Race Equality in Nature & Conservation and Black2Nature

Race Equality in Nature & Conservation and Black2Nature

Chris Packham’s Peoples Walk for Nature is this Saturday 22nd September 2018, meeting in Hyde Park, London at 10 am with speakers starting at midday and the march between 1 pm and 2 pm.

Today, Chris Packham has published “The Peoples’ Manifesto for Wildlife” with 18 Ministers or experts in a number of areas ahead of the march http://www.chrispackham.co.uk/a-peoples-manifesto-for-wildlife

Ministers are:

I am unbelieveably proud to have been asked to write the Ministery of Diversity in Nature and Conservation.

This is a Podcast from Lush intervewing many of the Ministers http://player.lush.com/channels/soapbox/radio/soapbox-voices-peoples-manifesto-wildlife
If you don’t know anything about me, this is what I have been up to since I started campaigning and raising awareness about the lack of VME (visible minority ethnic) out in nature and green spaces since January 2015 when I was 12 years old. I have given an explanation of my use of VME below.

  • I have arranged:
  • Four Camp Avalons for inner city VME teenagers and children;
  • A film-making workshop for VME teenagers with Icon Films in inner city Bristol;
  • The Race Equality in Nature Conference in June 2016 with Bill Oddie, Kerry McCarthy (shadow Environment Secretary at the time), Stephen Moss and Dr Richard Benwell. His most striking comment was when he talked about every citizens’ right to access nature in the same way as their right to access health or education;
  • Spoken at national conferences, including Science and Geography teachers about how to include nature in  lessons and be relevant to VME teenagers
  • Panel appearances including with Caroline Lucas and George Monbiot discussing “Sustainability and the Future of Cities” and at Hay Festival’s “Do You Have to be White and Well-off to be Green?”;
  • Met with leaders of organisations in the nature conservation and environment sector to discuss the issue;
  • Set up Black2Nature as a campagining oganisation to work with conservation and environmental organisations, to increase on the 0.6% of environmental staff who are VME;
  • Raised the issue of the lack of diversity in nature on TV (eg BBC West’s Inside Out and BBC2’s Hugh’s Wild West) and in the nature media.
Camp Chew 2017
Camp Chew 2017
Race Equality in Nature Conference June 2016

Race Equality in Nature Conference June 2016
Camp Avalon 2017
Festival of the Future City
Mya-Rose Craig and George Monbiot, Festival of the Future City
Mya-Rose Craig, Caroline Lucas & George Monbiot, Festival of the Future City

Even if you can’t make it to the march, please post on Chris’ website on his Wonder-wall

These are links to my previous blog posts on diversity in nature. My linked group, Race Equality in Nature, has a conference summary added.

Race Equality in Nature Conference 6 March 2016


How ethnicity and wealth are impacting on children going into nature 1 June 2016


Birdgirl’s 30 Days Wild – for diverse communities – ideas – 1 June 2016


Birdgirl’s 30 Days Wild, Day 1 – for diverse communities 1 June 2016


Birdgirl’s 30 Days Wild, Day 6 – for diverse communities 6 June 2016


Birdgirl’s 30 Days Wild, Day 9 – for diverse communities 9n June 2016


Interview with BBC Wildlife Magazine 28 September 2016


Race Equality in Nature Conference – Black2Nature 1 November 2016


Speaking at the association of Science (ASE) Educators Conference 7 January 2017 – With resource links


Minority Ethnic Peoples’ rural heritage (links no longer work) 23 January 2017


Article in Cultures of Nature and Wellbeing 7 February 2017


Speaking at Bath Spa University Landscape and Change Festival 25 February 2017


Comment – VME or not

First – I am no expert. These are just my thoughts and views. I would love to read more research on this topic.
Second – I would describe myself as Dual Heritage British Bangladeshi.
I have chosen to use the term “Visible Minority Ethnic” (VME) in my ministry. This simply means minority ethnic people who describe themselves as non-white; People who might be discriminated against in the street or who might feel worried about venturing to the countryside because of fear of hate crime (due to their visibility as a minority ethnic person). It was suggested to me as an option by a race expert, Monira Ahmed Chowdhury.
There are lots of terms being used as of 2018 to describe collectively people living in the UK, who for want of a better description, are non-white. These are some of them and what troubles me about them: Non-white or not white
This should never be used (although I have just done that for clarity). It is negative and refers to people by their skin colour alone, which is derogatory.

Black British
My mum shows her age because she started using this term in the 1980s, to include all non-white people, as one political force. I don’t like referring to skin colour and think we have moved on from this. I really don’t like this term at all.

