Chew Valley Gazette Dec 2015 Article – Indonesian Fires

Chew Valley Gazette Dec 2015 Article – Indonesian Fires

AFON Conference Sept 2014, my vision for the future is
“that all the palm oil plantations turn back into forest”
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig
I write a column called “Birding Tales” in my local monthly newspaper, the Chew Valley Gazette. Although it is only a local paper, it is read by lots of people who work for the BBC Natural History Department and the media, as lots of these people live in the Chew Valley just south of Bristol.

Palm oil plantations, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

This month, my December 2015 column is about the important issue of the fires raging in Indonesia. These are crippling the environment and are being ignored by our media. The article is on Page 43, and is from the link below:

http://edition.pagesuite-professional.co.uk//launch.aspx?pbid=0c6ffc9f-2cc0-4a3d-a55c-83e3a7013a5d

“As I go birding around the
beautiful Chew Valley Lake,
it’s easy to erase from my mind the crime against nature and our planet taking
place on the other side of the world.

As the media ignores this massive
eco-catastrophe, I can not do so. A huge
area of Indonesia
is on fire, along the 5000 km length of this beautiful country. A fire so dense that in some cities visibility
is down to 30 metres, smothered by smoke, children are choking. Others will die an early death from the
respiratory illnesses that they are developing now. 20 people are dead, 500,000 are suffering
from respiratory illnesses and 45 million people are impacted. At the same time, some of the world’s rarest
animals are being driven from their homes, with 1/3 of Orangutans in danger and
20,000 dead. The CO2 emission from the
fire is more than for the whole of the USA
and so far, an area the size of Belgium
is ash. Under the trees, the peat which
is up to 12 metres deep burns on for many months, releasing toxic gases.

Who or what could have
started this terrible disaster? Look no
further than Nestle, Pepsi and Starbucks.
All of these companies use palm oil in their products which is from
plantations on illegally deforested land.
Palm oil is now in 50% of all our products. Every year plantations supplying these
companies and immoral companies like them set fire to rainforests and peat
forests, to clear them for palm oil plantations. This year, the thousands of deliberate fires
have burnt out of control due to trying weather.

In 2014, when I visited
In Borneo and Malaysia I was shocked by the extent of land deforested for palm oil
plantations, which support virtually no
wildlife. At times we drove for hours, with nothing but palm oil
plantations as far as we could see. In the Kinabatangan River area,
there were amazing forests full of wildlife on one side of the river and palm
oil on the other side, with nothing. I realized that it was a disaster
happening around us right now. It’s like 500 years of woodland loss here
happening in 20 years there. The deforestation associated with palm oil is vast, particularly in Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and Malaysia which produce 87% of the world’s supply. The palm oil industry has been expanding ferociously,
accounting for 50 billion tons a year with huge areas of rainforest have been
destroyed in Malaysia and Indonesia.
What can you do to help? Sign a petition; write to these companies and others like them, telling them that their conduct is unacceptable; write to the papers and ask them why they are not reporting on this catastrophe; try to stick to products with ethical, sustainable options with the Rainforest Alliance’s Certification.”

I have previously written a blog about the impact of palm oil plantations

7 Days Not Very Wild – Day 6 – 6 July 2015

Palm oil plantations, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

About The Author

Hi, I’m Dr. Mya-Rose Craig. I am a 19-year-old prominent British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, environmentalist, diversity activist as well as an author, speaker and broadcaster. At age 11 I started the popular blog Birdgirl, and at age 17 I became the youngest person to see half of the birds in the world.

Buy My Book

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Find Out More

To find out more about working with me or to buy my book, please use the links below.

Work With MeBuy Book

7 Days Not Very Wild – A Summary of the Problems

7 Days Not Very Wild – A Summary of the Problems

7 Days not very Wild – 1-7 July 2015

Trying to do something wild each day – but not easy when nature has been trashed
My idea is that sometimes even if we look for that great wild thing in nature, it can be hard to find because of all sorts of reasons mainly to do with humans destroying the world.

Having celebrated the nature we can find for 30 days, I wanted to highlight for 7 days the nature I couldn’t find, sort of as a warning that things aren’t just hunky-dory.

