I write this knowing that I will likely get it wrong. But I have stayed silent in the past for fear of saying the wrong thing, and the events of the last few weeks, the murder of George Floyd and others before him, and the protests and conversations which have taken place since have shown me that silence is not good enough anymore.
Why does that matter here? It matters because this is a platform where I can choose to be silent or not. Human Nature is the social enterprise I am building to represent the future I believe can be achieved. A socially just and safe future for all, lived within ecological limits. One of the business’s core values is equality. I recognise that it is easy to unconsciously build inequality into our words and actions; I am searching for ways to consciously build equality into the work I do. I am doing the work to understand what this means in terms of actions, and I will continue to learn.
There are many learning opportunities out there. Here are two I’d like to share:
Firstly an article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson where she answers her friend’s question about white privilege. As a white woman, I recognise I have privilege. It is only through stories such as Lori’s that I can understand what that means and what I can do about it.
Secondly, last week was Black Birders Week, set up in response to a racist incident in Central Park. This social media campaign, and the associated twitter account @BlackAFInSTEM has three aims: 1) to counter the narrative that the outdoors are not the place Black people should be; 2) educate the birding and broader outdoor-loving community about the challenges Black birders specifically face; and 3) encourage increased diversity in birding and conservation (hastags #BlackBirdersWeek #BlackAFinSTEM and #BlackInNature). Representation is so important for inspiring others to pursue their interests and passions for nature, and to be able to access all the benefits which the outdoors offer. Although this is a US initiative, the lack of diversity in engaging with the natural world is not a uniquely US problem. Natural England’s Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment (2018/2019) asked people in England how often they spent leisure time outdoors, away from home: 69% of white respondents visited at least once a week, whilst only 42% of Black, Asian, minority ethnic visited once a week. The Black Birders initiative has shaken me into thinking about problems I was familiar with, but I am now questioning more deeply how I can actively contribute to undoing some of this inequality.
Looking forwards, I am learning how to be a better ally in my life and my work. I want to thank all those who are helping me better understand how to speak up, particularly people in the Black community who are sharing their experiences and putting themselves out there on social media and beyond so that people like me can learn and do better.