BAME – Black Asian Minority Ethnic
BME – Black Minority Ethnic
This is used nationally by most organisations to describe people who are of non-white descent. It specifically includes people whose ethnicity is African or Caribbean, South or East Asia in the first and people whose ethnicity is anything other than English, Scottish and Welsh. Both single out specific ethnic groups, this can be divisive and exclusionary. They include white people who are from places such as Irish or Western or Eastern European.  This is not ideal for analysing racism against people of non-white descent. For example, 3% of the environmental professionals are BAME but only 0.6% are non-white.

“Race and ethnicity are often used interchangeably but it is useful to be clear about the difference. Race is a socially constructed term without biological merit that has historically been used to categorise different groups of people based on perceived physical differences.”Universities Scotland refers to a 1983 House of Lords decision that suggests an ethnic group would have the following features:

  • a long shared history of which the group is conscious as distinguishing it from other groups and the memory of which it keeps alive
  • a cultural tradition of its own including family and social manners, often but not necessarily associated with religious observance
  • a common, however distant, geographical origin
  • a common language and literature

It is important to remember that everyone has an ethnicity and ‘white British’ is an ethnic group. Bhavnani et al (2005, p. 213) point out that it is common in British culture for ‘ethnic’ to be wrongly used as synonymous with non-white or not-western, for example with ‘ethnic clothes’ or ‘ethnic restaurants’.”

I do not like the word “race” (as in a mixed-race) as there is only one human race and it is wrong to try and say otherwise.

ME – Minority Ethnic
This is a group of people who differ in ethnicity, colour, national or cultural origin from the majority population in the country. It does not include religions that span wide distribution, such as Islam (apparently). Some argue that people of non-white descent are the global majority and describing ourselves as a minority is doing us down. ‘Ethnic Minority’ tends to be reversed to refer to ‘minority ethnic groups’ to highlight the fact that everyone has an ethnicity and the issues being referred to relate to minority groups in a UK context and the discrimination and barriers that they face.

EM – Ethnic Minority
This used to be used commonly but has fallen out of favour. Sociology Professor Tareq Modood prefers it. ‘Ethnic minority’ places the emphasis on ethnicity as the main issue. There can be a tendency in our media and language to see ‘ethnic’ as synonymous with not-white and so the term could be perceived as implying the issue is with people being not-white, or non-white people being the issue.

POC – People of Colour
This has been used in the USA for some time. Before this, coloured was used by African Americans to describe themselves. However, this is a word with very negative connotations in the UK, as it was used as a racist slur up until the 1970’s. Isn’t it confusing to tell people not to use a word because it’s racist and then to ask them to use it again?  It was also used as a derogatory term to categorise dual heritage people under apartheid, South Africa. I also don’t like the reference to skin colour. Sorry, I just can’t get behind it.

Global Majority
I understand that non-white people are in the vast majority globally. I could get behind this term if it was taken up worldwide. However, there is something a little strange about it. Doesn’t it imply that the issue of racism is only between white and non-white? What about Rohinga slaughtered in Burma? What about the killings in Rwanda? I don’t think it is that straightforward. Every country had majority ethnicities and minority ethnicities, that need to be differentiated when talking about racism and discrimination. So I think at the moment I am still going with Minority Ethnic.

Dual Heritage
This is the term I prefer when talking about people with mixed heritage or ethnicity.
Black and Brown
I don’t like this because it is a reference to skin colour but nobody is actually Black. I find it quite offensive. If you look at a make-up brand that covers all skin tones, such as Mac, not one of their foundations is actually white or black. They are all tones of brown. Not everyone falls in with this colour reference, what about Turkish people or Chinese people, do they really fit into “brown”?



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Madagascar Post 6 – Days 21 – 26

Madagascar Post 6 – Days 21 – 26


Our birding trip was organised by Madagascar Tour Guide (madagascar.tour.guide@gmail.com), who was really well organised. Our guide for most of the trip was Julian, who was brilliant at digging the birds as well as sorting things out for us along the way. The company is owned by Andre who came to meet us as we passed through Tena. I would highly recommend them and the prices were modest.


Day 21 – 28/08/2018

On Tuesday 28th August 2018, we had a very early taxi to the airport after a 4 am breakfast in our room at the Saka Manga hotel.

We had two flights to get us to the tiny town of Maroantsetra, which was on the North East coast of Madagascar, surrounded by rainforest and as we found out, with high amounts of rain. We changed in Toamasin, which was bigger and further down the coast. After we arrived, we were approached by a French local Oliver. He told us that he owned the lodge we were travelling to and got us a taxi to the quayside where he introduced us to Joseph, our local bird, and Marie, our cook. By this time, it was 9.30 am.

We set out on a speed boat with a few warnings that it might get wet,  as it bucketed down. We curled up deeply into our macs and hoped for the best.

We were soaked through almost immediately and soon gave up on our mission to stay dry. Instead, we stretched out and enjoyed the bumpy ride across the very rough sea. We were crossing a large inlet to get to remote forests on the other side.

