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Meet Birdgirl, the 17-year-old campaigning for equality in environmental activism

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With the recent increase in environmental and political activism, diversity and inclusivity within these groups has become a topic of great discussion.
One young person working to combat and improve these conditions is 17-year-old Mya-Rose Craig, from Bristol, who is known by her followers as Birgirl.

birdgirl

Image Courtesy of Mya-Rose Craig

Asked when she first became interested in the environment, Mya-Rose replies: "I have been birding all my life and started travelling abroad to visit conservation projects when I was eight years old.

"There is no better way to understand conservation than to see it first hand. I started blogging when I was 11 years old, initially about birding in the UK and my hopes and desires. Then I quickly started writing about conservation issues, particularly as I had started understanding about conservation issues such as palm oil and writing about it."

Mya explains she only writes about things that are important to her. The first campaign that she took on single-handedly was highlighting the oil spill in the Sundarbans in Bangladesh in October 2014.

"I saw something on Facebook about it and then started campaigning to highlight to people in the UK and USA," she says. "Nobody else was talking about it at that stage. My family are from Bangladesh and so this was a really important environmental disaster for me. I wrote an article for the American Birding Association, which has a huge readership and as a direct result $30,000 was raised, enough to start the remedial work. That was when I realised what can be done by one person, even if you are only a child."

Mya-Rose highlights just how little diversity is considered when it comes to employment and inclusivity:

"The nature conservation and environmental sector employ almost only White British people. Only 0.6% of environmental professional is Visible Minority Ethnic (VME). As a result of this, the sector is unable to engage and connect with VME people and their communities.

"Nature is important for our existence and we need it to help manage our physical and mental health as well as our wellbeing.

"The stats show that 20% fewer VME children are taken out into green spaces weekly compared to White British middle-class children and 10% less than children living in areas of deprivation. The stats also show that VME people are much more likely to suffer mental illness and when diagnosed it is more likely to be diagnosed as a serious mental illness.

"The other issue is that the percentage of our population in cities who are VME is growing. If we are to make our cities sustainable or to become carbon neutral, we much engage VME people in the conversation or we will fail."

I ask Mya-Rose how important she thinks children are in environmental activism.

"Young people are essential to campaigning and especially environmental campaigning," she says. "This is because there are just more of us under 25 years of age then there used to be and if we can engage people as teenagers, they will continue with their campaigning into adulthood. The Youth Strikes have been really empowering and it is the first time in a long time young people have been able to make a difference.

 

Spilt oil in Sundarban

Spilt Oil in Sundarban/ Image Credit: Kallol Mustafa via Wikipedia

"In the UK we have the freedom to protest and so we should all make the most of that. I went to London for the Extinction Rebellion protests in Marble Arch and then set up an Extinction Rebellion group where I live. I camped in Bristol all week last week during the Bristol protests and found it very empowering and fantastic to meet so many like-minded people, especially young people my age. Having to behave in a certain way is also good discipline and working as a team.

 

"I have been talking a lot about the impact of Climate Breakdown on people in Bangladesh already and how we need global climate justice. Nobody is talking about this much, and so that makes it more important for me to raise these issues in my campaigning."


birding

Image Credit: Courtesy of Mya-Rose Craig

Mya-Rose has a conference on 25 September 2019, called Race Equality in Nature: The Future Gen 13-30. "I would love to hear from VME students studying STEM subjects related to the environment to feed into the conference," she says. "I am hearing stories from university students about racism in these subjects and how VME students are trying to tackle issues alone and often dropping out."

You can read Mya-Rose's blog here

Lead Image Courtesy of Mya-Rose Craig




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