The dream for a more inclusive vision of nature

(Oliver Edwards Photography)
(Oliver Edwards Photography)

By Dr Mya-Rose Craig AKA ‘Birdgirl’

When I was thirteen years old, I read an article in the American Birding Association about the need for more Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) people in nature. It was if a lightbulb went off in my head. As a young British Bangladeshi birder, I had noticed that there were very few people who looked like me and my family in the countryside, but I had not thought about why this was the case. The data shows that access is subject to considerable inequality, and the Public Health England's 2020 review found that the groups who most infrequently access green spaces were VME people, among others.

So, at the age of fourteen, I set up a charity called Black2Nature to promote equal access in nature for VME people. For over five years, Black2Nature has been running nature camps, arranging nature activities, organising race equality in nature conferences and campaigning to make the nature conservation and environmental sectors ethnically diverse. It is the responsibility of everyone to ensure that access to nature is equitable – how can you expect someone to care about the environment if they are not given the chance to spend time in nature? My work has taught me how important it is for young people to mix and spend time with people they do not normally get time with, to listen to other opinions, to break down barriers and reduce radicalisation on all sides.

We Have a Dream book cover (Magic Cat Publishing)
We Have a Dream book cover (Magic Cat Publishing)

I believe that to protect the environment is to leverage the input and contribution of as many people as possible, and that VME people must be at the centre of our approach to climate action. VME communities are disproportionately affected by the climate catastrophe, and yet so often unheard in global conversations. So, when I got the opportunity to write an environmental children’s book, I knew that I wanted the book to contain interviews with young activists and campaigners that weren’t getting that platform from the media. We Have a Dream is a call to arms, featuring interviews with 30 young People of Colour and Indigenous People from around the world, and charts their dreams for the future of the planet. They shared stories of fighting for clean drinking water and standing up to oil companies trying to take their land. They have been aware of these issues and have been fighting for them since they were young children. And as a result, they are the most engaged with nature. This means that they are the first and most directly affected by shifts in the natural order – and should be at the forefront of climate action.

It is my hope that We Have a Dream not only empowers readers to create their own change in the world and make people realise the importance of global climate justice, but for it to also serve as a reminder to people of the importance of hearing everyone’s voices. Nature needs everyone… and everyone needs nature.

Dr Mya-Rose Craig, or ‘Birdgirl’, is a naturalist, environmentalist and race activist, and the author of We Have a Dream.

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