Birder's Guide

MAY 2015

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 28 of 35

Teaching the fock. Here, the author shows a group of Portuguese beginners the birds in their local neighborhood. that in today's world would be deemed as old-fashioned and plain weird. Nowadays, city kids rarely engage in outdoor pas- times that involve connecting with wildlife on their own accord. People are scared of getting dirty, getting injured, or catching strange diseases. The perceived phenom- enon of "stranger danger" also has a large part to play in our youth's disconnection. It is easier to stick a child in the corner of a room in front of a television or computer device, and to leave them to it. I have taken city schoolkids of all races on urban nature walks, and I am still hor- rifed when some of them admit to having never seen a real cow standing in a rural feld or waves crashing onto a beach. It makes me desperately sad, especially when you can see that these kids are genuinely interested in nature. I believe that most kids have a real interest in their environ- ment. The problem is that they have no mentors to drive their interest on. For me, it's all about showing people "the door". Let me give you an example. A few years ago, I was asked by a frm of architects that specialized in planning eco- logically sound buildings to take a group of young students on a bird walk around But it wasn't all plain sailing. I was a black kid into birds, and I stood out. None of the other black kids in my neighbor- hood understood my passion, although I did manage to get one of them to come out birding with me on a few occasions. Our association ended fairly quickly, though, when he succumbed to peer pressure. They were the very same people who took great delight in harassing me for having what they deemed an English white man's pastime. That was life in 1970s London. Racism was also rife. I was getting the ra- cially-motivated name-calling from some white people and being chastised for being a birder by "my people". I got it from both angles. Although it didn't dim my passion, it did cause me to become a little more se- cretive about my activities for fear of draw- ing attention to myself. I often wondered why there were so few black people interested in wildlife in those days. Even today I am only aware of a handful of British black birders, and one who I know personally had a similar story to tell concerning his formative bird- ing years. The main difference was that he might have got even more abuse because of his dual-heritage background. When my parents' generation frst ar- rived in Britain, most of them came from rural backgrounds, and for a while they re- tained a strong relationship with their natal native fora and fauna. Once they relocated within Britain's cities, other priorities soon kicked in. Finding themselves in a strange and sometimes hostile new environment, the most important thing was to get settled, fnd work, obtain housing, and put food on the table. Add to that scenario the fear and trepidation many ethnic immigrants felt about venturing outside of a city and into the English hinterland. I truly believe that, in those days, newly arrived immigrants were convinced that if they ended up in a quaint village, they would be gawked at, racially abused, and chased out of town. These beliefs were fuelled by the images of British life portrayed by the media at the time. You can see why my parents' gen- eration sought safety by grouping together within selected areas of the cities. Besides, why get yourself into a potentially hostile situation when you can stay within your familiar territory? Any leisure time would be spent bonding with rum and dominoes while skanking to the latest ska tune. Hav- ing a house party was a far more likely ac- tivity than a stroll in the countryside to take in the rural chorus of Yellowhammers and Sky Larks. Forty years and a couple generations lat- er, things have changed considerably. Brit- ain has become a more integrated and ac- cepting society. But I also believe that, de- spite everything, a fear remains—certainly within the black community—of stepping out into the countryside. The perceptions that existed in my parents' day persist, now under the guise of "the countryside's too boring, what am I going to do there?" Meanwhile, somewhere along the line, society has disconnected with nature. I be- lieve that, in the U.K., this disconnection spans all walks of life, colors, and creeds. We live in a world driven by need for in- stant gratifcation. People expect every- thing labeled, pre-packaged, beautifed, and on a plate—and now! When I was small, kids were encouraged to have hobbies. I knew plenty of stamp collectors, toy soldier and railway set en- thusiasts—kids with the kinds of interests 27 May 2015 | Birder's Guide to Conservation & Community London, England, United Kingdom David Lindo

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