Tom Young

Tom is a marine conservationist with many talents. With his true adventurous spirit he is eager to raise awareness for the rewilding movement. He creates great visual material to support conservational work, and videos to show a lifestyle closer to nature.

How do you unf*ck the world?

Plant more trees! Stop destroying wild landscapes, rewild the land, and rewild ourselves. By pro-actively creating wild habitats and protecting existing ones we can help reduce and potentially reverse impacts of a changing climate. It will also give people greater opportunities to reconnect with their inner animal, that ancient wild soul inside us that has been compressed by modern society. I strongly believe people will be happier, care more and support more sustainable causes if they spend more time in nature. Strolling through the park, sitting in a garden, hiking in the mountains, hammocking under the stars in a forest. 

How do you unf*ck the world on a personal level?

On a personal level it’s tricky! I tend to be extremely aware of my consumption, making more environmental choices whenever I can when buying products and travelling. A massive downside to my work is the carbon footprint that comes with travel. I try to reduce this by supporting active tree planting charities like Trees for Life in Scotland. And when I travel personally, I tend to favour big wild hikes and less impactful public transport to get around. Anything to help reduce my carbon footprint. I’m a relaxed vegan that doesn’t want to support the modern intensive farming industry; where I have the choice I will always choose to cook and consume vegan products. Although sometimes I have found myself in rare situations where refusing a non vegan meal would be socially or morally offensive (Basically try not to be a nob about it), having been invited into many traditional homes on my travels, where certain cultures rely heavily on the consumption of meat and dairy just to sustain themselves. A tribe member I had just met in the rainforest of Borneo might have prepared me a traditional piece of chicken, and to sit down in a strangers home who has kindly welcomed a weird white westerner in and gone to the extra effort to prepare me dinner would be completely insulting. So I’ve learned not to beat myself up in these situations, enjoy that damn finger lickin good piece of chicken and accept that in some cultures in the world veganism is an unheard of and unfeasible concept. If I can inspire others to take similar actions to help unfuck the world, then that’s a massive win too! Hopefully some of my photography and filmmaking can contribute to this.

You travel the world for your work. What do you do exactly? 

Currently, I’m creating video and image content for a travel company that specialises in volunteer experiences helping endangered wildlife at its core. Time is split between the office editing and planning with shooting on locations and meeting the people that make the projects happen. There are so many dedicated and passionate people out there and places where the physical and financial help of volunteers seems to make a genuinely massive difference! There’s a heap of stories I’d like to continue to tell through film that I’m hoping I find the time for in the near future :)

What have you been working on lately?

At the moment I’m based in the UK near London working for The Great Projects. Predominantly my work so far has been with orangutans, and the sanctuaries in Borneo that have been rescuing them from habitat loss and the illegal pet trade, amongst many other species. The primary aim of the sanctuaries is to rehabilitate them and ultimately release them into safe and protected areas of rainforest where possible. To be able to see a single species that makes up a huge and vital role within its rainforest habitat, and see how devastating the impact the world is having on them and the wider consequences is heartbreaking. We have to remember that the countries where the impact tends to be greatest are often developing and culturally very different from the western world, we can’t judge them based on the baselines we take for granted here. Resources are spread extremely thin for conservation work and it seems to me that there is too much for them to currently be handling.

My latest work trip was to South Africa to film great white sharks, a massive dream of mine since I was around ten years old fulfilled! The work here is more scientific based, focussing on understanding a species that forms a vital part of the ocean ecosystem that we know relatively little about. 

We hear that conservation work can be dangerous in some regions. How is your experience with this?

So far, I haven't had any experiences in the conservation field where I have directly witnessed or been involved in anything particularly dangerous, but I have heard first-hand stories. In some parts of the world conservation can come into conflict with the interests of others. For example, in many farmers eyes in Borneo, orangutans can be viewed as pests that damage their land, and a charity swooping in telling locals that they need to protect them and the land instead of shooting, selling or eating them can create tension. I'd say the majority of dangers are related to the illegal trafficking of animals, where poaching and black markets are involved. There are reports of 100's of wildlife rangers being killed by poachers every year. 

For people wanting to get into the field of conservation, what would be a good place to start?

In my experience, volunteering is a huge part of getting a foot in the door of conservation work. Obviously the pursuit of relevant qualifications helps too, but the conservation world is full of committed and passionate groups of people, and those two qualities are extremely valuable. Find which areas of conservation interest you the most, and take every opportunity you can get to build any experience possible. 

If you can be a superhero, which one would you want to be and why?

Super hero! Hmm, it's a tough one. Selfishly I'd love to fly, or have some form of gills for extended underwater ocean exploration. But then I'd need extra blubber for warmth. and better limbs for swimming with. In fact, I'd love to be able to animorph, turn into animals. That'd be pretty ace!

Follow Tom his adventures on his website, Instagram and Facebook.

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