Niall Hatch

Niall Hatch

EU Helps Educate Children on the Environment

Niall Hatch, Development Officer at BirdWatch Ireland, the Irish BirdLife Partner, is an enthusiastic advocate for nature. He is a birdwatcher who travels all over Ireland, giving lectures and sharing his passion with children and young people. Niall is the go-to spokesperson for all things birds in Ireland. He regularly appears on TV and contributes to radio and print media. Moreover, Niall is the Irish National Coordinator for Spring Alive – an international project encouraging children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds. Spring Alive is funded by the European Commission.

“Far too many people today, of all ages and from all backgrounds, suffer from a lack of connection to nature. I don't use the word ‘suffer’ lightly. It is an affliction and it is tragic how few people seem to realise that the state of our environment and ecosystems directly relates to their own personal health and well-being.”

Niall
We do our best to build bridges between people of different cultures.
Niall Hatch,
30
years
Development Officer BirdWatch Ireland
Why is educating children and others about the environment so important to you?

“To protect the environment, people need to care about it. To care about the environment, they need to understand it. Birds offer an ideal ‘window’ into the world of nature and are the perfect gateway for people to understand, care for and ultimately help protect their environment. They are the most visible form of wildlife – everyone sees or hears birds every day. Children have an innate drive to try to understand birds and other animals. If we can develop their interest in the environment and nurture it, it will be a significant step towards success. Children are the future of our environment. We need them to have a better understanding of how natural systems work and how they affect our lives!”

How has the EU helped your efforts? And in particular, how does the Spring Alive programme help you and the wider community?

“EU funding for education and outreach programmes in recent years has really helped BirdWatch Ireland. As a result, we have been able to share our experience and workload with fellow BirdLife International partners across Europe.

As an example, Spring Alive is an international campaign, funded by the EU, which encourages children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds. By posting their first sightings of specific migratory birds (Barn Swallow, White Stork, Common Cuckoo, Common Swift and European Bee-eater) on the Spring Alive website, children from Europe, Central Asia and Africa help create a real-time map of the incredible journeys these birds take every year. Spring Alive also has various events to engage children, schools and the wider community in the conservation of migratory birds and to encourage them to support their national BirdLife Partners.
The Spring Alive programme has developed a strong profile, which is vital when it comes to communicating the conservation message. This has taken years to establish but the effort is more than paying off, thanks to the EU’s input.”

Where has your work taken you and your work? Why is the European element of conservation important?

“The international element of my work has been especially important and inspiring to me, both because of the opportunities offered by the EU and because of our collaboration with our fellow BirdLife International partners.

Spring Alive began in 2006 as a European project, which has spread to Central Asia and, in 2010, to Africa, where from September onwards children look out for the return of 5 species of birds from their breeding grounds in Europe and Asia. This year, with the announcement that Azerbaijan is joining, 50 countries will be taking part.

In 2013, over 54,000 children, 900 teachers and supervisors, and 500 volunteers from 49 countries, recorded a total of 270,000 sightings of migratory birds on the Spring Alive website and joined in a range of Spring Alive activities. All this shows how much the programme has grown and, with the EU’s help, is continuing to grow.”

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