News Round-Up

Why grandparents should talk to children about the natural world of their youth


How often do you strike up a conversation with an older relative about the past? You might switch off when someone begins a sentence with “back in my day…”, but that story could provide some very valuable information – particularly if you’re interested in ecology.

It’s hard to fathom how much the natural world has changed within just a few generations. My grandma was born in Lancashire in 1924. In the 70 years separating our birthdays, she saw ecological conditions that I will never experience first-hand. Even my parents, when prompted, recall clouds of insects while they learned to drive, regular snowfall each winter and now rare bird species filling their back gardens.

News about growing environmental issues are often hard to conceptualise, but anecdotes about your local area can mean a lot more. Older people hold a rich library of knowledge about the past, and how their corner of the world has changed over the course of their lives. This could be critical for putting ongoing wildlife declines in context, and it’s especially useful for younger people. Our relative lack of experience of environmental change leaves us vulnerable to something called shifting baseline syndrome. MORE