Nature’s collapse, and an inspiring story

Opinion piece published Barking & Dagenham Post, Romford Recorder, Docklands & East London Advertiser November/December 2023, transcribed below

These are grim times, but reading about a star birdwatcher cheered me up! The story of David Lindo, recently appointed a patron of Humanists UK, challenges stereotypes. It inspires at a time when action is urgently needed to save our natural world.

David was brought up in West London, the son of Jamaican immigrants. In his autobiography, The Urban Birder, David describes his fascination with nature as a child, particularly birds. He honed his skills and knowledge in London’s urban wastelands and parks. He mentions ‘bunking off’ to East London to expand his birdwatching horizons. David is now a TV presenter and international authority on ornithology. He has written extensively on urban birdwatching around the world.

During his journey David encountered ridicule and dismissiveness from people on all sides who didn’t think birdwatching was a black person’s thing. Thankfully, he enjoyed the support of many others. Identifying as a Humanist also counters any lazy assumption that being black means you are likely to be religious.

The ‘State of Nature Report,’ published on 28 September, charts the catastrophic decline in biodiversity across the UK. For example, of 293 bird species assessed, 43% are threatened with extinction from the UK. 60 nature organisations collaborated on this authoritative annual survey. War has understandably been dominating the news, along with the Covid enquiry and other stories of dysfunction in our world. But this should not eclipse coverage of the natural world’s collapse and the threats to all life as we know it.

David’s work, like that of David Attenborough, incidentally also a humanist, highlights how humans are part of nature’s web. All lives and fates are intertwined. Projects at, for example, Canary Wharf and the square mile’s Tower 42, have identified an astonishing variety of birds, from honey buzzards to wrynecks. Literally hundreds of species fly over and live in London, if only you know where and how to look for them. And why wouldn’t they?

It’s hard to be cheerful when so much depressing news abounds. But inspirational lives help keep hope alive. Much bad news, such as war, poverty, species loss and climate change, is down to human action or inaction. The positive is that humans have the power to turn things around if the will is there.

Paul Kaufman
Chairperson, East London Humanists

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