Why young people must conserve the environment right now

Maureen Some, 19, at Maasai Mara Park, Narok county, earlier this year during a community research project on wildlife and tourism status in the area.

What you need to know:

  • Maureen Some is the founder of Wildnow, a foundation dedicated to addressing and reversing environmental degradation in Kenya.
  • "I've rescued animals since I was about six.
  • Her solution is two-pronged. While encouraging young people to conserve nature, she also helps them come with better ways of relaxation away from drugs and alcohol.

For 19 year-olds 'Mama Wanyama' as she is known, there is no force more powerful than a woman who is determined to make a sweeping change. Backward stereotypes, patriarchy, age bias, capitalist policies, and a host of other challenges stand to dot her path to success. But it is in her inner strength that she draws on to power through the odds in the conservation world.

Not yet 20, Maureen Some is the founder of Wildnow, a foundation dedicated to addressing and reversing environmental degradation in Kenya.

Her love goes way back. As a little girl, her heart has always gone to the animals, the trees, and any natural matter. "At some point I had almost 30 stray cats and dogs living in our compound, driving my mother crazy," she says.

Maureen Some, 19, at Maasai Mara Park, Narok county, earlier this year during a community research project on wildlife and tourism status in the area. POOL| NATION

Growing up in the wild

Maureen grew up in an unincorporated community in Rumukuti, Laikipia for most of her childhood, something she says played a big part in her love for animals. "I've rescued animals since I was about six. I grew up in a place where wild animals, were numerous. When I found sick birds or stray animals I would always feed and nurse them back to health. I also had a special animal orphanage that I would skip school to attend to," she says.

After graduating from an environmental course in Brookhouse School, Nairobi, Maureen briefly battled with the idea of traveling to Canada for her undergraduate before ultimately deciding to devote her time and life to saving animals and their environment through her NGO Wildnow Foundation "with the help of her team and youth volunteers."

The subject of environment rescue was emerging as a popular cause in Kenya with afforestation and the encroachment of the Nairobi National Park making headlines. "Wildnow meant just that, let's ALL save the Wild NOW!"


Partnering with youngins

After stepping into action the young high school graduate with little experience in operating a Non-Profit foundation discovered the climb was steeper than most. "It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do and I often wondered if I had made a huge mistake in starting Wildnow," Maureen says.

But she felt convinced that young people needed to be at the heart of the cause. "The largest contributors to the destruction of the environment were stereotypes that excluded young people from the conversation and even worse, involved them in degrading it," Maureen divulges. She then started a free-for-all Arts and Talents page on their public website for youths in the creative industry.

For her, the inclusion of creative youth in the cause is the first and most important step to change. A youngin herself, Maureen understood it would take the collaboration of a younger following who would benefit from the conservation information. "In our culture, if I told an adult to pick their litter they would think I am crazy. It is easier and far more beneficial to help younger Kenyans understand the problem, enlist their participation and come with solutions together," she says.

Her solution is two-pronged. While encouraging young people to conserve nature, she also helps them come with better ways of relaxation away from drugs and alcohol.

"I encourage them to do outdoor meditation, forest walks, and game drives to ease their anxieties," she says.

She also wanted to demystify the idea that conservation as that for 'old white people'. "It's our future we are speaking about. Young people need to know that the SGR situation in the Nairobi National Park or deforestation in the Mau affects them greatly," Maureen emphasis.


Her greatest achievements

Maureen prides herself on being at the forefront in stopping the building of a large hotel inside the Nairobi National Park. "After many attempts to get the Kenya Wildlife Service to review the project and even pushing the agenda through social media failed, we were forced to petition. Soon we finally caught the government's attention. There isn't any more construction in the park –but it is only a matter of time before it happens again so we have to constantly be on the lookout," Maureen cautions. Her organisation also represented the youth in the Ripoff Campaign under the Office of the First Lady, Ministry of Tourism, and other Foundations in the Citrus conference. "We are proud that there is a rise in the elephant population in Kenya," she beams.


What now?

Maureen would like their advocacy to go beyond just young people. "We require more support. 2022 is not far, and we haven't reached the 10 per cent forest cover we require to avert a climate crisis," she says, solemnly.

She is not giving up though. "I will strive despite the risks because, at the end of the day, nobody will do my job if I don't," she says.

What can everyone else do to help? "Spread the word. If we can all do something, it makes our sweat, blood, and tears worthwhile," she says.