After an hour had passed and just as the waves had begun to be monotonous, to our great excitement we spotted a humpback whale breaching in the water. It was a mother and her calf barely 20 metres away. The lowness of the boat in the water highlighted just how close we were.

From that point in we had another 10 encounters with mother humpback whales and their calves. Here, like South Africa and Eastern Australia, they come to the warm, shallow waters to give birth and nurture their babies.

By the time we reached the shore, we were incredibly excited.

We carried our bags up to our hut and discussed our game plan with Joseph, our local bird guide. We were surrounded by the most incredible primary rainforest, which was beautiful but did make everything in our wooden building damp/wet. Our target birds were Helmeted and Bernier’s Vanga, both rare and tricky to see. We had already been warned by the tour company that there was a high chance we would not see Bernier’s Vanga.

We were here four nights to give us time to have a good go at trying to see both birds.

There were two single beds downstairs and a double bed in a mezzanine bedroom upstairs. The ladder was pretty steep, so mum decided to sleep downstairs with me.

Mum was complaining because the bathroom looked dirty. There was unidentifiable stuff on the bathroom mat and table. So she then swept and cleaned it.

After lunch and a rest, we went out birding for the afternoon, seeing very little. Joseph had warned us it would be quiet, but we had to at least try going out, to be seen to be eager.

The generator came on at 6 pm with a few dim lights and one socket. Good job we always bring an extension lead to power up everything at the same time.

Then we could hear squeaking. Mum is completely phobic about rodents so locked herself into a bed with a mosquito net tightly tucked in.

Then we realised that the muck in the bathroom had been bat poo. Dad had 6 bats flying around his tiny room and we had an equal number roosting in our bathroom and then flying around our room.

After this excitement, we went across for a simple dinner before returning to our room and having the lights go out half an hour early at 8.30 pm.

Getting into bed, we realised how damp the beds were. It was pretty disgusting but eventually, I started to drift off.

I was just falling asleep when mum starting calling me in a loud whisper. She had heard something scurrying around upstairs. A whole section of our hut was open to the elements so she wasn’t going to be reassured easily. She then started shouting up to dad. He moved around enough for us to realise that the noise was the floorboards moving and making a strange noise.

Mum had psyched herself into a frenzy by this point and then remembered about the two apples left out on the table. The first rule of rain forests is never to have food in your room as it attracts rats. She shouted up to Dad and asked him to come down the steep ladder and chuck the apples out but that was just never going to happen. So then she asked me to get out of my damp bed, open the door, throw the apples as far as possible from our hut, all for a quiet night. Whilst it was the last thing I wanted to get up and do, I knew that I wasn’t going to get any sleep until the apples were turfed out!

Despite the damp bed, I did then fall asleep for the rest of the night.

The next morning, on Wednesday 29th August 2018 we were up early, though feeling refreshed as we’d got a good night sleep. We had breakfast in the dark and then went out into the forest pre-dawn, with Joseph whistling for Helmeted Vanga.

The first hour was really quiet. Joseph said he hadn’t heard anything at all. Suddenly, he indicated that he had maybe heard something. Almost immediately he was pointing above his head, where there was a huge Helmeted Vanga sitting on a branch right above our heads. It was a stunning bird with a huge blue bill.

After watching this, Joseph reminded us that Bernier’s Vanga was incredibly difficult to see and he doesn’t often see them. He said that he had seen one following a flock of Helmeted Vanga the week before and so that was our best chance.

So we carried on tracking Helmeted Vanga, eventually finding the same flock Joseph had found last week. Just as we were enjoying a group of 8 birds, our guide motioned that we had heard a Bernier’s Vanga. We couldn’t believe our luck when suddenly one was sitting out in front of us on a branch. As we watched this female, a male flew in and sat out as well. It was the most fantastic scene, knowing it’s rare to see both.

On our way back to the lodge, we saw White-faced Brown Lemur which was small and cute.

There was a really rare Lemur, Red-roughed Lemur that you only get here, but Joseph said he couldn’t look for it and the birds at the same time. Fair enough.

Having been out birding for the morning, we returned to the camp just as it started pouring with rain.

The rain set in, so we decided to have a well deserved afternoon off.

Mum and I watched Pride and Prejudice on my phone (the film version with Keira Knightly). I had finally finished the book, so it was great to watch the film and compare it.

The rain had cleared up and so we went down to the beach to see if we could find a Sanderson’s Tern, but it was too early still for them to return from Africa. We did see a lot of Roseate Tern and Lesser Crested Tern on the rocks just off the shore.

