Kazz Padidar - connection through hopeful stories

Kazz is a narrator of nature, the beauty of life,

The wonder you feel when into long-lost stories you dive.

Kazz is a teacher of the outdoors, his magical classroom,

Passion and awe, love and excitement.

Simply his being, it counteracts any darkness;

and instead allows your senses to bloom.

Hope to him lies in stories, both nature’s and ours;

A doorway of worlds;

To him they are what inspires, connects and empowers.

Usually, I would start by introducing my interviewee. Somehow it feels almost surplus to requirements in this particular case. Is there anyone on this island who does not know him, or has at least heard of him?

I had the pleasure to speak to Kazz - the man behind Wild Adventures in Jersey. A booming voice welcoming you, filled with enthusiasm, crinkled eyes with that big smile and a hint of anticipation in them.

An adventure enthusiast and passionate about nature, Kazz aims to bring his fellow islanders closer to their natural environment. Be it wild foraging, jumping off cliffs or kayaking. Our island is his playground, and he loves sharing the experience.

There are a couple of reasons I started this project of mine, The question of Hope.

One of them was to find a bridge between the wider world of conservation and those ‘outside’ of that field. Naturally, Kazz was high up on my list of people to get involved, and I am grateful he took the time to let me in on his thoughts.

Personally, I don’t believe conservation should distinguish between us and them ,and listening to Kazz I feel he embodies that aspect beautifully.

It would be fair to say that Kazz literally grew into naturalism and conservation, with “his fingers always in the dirt”, as he laughs. The squirrels we all enjoy seeing? He was one of the men planting the so-called squirrel corridors in Jersey.

Conservation, “it’s what I want to do with my life”, Kazz recalls when telling me about the people who inspired him, and showed him how his calling could turn into reality. Influences he feels lucky and grateful to have had - as even to someone with that passion and certain knowledge, it seemed such an unattainable line of work.

Having grown up in Jersey, he did find himself yearning for the greater outdoors, and you can hear the smile in his words when he describes the “prehistoric land he got immersed in” when working on a conservation project in Costa Rica when he first started out. He fondly remembers it being the first time to experience the sensation of being “the smallest thing in a place”. Actually doing the work he had previously only dreamt and talked about, was simply magical to him.

Listening back to our interview, I have to smile. The so often, seemingly prevalent question of ‘how big is the difference I am making in the bigger scheme of things?’, for him was utterly discounted by the sheer magic of the experience and excitement to be involved, and being able to do the work on the ground.

“At least you’re doing your bit at that time”, he tells me, and not in a way that indicates resignation or compromise. No, the way he says it, it is a simple statement of positivity, that doing our bit at the time is all we can ask for.

I actually didn’t know about Kazz’s extensive experience in conservation off-island, working with local communities to solve human wildlife conflicts. It was one leap of faith that catapulted him into a kaleidoscope of encounters with the people and nature we share this world with. And I am loving listening to him, giving me a summary of his background. And I will get to why that is.

But first, let me start with why he felt my project was an interesting one to take part in.

It is an inspiring discussion for him to open up the conversation of “whether we are having an impact and what type of impact”, he lets me know. “When everyone is sharing their own experience of their ups and downs, highs and lows”, he muses, it allows for connection between us all, and by doing so, brings about inspiration.

I couldn’t agree more with him, as it is what I am experiencing with this very quest of mine. With every single person I meet and talk to, I am inspired, and revived to continue. And I set out to tell of the lows, and how people in conservation handle them.

Lovingly, Kazz talks of the natural world as his family. Returning to Jersey, he wondered how he could make others feel reconnected to what is so close to his heart. “It’s good having a story”, he tells me, a major realisation for him over the years. And it starts small, he is aware, and takes foraging as an example. “By learning about one small plant that normally is discarded as a weed, you open up this entire world” he says earnestly. And “although there is an element of taking, if done right, hand in hand with the experience people start developing a respect for the natural world” - possibly rediscovering that connection, I think to myself.

“I can see changes happen here in Jersey”, and he loves it because “it doesn’t have to be a thousand miles away”. It can start at our very own doorstep. The small changes in society, such as more interest in foraging and whole fungus communities coming about, are what he finds hope in. And as I listen to Kazz, I cannot help but feel that there is sentiment in his words that has become rather rare these days. Not only does he tell nature’s stories, he also realises that every human being has their own - and that within our stories lies the key to connect nature with human - rather than human with nature.

It comes down to an essential question we all share. “What is it that makes you feel good?”, Kazz asks, and continues to question, “what do others relate to?”. Is it sunsets, or sitting in certain places, a childhood memory, a certain sensation? I do share this with Kazz, so very much. You don’t have to be a conservationist to love the natural world. In this project of mine, I urge people to think back to the last time nature made them smile or laugh, or calmed them, helped them. There is a key there to your own path and how you contribute to what we ultimately all share.

Kazz builds others’ respect for the environment, and has not forgotten to cultivate the same towards those he teaches. He puts his finger on something so crucial when he tells me how you have to find “the passion and strength” within yourself to say, “alright, that is your opinion, and that is fine - maybe consider looking at it from this point of view.”

I feel that it is an approach so very powerful in terms of change and tearing down the walls of judgement often-times encountered in our world nowadays. Remember, this man is talking about “his family”, and yet he refuses to become defensive about it, and it is something we can all learn from. Over time, I came to realise it had been a personal hurdle to overcome myself.

