Report finds racism in rural settings
A coalition of conservation and environment groups has claimed the UK’s countryside is a racist colonial white space in a submission to the House of Commons.
Wildlife and Countryside Link, a charity umbrella group whose members include the RSPCA, WWF and National Trust, made the claim in evidence provided to parliament on racism and its influence on the natural world.
MPs heard how racist colonial legacies has influenced British wildlife spaces, dominated by white people.
The report was submitted to MPs on the all-party parliamentary group for Race and Community, which had called for evidence on the links between “systemic racism” and climate change.
The report states: “Cultural barriers reflect that in the UK, it is white British cultural values that have been embedded into the design and management of green spaces, and into society’s expectations of how people should be engaging with them.”
It adds that “racist colonial legacies continue to frame nature in the UK as a ‘white space’”, and claims that “the perception that green spaces are dominated by white people can prevent people from ethnic minority backgrounds from using green spaces”.
Link operates as an umbrella organisation for its members charities, including the RSPB, the Woodland Trust, and Friends of the Earth.
Sections of the report cover the environmental cost of the British Empire, claiming: “The UK’s role in the European colonial project has also driven the current climate and nature crises.”
Previously the University of Leicester launched an investigation into “rural racism” in the British countryside.
This in turn followed claims by groups such as Muslim Hikers, which seeks to encourage Muslims to enjoy the countryside, that rural areas were perceived as unwelcoming and off-limits to minority communities.
Link is headed by Richard Benwell, the chief executive and a former Liberal Democrat prospective parliamentary candidate, who worked as a policy adviser to the secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs in 2018.
Benwell said: “Nature should be for everyone to enjoy and to benefit from. Sadly however, the evidence shows that people of colour in the UK are more likely to live in areas with less green space and that are more heavily polluted, and at natural spaces.
“There are multiple complex reasons behind this, as well as contemporary well-documented experiences of racism that people are still encountering. Access for all and addressing the barriers people are facing should be one of the guiding lights for all nature sites.”