You Only Protect What You Love. Living Adventurously 55

Kieran Harkin is a conservationist and educator. He founded GET OUT to use environmental education to strengthen the connection between Tower Hamlets' young people and the natural world.

Kieran Harkin is a conservationist and educator with 12 years’ experience working for non-profit organisations and over 500 days experience in leading groups of young people in wilderness area. Kieran was on his way to begin a law degree in Manchester when he decided instead to follow his heart and pursue a career protecting the environment. Twelve years on from earning an Msc in Environmental Management, he has never once regretted the change of heart.
Kieran's career has taken him to the remote Botswana bush and the Nepalese Himalayas where he has spent long periods leading groups of young people in wilderness areas. He has more than a decade's experience working on conservation projects for non-profit organisations.
Kieran strongly believes that all people must be engaged with the natural world to ensure its protection, a vision which led him to found GET OUT.
GET OUT is a UK charity, founded in 2018 and based in the London borough of Tower Hamlets. The founding goal of GET OUT is to use environmental education to strengthen the connection between Tower Hamlets' young people and the natural world. 
Through a programme of outdoor education, surfing, campaigning and permaculture projects GET OUT strives to give young people self-confidence, life skills and experiences which will help them in education, life and as environmentally-conscious members of their local and global communities.
They believe ALL young people deserve the same opportunities to experience nature and become voices for its protection regardless of their background. 
Kieran says, “At GET OUT we want to ensure that the importance of environmental protection is embedded and instilled in people’s values from a young age. Centred on the belief that people will only protect what they love, we believe it is essential for ALL young people to experience and value the natural world.”
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  • Get Out project:
  • Dunaff Head
  • Kieran is a bad but very keen surfer
  • After a 5 hour drive from London to get to the waves, you're going in no matter what the waves are like
  • Why don't surfers wear helmets? Because they are too cool.
  • Jerry Lopez, Surf Is Where You Find It
  • Eddie Aikau - Eddie Would Go
  • Barbarian Days
  • Daniel Duane - Caught Inside
  • Mark Boyle - The Way Home
  • Surfing gives me a real sense of purpose
  • The anticipation of a 5 hour drive from London to Devon, the week before looking at surf reports - the whole thing gives me a buzz
  • Rosie Riley podcast episode on Living Adventurously- North Sea surfing
  • London Surf Film festival -
  • London Surf Club on Facebook -
  • Spend 20 days doing your 'pop up' every night in front of the mirror
  • Biggest adventure was living in the African bush in Botswana for 7 months. 
  • Got a job offer whilst doing a Masters degree, and the university allowed him to go and study elephants
  • Masters on Migratory patterns in elephants
  • I was pretty scared on my first night in the bush. By the end when elephants came through the camp I'd lob stones at them to get them to go away and then go back to sleep
  • Watching how animals interact is incredibly insightful
  • It's really important to study animals in nature during a degree course
  • His experiences in Africa led to him creating Get Out
  • Works on Tiger conservation in Vietnam and other countries
  • You can change people by exposure to the natural world
  • Being in the natural world helps people challenge their values
  • Get Out is a non-profit to connect disadvantaged people connected with the natural world through permaculture, outdoor education and surfing
  • 3/4 of kids spend less time outdoors than prisoners - (in particular, BAME communities are marginalised from the natural world) 
  • You only protect what you love
  • If kids are not going out into the natural world, if they are not enjoying it and understanding it, they are not going to protect it.
  • Get Out tries to reverse these trends
  • Mostly works in Tower Hamlets in London
  • Reasons of lack of diversity in the UK: Income, the poorer areas have the least green space, 'that area doesn't get everything that the other area gets'.
  • The system is set up so that if you are from a poor income area, an inner city area, it WILL be more difficult for you to spend time in the natural world.
  • Fruit growing - a lot of kids have no idea where fruit comes. That plums come from trees, for example.
  • It's not as easy as he imagined to say to kids "do you want to go surfing?" and expect them to answer, "YES!"
  • Increasing number of young people have other things they'd prefer to do that go into the outdoors
  • It's a scary thing when people would rather watch the natural world online or on TV than be there. There are real consequences involved in that.
  • I'm not telling people what to do, but offering a balance to help with informed decision making
  • If you are marginalised from something, you don't care about it
  • They learn about plastic pollution in the classroom, and then do a beach clean. The reference points help make people care so that young people won't just accept environmental destruction or feel that their life has nothing to do with it.
  • Will work with young offenders - currently dealing with primary schools. 
  • Getting primary schools to grow their own food.
  • Important that the projects should be 'signposted' - ie that they can happen without Kieran being there.
  • Kieran sees himself as a facilitator not a teacher
  • Permaculture: a set of design principles -permanent culture- to last: earth care, people care, fair share.
  • Closed systems; yield is not just the food you grow. eg: collect rainwater, grow food, create compost, decrease food waste, repeat.
  • Don't till soils - build it over time to build up healthier soils and avoid depletion
  • The gardens are in Bow and Beckton
  • Have a plastic-free programme. Year 6 go on a surf project. There is an outdoor classroom.
  • Dream is to have a farmers' market where the young people can sell the food they have grown.
  • We need more people involved in healthy, good food.
  • The young people have to do all the planning, logistics and risk-assessment of the adventure.
  • Managing risk helps boost their confidence
  • Lots of hidden skills / life skills involved in planning adventures
  • Has to run parents' evenings beforehands to convince the parents. There is a big Bangladesh / African / Caribbean community who worry about surf, swimming and danger. 
  • "Are they going to drown?" is the most common question
  • Needs to explain why surfing is about more than having fun. It's about falling off a board but getting back on again, that rewards come from hard work, and learning about the ocean.
  • I cannot believe the level of 'staring at a phone' that the kids do. It scares me for the future.
  • Raised £5000 on a crowdfunding campaign
  • Climbed Kilimanjaro as a fundraiser
  • Postcode lottery grants:

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© 2019 Alastair Humphreys