And really, it is a choice we can all make. It is a choice Kazz has made, I realise. It is all about silver linings - not as a consolation prize, but because to him it is the only way to be. And this becomes even clearer when we start talking of moments of doubts in his career, and what has kept him going.

During his work with local communities in turtle conservation, he had to realise that the very same people he thought he had gotten through during the day, still went out at night to (eggs/turtles?). The message he thought had been brought across was disregarded at night in favour of long-standing and deeply ingrained culture. And I can’t help but notice his choice of words as it isn’t nearly as bleak as you would expect.

“Yes, of course you get a bit down-hearted”, and he continues with some examples closer to home. Economics being favoured over proposed grass-roots projects, or politics in other places.

Yet, almost in the same breath he recounts - animatedly as we know him - what I would call examples. But with him, they turn into stories of success from around the world that “married money and nature beautifully”. They simply take more precedence in his thinking than the negative ones. I don’t know if this has come naturally to him, but I do get to see how he roots himself in the good he knows and has experienced, in the real magic of it.

And I am coming to believe that it is very much a way of thinking we can, and should cultivate. “Spreading these stories, and telling them is what gives me ultimate hope”, he states, and is convinced that “with just a small few things done in the right way, everyone's a winner”.

To me, Kazz is an example of how mighty your choice of perspective can be. “It never seems like it is just that one way!”, he tells me. So yes, of course, he hears and sees what could be improved within one project even. But there’s so much more positive to focus on.

And again, isn’t this a very human learning? Find the silver linings, and they’ll snowball into light. Into a positive bias, until it becomes a habit and embedded in how you approach the world.

So I ask Kazz whether it is the good stories that kept him going in his darker moments. His answer is as wise as it is beautiful, and truly strikes a chord with me.
“You don’t give up just because it is bad, or because something is not looking very good; you don’t throw the towel in”, he shares and goes on, “if you give up on something that you are so passionate about, that your beliefs are anchored in, then that’s when you lose hope for humanity. Cause when you lose it yourself, then that’s it, isn’t it?”.

Isn’t it indeed? Kazz’s words reverberate to my very core, it is so simple, yet fundamental. And I immediately feel reminded of a quote by my favourite author Carl Safina that brought me here in the first place:

“...it takes courage to admit that not all is lost. … Doing nothing is also the answer that brings zero satisfaction to the human spirit. And so the quest.”

I could never quite relate to this until recently, and it made me wonder about hope and how we keep going in what can seem hopeless. Hearing Kazz’s words brings the quote to life for me. I gave up for a little while - or wavered at least. And I am beginning to learn that it simultaneously made me give up on the world a little bit, and on myself. Kazz makes me think that hope and tangible outcomes, or always getting it right might be slightly besides the point. It is what the absence of hope and faith would mean that should drive us.

Having said that, he certainly does not discount our human nature to “wallow in despair” at times. Personally, he feels he won’t find himself in that place for too long. The smallest thing - an interaction with someone else, looking down at the ground and seeing a mushroom, seeing a squirrel or the bark of a tree. “And you lift your head up, and it might be a stormy day, but the clouds are amazing!”.

As someone who can get lost in a little rockpool, and tries to breathe in the beauty of nature on a daily basis, I have to laugh. It’s just so true!

Kazz and I both feel that 2020 in particular “brought a mirror in some way” for people to reassess what they really want out of life. And that “there is magic everywhere.” He phrases it beautifully when saying it “it makes us feel powerful, we can feel the power in ourselves, that connection. And we have got that over here.”. "Reminding people about the majesty of life” is what it comes down to for Kazz. Really, that is what his work on this little magical rock is all about.

“This is it!”, he exclaims excitedly when I try to summarise that he doesn’t do the work for the tangible outcome, but simply because he loves it! Because it feels good! Because it can become such a “buzzy experience” that even he feels like he’s experiencing the beauty for the first time! “It changes your vibe, and that is great!”. That “little by little changing people’s view on the environment” is important - and the impact of that somewhere down the line is beautiful.

I cannot put into words how important I feel people like Kazz are in this world. He operates from, and shares a sense of awe for the natural world. His motivation is not rooted in fear and despair for our world. Kazz is instead rooted in his connection to nature. “Nature is my medium, the outdoors is my classroom.”.

“If you want any kind of change, any shift in perception, letting them experience that they can be immersed in things in different ways shows them their own way to have an impact.”. And it doesn’t mean you have to jump on a conservation project somewhere. You do you, and you feel inspired to do so.

In contrast to that, unfortunately at times it seems the field of conservation is fighting its own demons. It is almost as if conservation tries to get through to the masses “by shocking them into action”, as Kazz puts it when I ask him about the wider message being portrayed in the media.

But with him, whenever he talks about something negative he has noticed, something painful even, he immediately follows it - animatedly - with a positive. And it is what makes him convinced of change.

“There is always that yin and yang. Where there has been an impact and something sprouted out of that. It’s definitely never just one way, there is always that flipside.”, he states.

I wonder, is the choice to see the positive inherently linked with the exposure to such? If so, people like Kazz are even more important! As in my eyes, it is what he does.

He tells stories, and by doing so, he connects, he inspires and empowers. He exposes you to your own love of the natural world, and quite possibly, your very own contribution to preserving it. As he says himself, it is people who define change.

If I can inspire others to love nature as much as I do, and see the beauty in life, then that can only be a good thing.”.

I whole-heartedly agree. And so I’d like to thank Kazz for making us (re)discover that inner child, the pure pleasure of being out and about. To remember the magic of life and root ourselves in what that means to us.