS, while also generating discussion and bringing underreported issues to the public eye – a prime example of this coming from Thinking Country, managed by Ben Eagle. Blogs can educate, advise and inspire, all while encouraging others to think more, discuss and, more importantly, act on environmental issues. While nature blogging remains, for the time being at least, a niche activity; the possibilities of this particular pastime are limitless.

While my own blog is very a much a hotchpotch of various varieties of writing – nature writing, press releases, reviews, trip reports and much more – I would like to think that in some small way, I slot into the picture described above.