During August – December 2020, I, Sheree Mack, presenting Earth Sea Love, was one of nine Black and People of Colour peer researchers into diversity in the British Countryside. Spearheaded by Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE)’s campaign to widen access to nature, The New Economics Foundation (NEF) was charged with coordinating the research.
As a group of independent researchers, we collaboratively designed and conducted participatory research into racial inequalities in access to nature in the English countryside. We had deep and meaningful conversations with groups and individuals within our communities to collect their stories, their lived experiences of connection with nature.
This research aims to feed into a commission to be held by CPRE to explore this topic. At this point, the outcomes for dissemination are still under discussion. One result from the project was a conversation this month with the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, MP George Eustice.
From the researchers present, we each had some time to share with the Secretary of State as well as an extensive civil service team, our experiences within nature as well as the work we have been facilitating in providing more opportunities for our people to develop closer relationship with the British landscape.
From my speech, I said,
“I fell in love with nature at a late stage in my life due to such barriers as finances, information, history, culture and fear, a relationship with nature was not possible growing up. But it has been a healing experiences since.
Nature does not judge. She allows me to be myself.
She accepts me on all my glories and flaws.
Hence my work to offer opportunities of being with nature to people who look like me. Black and brown women who have survived domestic abuse and sexual violence. Refugees and asylum seekers. Black and people of colour born in the U.K. Not only is it our right to roam this land which is our home, but through this walking the land we can also heal ourselves and the landscape itself.
It is through my love of nature that I’m learning to love myself. Something living under white supremacy culture will never teach me how to do.
I care and love and work to support and protect the environment, then this means I love and care and protect myself and others as we are all connected.”
As Project Coordinator of this Wayfinding project, my aim for attending this meeting was to make sure that this was not the one and only meeting we had with the government. Nothing meaningful can be gleamed or changed from one 45 minute meeting. I opened and ended with the same question,
“When is our next meeting?“
I’m happy to say that a future meeting to continue the conversation is now being planned.