This is a summary of the problems with nature that I highlighted, with the worst first:

Day 6 – What’s wrong with super noodles? This post highlighted how our consumption of palm oil in processed foods was fueling rainforest destruction in Asia.

For those who live outside the UK, this is a popular instant noodles

Ok, so what is wrong with Supernoodles? For most teenagers, absolutely nothing!

So is it the Monosodium Glutamate? The lack of nutrients? Yes, but no.

The second ingredient after noodles is palm oil. This is a solid fat that I am sure is causing health problems. It is the environmental problems that I am really concerned about.

I feel lucky that I have travelled so widely and so it is important to me to share the knowledge I have gained and my world perspective.

At the Focus on Nature (an organisation for young conservationists – AFON) Conference in September 2014, we were asked to write our Vision for Nature. Whilst we were in Malaysia and Borneo in the summer of 2014, I was shocked at the extent of palm oil plantations. The land is deforested to plant palm oil trees, which support virtually no wildlife. At times we drove for hours, with nothing but palm oil plantations as far as we could see. In the Kinabatangan River area, there were amazing forests full of wildlife on one side of the river and palm oil on the other side, with nothing. It is a disaster happening around us right now. It’s like 500 years of woodland loss here happening in 20 years there.

Palm Oil Plantations, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Palm Oil Plantations, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

I think that being a conservationist goes hand in hand with being an activist. Chris Packham is a great role model. He was fantastic going out to Malta and physically trying to stop the shooting, even getting arrested. Maybe that’s what we should do more of here. That’s why I like Greenpeace because they put themselves out there.

After the conference it made me wonder whether working in conservation made it difficult to be an eco-warrior. Will someone who had been arrested for hunt sabbing find it harder to get a job?

My vision for the future is that “all the palm oil plantations turn back into forest”. It is a vision that can also be extended to bringing wildlife habitats back where they have been lost all over the world. My vision is that we will not be afraid to fight for conservation and our environment.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Vision for the Future
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Day 7 – Rewilding the Mendips

The Mendip Hills are just a little way up the hill from us on the escarpment. We call them the Mendips. They are designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) including the area where we live in the Chew Valley.

I am due to start as Mendips Young Ranger in the autumn.

In the meantime, I can’t but question what is being preserved in some of the areas.

Mendips AONB
Photograph taken by Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

George Monbiot has talked a lot about rewilding. Turning areas back to how they were. Not 50 years ago in the case of the Mendips but what it was like 500 years ago, when much of it was probably covered in woods, which are now mainly left on the escarpment like Compton Woods next to us.

Feral by Geoge Monbiot
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

George Monbiot shows in his book Feral how by restoring and rewilding our damaged ecosystems on land and at sea, we can bring wonder back into our lives. He sets out a new positive environmental vision in which nature is allowed to find its own way.

His manifesto on rewilding is set out in:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/may/27/my-manifesto-rewilding-world
What he concludes is:

“Through rewilding – the mass restoration of ecosystems – I see an opportunity to reverse the destruction of the natural world. Researching my book Feral, I came across rewilding programmes in several parts of Europe, including some (such as trees for Life in Scotland and the Wales Wild Land Foundation) in the UK, which are beginning to show how swiftly nature responds when we stop trying to control it. Rewilding, in my view, should involve reintroducing missing animals and plants, taking down the fences, blocking the drainage ditches, and culling a few particularly invasive exotic species but otherwise standing back. It’s about abandoning the biblical doctrine of dominion which has governed our relationship with the natural world.

The only thing preventing a faster rewilding in the EU is public money. Farming is sustained on infertile land (by and large, the uplands) through taxpayers’ munificence. Without our help, almost all hill farming would cease immediately. I’m not calling for that, but I do think it’s time the farm subsidy system stopped forcing farmers to destroy wildlife. At the moment, to claim their single farm payments, farmers must prevent “the encroachment of unwanted vegetation on agricultural land”. They don’t have to produce anything: they merely have to keep the land in “agricultural condition”, which means bare.

I propose two changes to the subsidy regime. The first is to cap the amount of land for which farmers can claim money at 100 hectares (250 acres). It’s outrageous that the biggest farmers harvest millions every year from much poorer taxpayers, by dint of possessing so much land. A cap would give small farmers an advantage over large ones. The second is to remove the agricultural condition rule.

