Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Race Equality in Nature Conference - Black2Nature

Bill Oddie and Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

On 3 June 2016 I organised a conference at Bristol Zoo called Race Equality in Nature which was sponsored by Bristol Zoo Gardens, The Wildlife Trusts, WWT, Swarovski Optik, Opticron, AFON, Bristol Multi Faith Forum (BMFF), Imayla, CASS and Brian Eversham. I am very grateful to all the sponsors and those who helped, without whom I could not have arranged the conference.

Stephen Moss


The speakers were myself opening, Bill Oddie, Kerry McCarthy (Environment Secretary at the time), Stephen Moss (broadcaster), Dr Richard Benwell (WWT), Jini Reddy (naturalist) & Experts in Race Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, Monira Ahmed Chowdhury (CASS), Lily Khandker (BMFF), & Rachel De Garang. The speakers had a wide range of expertise to contribute.

The conference considered why there is in equality in access to nature by Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) people by first identifying the barriers to BAME people accessing nature and secondly identifying who these barriers can be overcome, with a special additional focus on role models. 

85 people attended the conference from a diverse range of backgrounds including many of the nature charities, BBC NHU, Media, Universities, National Trust, Heritage Lottery Fund, BAME people and those working with BAME communities such as housing, education and mental and physical health. It was the first time that so many people from such varied backgrounds and professions had got together to talk through the issues, with BAME led lively and honest discussions in workshops.


The conference came from the starting point that there is an inequality of access by BAME people to nature and that this was in addition to the effects of inner city deprivation, as concluded in the February 2016 Natural England Report. 

It then considered why and how there is this inequality by identifying the barriers to BAME people accessing nature, how these barriers can be overcome, with a special additional focus on role models. 


The biggest challenge following the conference is how to make change? 

It was agreed, amongst other things:
  • To set up a group, which has been set up in LinkedIn, Race Equality in Nature 
  • Ask universities, AFON/NGB etc to identify BAME people studying nature subjects and members 
  • To set up a Whatsapp group of BAME naturalists, for mentoring & support 
  • To chose a snazzy project name (Black2Nature) and obtain funding 
  • To recruit an employee with expertise in race equality, diversity and inclusion and ideally nature to collaborate with nature charities & media, schools and universities etc 
  • Where possible, initiatives are BAME led 
  • To promote the project with BAME led articles and workshops 
  • Nature TV needs to meet commissioners quotas (see Linkedin Group “The ‘D’ Word”) 
  • Nature NGO’s to priortise recruiting BAME people for HR, Marketing & Finance roles 

Seeking equal access to nature for BAME people is a valid and justifiable aim. 

Due to nature organisations being almost all white, there was an ingrained lack of understanding of BAME communities and at times arrogance about this missing knowledge which acts as a hindrance. For this reason projects need to be BAME led where possible, which can happen through collaboration. 

Many barriers are within the BAME communities with those working within them having a lack of expertise in engaging people with nature. Hence, the need for collaboration with nature NGO’s. 

Nature charities/media need to engage in the project from highest levels, so that all staff can be trained and bought-in. For examples, to stop staff stating unhelpful things such as that the organisation is colourblind (we all see colour and so playing field needs to be leveled to compensate for stereotypes). 

It is important to involve political policymakers to highlight local/central funding needed 

Role Models 

In terms of role models for BAME people, we agreed that it was important to nurture young BAME naturalists as soon they show interest because support is needed from the earliest opportunity to help them overcome barriers. 

BAME mentors and champions are needed, be trained on the issues, to give a tailored scheme. Those from other professions can help support with general careers advice, internships/volunteering, isolation, lack of family understanding, racism and prejudice. 

Schools/universities need to encourage and educate BAME teenagers and their parents to choose degrees in biological sciences gain interest in careers in nature and conservation. 


Conference Documents - 

Conference Documents Appendix 1.1 -

Conference Documents Appendix 1.2 -

The Natural Environment White Paper (2011) sets out the Government’s ambition to strengthen connections between people and nature, and in particular ‘for every child to be able to experience and learn in the natural environment’. The White Paper acknowledges that the “opportunities to benefit from spending time in natural environments are currently not open to everyone”, which can contribute to health and other inequalities. 

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) Select Committee inquiry into the Natural Environment White Paper called for DEFRA to set a target to increase public engagement with nature and for the Department for Health (DoH) and the Department for Education (DoE) to define measurements which demonstrate how greater public engagement with nature delivers gains in public health and education. 

So Natural England in partnership with DEFRA, Public Health England, Historic England (previously English Heritage) and King’s College London launched a 2 year pilot to develop a national indicator for children’s access to the natural environment. This led to the February 2016 report, confirming with statistics what was concluded before. The results highlighted “clear social inequalities in how children are accessing natural environments, with both their ethnicity and socio-economic status having a detrimental impact”. 

Mya-Rose Craig - 30 Days Wild for BAME people

About the Author

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig in Antarctica
Photograph copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Mya-Rose Craig is a 14 year old young British Bangladeshi birder, naturalist, conservationist, environmentalist, activist, writer and speaker. She is based near Bristol and writes the successful Birdgirl Blog, with posts about birding and conservation from around the world. She loved seeing Mountain Gorillas in East Africa and Penguins in Antarctica over Christmas 2015, her 7th continent.

Mya-Rose was a Bristol European Green Capital Ambassador along with Kevin McCloud, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tony Juniper, Simon King, Miranda Krestovnikoff and Shaun the Sheep! See the full list of Bristol Ambassadors. She has also been listed with the singer songwriter George Ezra and actress Maisie Williams from Game of Thrones as one of Bristol's most influential young people
She organised a conference in June 2016 aiming to increase the ethnic diversity in nature. Please connect with her on LinkedIn (Mya-Rose Birdgirl Craig) so that she can invite you to join the Race Equality in Nature LinkedIn Group and be part of the change. Please like her Birdgirl Facebook Page and follow her on Birdgirl Twitter

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