Thursday, 2 July 2020

Does birdwatching have a diversity problem?

    For the past 8 or 9 months, I've been trying to write about all my thoughts on diversity, but kept giving up. However, with the month of June starting with the terrible murder of George Floyd, there seems to be no better time to try again, and hopefully, finally, get into writing everything that's in my head... 
    In this blog post, I'm going to evaluate 3 questions; these are:
  • Does the nature community actually have a diversity issue?
  • Is racism the biggest factor in causing a lack of diversity in ethnicity in the nature community?
  • And: What can we do to help make nature/birding/the environment more accessible to everyone?
    First, I thought I'd start with a bit of background about me, and why I'm writing a blog post about this in the first place.

    Like my parents, I've been lucky to grow up as a British Indian in South London, after my grandparents moved to the UK in the 1960s. Although I've always been someone that's loved being outdoors, my passion for nature and birdwatching specifically began when I was 7, when my mum got me to do the Big Garden Birdwatch after getting fed up of me talking about dinosaurs. From that day on, I was hooked, and trips to India in 2012 and Malaysia in 2015 strengthened what I'd even call a bond with the natural world. Though birdwatching and photography have always been what I've loved the most, I started to find the interaction between humans and environment much more interesting after visiting Malaysia, where I could see some of the impacts of human actions on nature for myself. As a result, I've become much more active in conservation and environmental campaigning. My fascination with the environment has seen me down so many amazing paths, and it's become more than a hobby, for which I don't regret at all. 
Yet for the past 10 years, being a birder from a 'minority' background hasn't always been easy, which is why the diversity issue has felt so much more personal to me. In 2018, I finally decided to do a short 10 minute presentation about it at school, and it left me feeling hopeful, for reasons that I'll come back to later. Now, I'm lucky enough to represent various organisations including the BTO, #iwill campaign and Cameron Bespolka Trust; the platform I've managed to find myself with here is what I'm hoping to use to share my views and experiences about diversity, as a young birder/nature lover, with a particular focus on ethnicity.