That evening was a repeat of the one before. However, this time Mum managed to negotiate dinner that I would eat. However, I think there was a breakdown in communication as mum and dad got chips (French fries) but I got 2 boiled potatoes and a boiled carrot! They must have thought I wanted to veg, not, didn’t want veg!

Tonight we made sure we were in bed before the lights went out and the bats came out.

Thursday 30th August 2018, we were due to have breakfast at 6 am.  However, there had been torrential rain non-stop from 8 pm the night before. We were so happy that it was just the Lemur to see as the idea of marching around the rain forest was not appealing.

We eventually got up from our lie-in, to have a 7.30 am breakfast.

We agreed with Joseph that the Lemur would be taking shelter in the rain but that we would go out later if the rain cleared for long enough.

A German couple and a Switz couple arrived drenched at lunchtime and were interesting to talk to.

By about 4 pm it had dried up enough to try for Lemur. Mum decided that the trails would be rivers and stayed in. Dad and I decided we would try, as it was getting a bit much staying in all day.

We didn’t see any Lemur but about 20 minutes up from the lodge we heard a bird of prey calling. We followed the squawking, to find something astonishing; it was a Madagascar Serpent Eagle. Something that hadn’t been seen in this entire peninsular for more than five years. We spent about an hour watching it, taking photos and tracking which tree it ended up roosting in. We were hoping that we could come back at dawn tomorrow and show the bird to mum. The whole time the bird, which was an adult, carried on calling. Dad also recorded the call on his phone and when he played it back, it did respond.

By the time we got back to mum, she knew that we had seen something. She was trying to be stoical but was relieved that the bird had gone to roost.

At dinner, we exchanged stories with the other couples which were nice, as we’d hardly spoken to anyone the whole trip.

Joseph came into dinner, to let us know there was an East coast Scops Owl in a tree next to the kitchen. We all ran to the tree and were pleased to see the owl. We had seen one before but it was good to see one exactly where they are meant to be.

We decided to get to bed straight after dinner. There was a bit more excitement on the batting front as Dad asked me to go up and help get the bats out. As I opened the bedroom door, a large fruit bat flew into my face, followed by three of the tiny cute bats we had downstairs.

Mum had decided that it was best to just get to bed early, tuck herself into her mosquito net and get into bed with warm clothes as they seemed to absorb the dampness from the sheets, pillow and blankets.

Friday 31st August 2018, we had arranged a 5.30 am breakfast so we could try and find the eagle from the afternoon before. Then just before 6 am, Joseph came running into the dining room. One of the other guides had just called Banded Kestrel in a tree above the kitchen. This time we really did run, very fast, but got there literally seconds after it had flown off out of view.

We then quickly finished our drinks and then walked around to the huts where the staff and locals lived. We searched the area with no sign of the Kestrel. It was really disappointing as we had been trying nv for Banded Kestrel our whole trip, as it’s a difficult bird of prey to catch up with, as there are not many specific sites.

It was interesting that this marshy area was infested with mosquitoes and probably had lots of malaria. The
mosquitoes were vicious and the bites were also nasty, swelling ones.

We had to give up on the Kestrel and head into the rainforest. As we reached the spot where we had left the eagle, Joseph got excited and got mum onto a perched bird of prey. Then Dad started saying it was too small and didn’t look right. He knocked Joseph’s confidence but then he came back explaining why it wasn’t anything else and how it was definitely a young Madagascar Serpent Eagle. After much discussion, they decided that the female adult was calling last night because it had a young bird close and this was the young bird. That would explain why this bird was so much smaller than the one the evening before. Looking at the closeup photos we could see the feathers at the back of its neck, though they were lying flat on the young bird. Mum was ecstatic!

We then carried on looking for Lemur and found a pair of Red-roughed Lemur and a Parson’s Nose Chameleon which were fantastic.

Then our minds went back to the Banded Kestrel from the morning and we raced back down the hill.

There, in the dead tree where it had been sitting this morning was a Banded Kestrel. We just couldn’t believe our luck!

That was 4 new birds for the trip, taking us up to 124 new birds for the trip.

That in turn took me to 4,960 on my IOC world list.

After another simple lunch, it started raining again. Joseph came to tell us that we had to leave early tomorrow because of changes in flight times.

So we lounged around in the afternoon whilst it continued raining non-stop and got an early night.

Saturday 1st September 2018

This morning we had to dodge the bats at 4 am, get our bags out and be at breakfast at 4.30 am. Joseph came with us on our 5 am speed boat. It was pretty rough and probably too early in the morning for the Humpback Whale.

By 7 am we had a day room in a local lodge. After hot showers and warm, dry clothes we did feel better. I spent the morning in bed, reading and relaxing.


After lunch, we were at the airport for our afternoon flights back to Taba. It was 7 pm when we got back to the Saka Manga hotel for dinner, a regroup and then off to get our flight home via Nairobi.

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