The effect of these changes would be to ensure that hill farmers with a powerful attachment to the land and its culture, language and traditions would still farm (and continue to reduce their income by keeping loss-making sheep and cattle). Absentee ranchers who are in it only for the subsidies would find that they were better off taking the money and allowing the land to rewild.”

I think this applies perfectly to the Mendips. The AONB ensures that the area is kept as it is now, barren. We need to stop grazing sheep and let a large proportion of the area rewild, with woods and moorland.
This photograph shows how little nature is on much of the Mendips.

Mendips AONB
Photograph taken by Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Day 4 – A wildflower meadow cut

The wildflower meadow field behind our house was cut down in its prime. If we paid the farmer, would he leave it long and say know to the cattle that graze on it the rest of the summer?

I think this is a definite case for rewilding, letting it turn back to how it was naturally.

The field behind our house with the grass cut, Compton Martin, Bristol
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Day 2 – A graveyard free of any nature – this post was about the graveyard in my village being ‘tidied up’ so extremely there was no nature left in it.

On the way home from school, I stopped at Compton Martin Church to have a look at some wildlife. When I went into the graveyard, at first glance it looked lovely and well kemp. Then I looked for some wildlife. I was really quite shocked at what I found.

Grave Yard, Compton Martin Church, Compton Martin, Bristol
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Mya-Rose Craig

Day 3 – A dead Common Toad – this post was about trying to save our amphibians

A dead Common Toad, Compton Martin, Bristol
Photograph taken by Young birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

During my 30 Days Wild, I wrote about a dead toad I had found on the road outside my house. Although it is wildlife, the issues go much deeper than that.

It is really important that we all do what we can to help frogs and toads survive. It is estimated that only 5 in every 1000 frog eggs survive to adulthood. It is a terrible statistic.

As amphibians live in the water and land, they are a good indicator of the health of both habitats. Their decline has raised concerns about habitats around the world.

All we have to do is make some changes to our gardens to encourage them back. We need to add ponds and compost heaps to create a dragon garden.

Ponds need to be in a sunny position away from overhanging trees, include a shallow area, a section at least 60 cm deep, no paving slabs around it, use water from a water butt to fill and use only native plants which are floating, submerges and marginals.

Introduce a wild rockery, a log pile and vegetation of differing heights and weights for the amphibians to come to you. Check long grass before you cut it.

Day 5 – A lost baby bird – this post was about the impact of our pet cats on nature and what can be done to reduce the numbers

Sunday lunchtime a friend of my mum Sherry got in touch. Her son Tye and his girlfriend had been looking after a House Martin chick that had fallen out of it’s nest at her house in another village in the Chew Valley.

They had some nests by their roof but nowhere they could reach. The chick had been on the patio. Nature would have allowed for this kind of thing to happen with the parent seeing the chick, picking it up and returning it to the nest. However, this is not just not possible. With the number of domestic cats around, the chick would not have stood a chance even for half an hour.

Chicks this young are unlikely to survive. Even if we can keep it alive until it fledges, what then? They are still fed by their parents after they fledge.

So that is my issue impacting wildlife for day 5 which causes big problems for all kinds of wildlife, including domestic cats. Not happy with breeding and increasing our own numbers to the extent that the earth can not support us, we keep huge numbers of predators as pets as well.

Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig feeding a rescued House Martin chick
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

Day 1 – A dead Carrion Crow, killed on our electricity wires

Today I saw a dead Carrion Crow at the bottom of the field on the way home. I wondered how it had died. Had someone killed it? It looked perfect apart from damaged feathers on one side. Needless to say, I got a big stick and poked it to see what happened. The inside seemed to have been eaten by the maggots all over it. Then I looked up and noticed the electricity wire above it. Had it flown into the wires and died?

Dead Carrion Crown, Compton Martin, Bristol
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Crag

We all need to do what we can to save and promote nature by small steps like signing petitions, writing to organisations and companies and telling people about what is wrong.

About The Author

Hi, I’m Dr. Mya-Rose Craig. I am a 19-year-old prominent British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, environmentalist, diversity activist as well as an author, speaker and broadcaster. At age 11 I started the popular blog Birdgirl, and at age 17 I became the youngest person to see half of the birds in the world.

