A thesis, an internship and an unexpected world congress: Victoria Reynal’s story

In the last ten years, I’ve become increasingly interested in the topic of nature connection – how spending time in natural environments is good for our health and can inspire us to act in pro-environmental ways. So of course, I decided to focus my thesis on this subject! As part of my research and in the process of finding an internship to comply with the program’s requirements, I became a member of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC). This commission has an initiative which I find very interesting, called Nature For All. The whole idea behind it is to inspire people to connect and ‘fall in love’ with nature, as this will likely lead them to act to protect it. As part of my collaboration with this initiative, with support from the co-chair of the Nature For All initiative, Cheryl Charles, and Yose Cormier, I wrote a toolkit on how to connect with nature in cities with a forest bathing approach. The toolkit can be accessed here. 

As a result of my contribution, I was fortunate enough to be invited to the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, from September 3 to September 10, 2021. I was part of the team that worked in the Nature For All pavilion, called “Youth Oasis”. I also participated as a speaker in the session “Connecting with Nature in Urban Environments” together with Luis Camargo, founder and director of OpEPA (Organización para la Educación y Protección Ambiental), Shreya Utkarsh, from ICLEI Europe, and Stefania Romano, from ICLEI Africa. During this session, I presented a few of my main research findings and gave advice on how to use a forest bathing approach to help us connect with nature in urban areas. 

During the congress, I was able to attend fascinating sessions, panels and debates about sustainability topics. I was mostly interested in those dealing with climate policy, communication and the human connection to nature. Moreover, thanks to the IUCN Youth group, I had breakfast and an interesting conversation with the French Minister for Ecological Transition Barbara Pompili. I would like to highlight the Minister’s encouragement for young people to become involved in politics. As the Minister said, despite the fact that politics often don’t have the best reputation, they are a very powerful tool and arena for creating needed change.