2020 has been an unbelievable year in the truest sense of the word. As I write this we are in its final day and so many discussions and reflections are, understandably, revolving around a feeling of ‘let’s get this over with’.
There’s no doubting that history will come to remember this year as a moment of collective crisis; a reckoning with the recklessness of our broken relationship with nature. However, it is not to diminish the suffering faced and injustices more thoroughly unearthed this year to say that we have a great many reasons to be hopeful.
Recognising all that we have lost is a daunting prospect, the weight of which should be motivating calls to action from all corners of the world and all levels of governance to act preventatively and protect the natural world for the sake of every life it supports. Such broad reflections and wishes can start to feel a little abstract - we cannot possibly distil our collective experience with a single voice or angle and we must actively look for the progress forged as well as positively changing tides as the year comes to a close.
Now, by looking back at the year of The Sockstar Project my hope is that we can map out some of our achievements as well as consolidate calls for further and deeper change; a clear, meaningful and warming insight into the crucial work of wildlife rangers and the vitality of the support building up around them.
The Sockstar Project was founded in June 2019, meaning that the summer of 2020 also marked the project’s first birthday! Reaching this milestone is an achievement worthy of celebration in itself. Sockstar’s growth is a testament to the pull of the cause - a simple message that we must protect those who protect our planet. Every donation is translated into impactful deliveries of equipment to the wildlife rangers in the units that Sockstar proudly supports. By the time the project turned one £10,500 worth of equipment, including well over 300 pairs of boots and 1000 other items for wildlife rangers to use day-to-day, had been delivered. To date, the figure stands at nearly £20,000. This is thanks to the generosity of every single person who has been able to make a donation.
For so many, these months have been challenging and isolating like never before and it is with this in mind that we can better appreciate the compassion which has stormed to the surface in spite of testing circumstances. Even in our newly shrunken bubbles, we have found ways to connect. Though it may be overdue on society-wide scales, more and more people are coming to understand how the health of all people, the planet’s ecosystems and animals are inextricably linked. The money raised by Sockstar supporters this year is a wonderful example of people refusing to turn inwards throughout the pandemic. The donations have an immediate impact and the awareness created has the potential to rightfully raise the profile of wildlife rangers everywhere.
On the subject of broadening horizons, this year saw the Sockstar project going global! It is hugely important for the project that support offered to any unit is done so in a sustainable and committed way. This is what makes the expansion of the project so worthy of celebration. Supporting Aaranyak in India was our second continental project, alongside the four in Africa. Our commitment to Aaranyak to supply their teams with new torches and raincoats were important items to help the remote project successfully continue their ranger work. We must always keep in mind the diverse environments in which rangers work and the complexly differing needs of each group when it comes to equipment. Hearing the voices and perspectives of those working on the ground in conservation has an integral role to play in emphasizing the importance of such work as widely as we possibly can.
It is for this reason that The Sockstar Project is so proud to have launched a brand new show; SockStar Stories - a Lockdown Podcast that spoke to world-leading conservationists around the globe, with thousands of views in the Summer months! The conditions created by the restrictions in place have highlighted, like never before, the vitality of listening and the power of conscious conversations. So many people have been drawn to stories. There is something so illuminating about taking the time to listen to the thoughts and experiences of people living incredibly different lives but whose efforts affect the world so positively. Stories give us the level of detail which communications on social media can strip away. The Podcast will be a lasting record from a pivotal moment in the history and progress of conservation. It is often in such times of upheaval that the value of something and the passion it instils in people becomes clear. In this case, the pandemic has been a blaring alarm to mark the urgency with which we must safeguard mother nature.
All of this reflection may leave you wondering what the future holds for The Sockstar Project… Thinking about 2020, two of the stand-out achievements this year will also massively shape the project as we move ahead. Firstly, we partnered with the International Ranger Federation - the leading global wildlife ranger organisation globally, who granted us Associate Membership. Secondly, we laid the foundations for the SockStar Strategy Panel, a select group of advisors who will enrich the project with their own understanding and experiences in conservation. This is a major step forward to the sustainability of SockStar and will aid its continued growth. Incorporating a wider range of people into discussions should allow for the birth of, perhaps unexpected, strategies to address the needs of wildlife rangers in increasingly robust and properly tailored ways. With a great deal of clarity, this year has proven the importance of concerted and collaborative efforts towards shared goals - these new partnerships should fill us all with new hope that we can and will do all we can to stand in support or our world’s incredible wildlife rangers.
Earlier, I spoke of changing tides. I say this as opposed to talking of battles won. Sockstar is overjoyed to celebrate the achievements which have been made in 2020 but does so in the full knowledge of progress yet to be made and the scale of what we have irreversibly lost in terms of biodiversity and ecology. 2020 has been a year like none other, and it looks as though we are all set for more turbulent times as the new year dawns. This is precisely why we must push onwards - conscious of setbacks but driven by a vision of a healthier, more compassionate and collaborative world.