Buy My Book

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Find Out More

To find out more about working with me or to buy my book, please use the links below.

Work With MeBuy Book

7 Days Not Very Wild – Day 6 – 6 July 2015

7 Days Not Very Wild – Day 6 – 6 July 2015

7 Days not very Wild – Trying to do something wild each day
My idea is that sometimes even if we look for that great wild thing in nature, it can be hard to find because of all sorts of reasons mainly to do with humans destroying the world.

Having celebrated the nature we can find for 30 days, I wanted to highlight the nature I couldn’t find for 7 days, sort of as a warning that things aren’t just hunky-dory.

Day 6 – What’s wrong with super noodles?

For those who live outside the UK, this is a popular instant noodles

Ok, so what is wrong with Supernoodles? For most teenagers, absolutely nothing!

So is it the Monosodium Glutamate? The lack of nutrients? Yes, but no.

The second ingredient after noodles is palm oil. This is a solid fat that I am sure is causing health problems. It is the environmental problems that I am really concerned about.

I feel lucky that I have travelled so widely and so it is important to me to share the knowledge I have gained and my world perspective.

At the Focus on Nature (an organisation for young conservationists – AFON) Conference in September 2014, we were asked to write our Vision for Nature. Whilst we were in Malaysia and Borneo in the summer of 2014, I was shocked at the extent of palm oil plantations. The land is deforested to plant palm oil trees, which support virtually no wildlife. At times we drove for hours, with nothing but palm oil plantations as far as we could see. In the Kinabatangan River area, there were amazing forests full of wildlife on one side of the river and palm oil on the other side, with nothing. It is a disaster happening around us right now. It’s like 500 years of woodland loss here happening in 20 years there.

Palm Oil Plantations, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

Palm Oil Plantations, Sabah, Borneo
Photograph taken by and copyright Young Birder Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig

From a global view, I feel it is more important to save an entire species from extinction (like the Madagascan Pochard) rather than spend lots of money to save a bird from no longer breeding in Britain, which is anyway on the edge of its natural range and widespread elsewhere (like maybe Golden Oriole). Often, when one “flagship” species is saved in say a rainforest, lots of other species, like insects and “ugly” animals, also benefit from the saving of a habitat. However, where there is persecution in Britain or abroad, we should do everything we can to stop the killing and send the murderers to prison. I think that being a conservationist goes hand in hand with being an activist. Chris Packham is a great role model. He was fantastic going out to Malta and physically trying to stop the shooting, even getting arrested. Maybe that’s what we should do more of here. That’s why I like Greenpeace, because they put themselves out there.

In Borneo, I met a really interesting man who had worked for WWF in Borneo for 20 years and then I suspect due to frustration, set up an NGO to save the Sumatran Rhino. He talked about how conservative the large organizations can be and how it can take many years to get decisions, because of their size, number of people involved in the process and number of interested parties. After the conference it made me wonder whether working in conservation made it difficult to be an eco-warrior. Will someone who had been arrested for hunt sabbing find it harder to get a job? My Dad used to be a hunt saboteur and it sounds cool to me.

My vision for the future is that “all the palm oil plantations turn back into forest”. It is a vision that can also be extended to bringing wildlife habitats back where they have been lost all over the world. My vision is that we will not be afraid to fight for conservation and our environment.

Birdgirl Mya-Rose Craig with Vision for the Future
Photograph taken by and copyright Helena Craig

About The Author

Hi, I’m Dr. Mya-Rose Craig. I am a 19-year-old prominent British-Bangladeshi ornithologist, environmentalist, diversity activist as well as an author, speaker and broadcaster. At age 11 I started the popular blog Birdgirl, and at age 17 I became the youngest person to see half of the birds in the world.

Buy My Book

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Lyrical, poignant and insightful.’ - Margaret Atwood

This is my story; a journey defined by my love for these extraordinary creatures. Because large or small, brown, patterned or jewelled, there is something about birds that makes us, even for just moments at a time, lift our eyes away from our lives and up to the skies.

Find Out More

To find out more about working with me or to buy my book, please use the links below.

Work With MeBuy Book