Mya-Rose Craig will take part in the panel discussion, 'This green and pleasant land?' at the British Science Festival. Here, Mya-Rose shares her thoughts on future land use in the UK. Find out more about the event.


The Barbenheimer hype might have died down but fallout remains strong. As with so many other young women, I was over the moon to see such diversity in the cast and a Barbie Land that truly represents the intelligent, strong-willed, gregarious and creative women I am familiar with.

As a birder, however, that’s not sight I tend to see out in rural parts of the UK. I’ve been birding since I was a child, but something that always struck me was that my family and I were often the only people of colour, and the only girls.

The case for nature

My vision is access to nature for all, and I’ve been campaigning for years to achieve this for young people from minority ethnic groups. Black2Nature, a camp I set up for Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) communities who are currently excluded from the countryside, gets people from such backgrounds into the UK outdoors. We ensure this happens in a safe, supported environment.

The problem is that if you’re not a White, middle or upper class individual, the countryside may not always be particularly welcoming to you. The recent backlash against a Muslim walkers’ group is an extreme example of this, though not overly surprising to me. A study being undertaken into rural racism by the University of Leicester is indicative of the wider issue of exclusion.

Being in nature is proven to be beneficial to our wellbeing, and with rising levels of mental health issues in young people, encouraging a relationship with nature is just one way of attempting to tackle this. This is particularly important for young people from minoritised ethnic backgrounds who are exposed to risk factors that mean they’ve got a higher chance of developing poor mental health.

With the health and social care system stretched to its limits, there is a case for readily available, non-medical interventions to improve mental health and wellbeing. Over 90% of England is rural countryside; so, we should really make sure this is a viable solution for all.

Land use for net zero, and communities

I’ll be speaking on a panel at this year’s British Science Festival about land use in the UK. There is, of course, the environmental angle. The current climate crisis and our priority to reach net zero in the coming years means that farming, energy and waste will be top of the agenda for the speakers and policymakers.

However, we must also prioritise access to nature for all communities. Especially those with the least access to nature now, such as individuals on lower incomes from inner cities and VME communities who may feel like the countryside is somewhere they’re not made to feel comfortable visiting.

This doesn’t just mean we make spaces available; this means actively reaching out to those from minority ethnic backgrounds and removing barriers such the apprehension of venturing out into nature due to concerns that these spaces are not “for them”. This involves working closely with communities in the rural UK and building relationships, enabling trust and eventually a shared ownership of our amazing countryside.

Climate and biodiversity crises are affecting our natural environment and will continue to do so until we implement changes to our land management, energy consumption and exploitation of natural resources. We should, in the meantime, take a (pink) leaf from Barbie Land, and empower Barbies, Kens and everyone in between to play a part in enjoying, caring for and benefiting from our countryside.

Mya-Rose Craig is a 21-year-old British-Bangladeshi environmentalist who fights for access to nature, climate and biodiversity and author of three books including her memoir ‘Birdgirl’.

Mya-Rose is a headline speaker at this year’s British Science Festival, featuring on the panel discussion ‘This green and pleasant land? at 3:30pm on 9 September 2023, Exeter Cathedral. Mya-Rose is speaking alongside Ian Bateman, Sophie Pavelle and Zion Lights.

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For more information visit the British Science Festival website