British countryside is a 'racist and colonial' white space, wildlife charities claim

8 February 2024, 12:38 | Updated: 8 February 2024, 12:41

The British countryside is a 'racist, colonial' white space.
The British countryside is a 'racist, colonial' white space. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

The British countryside is a "racist and colonial" white space and people of colour are often framed as "out of place", wildlife charities have said.

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The claims were made by Wildlife and Countryside Link - a group of 80 organisations including WWF, the RSPCA and National Trust - while providing evidence to Parliament on connections between racism and climate change.

MPs were told that the countryside has been influenced by "racist colonial legacies", leading to an environment "dominated by white people".

The areas are governed by "white British cultural values", preventing people from other ethnic backgrounds from enjoying the outdoors, the report said.

It was submitted to MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Race and Community.

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The report said: "Our policy recommendations ensure that all people have the right to a healthy natural environment – all people must have access to nature."

It added: "Racist colonial legacies continue to frame nature in the UK as a 'white space' and people of colour as 'out of place' in these spaces and environmental sector."

"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 engage with them," it continued.

The report also suggests that there should be a "rights-based approach" to accessing green spaces, suggesting there be a "legally binding target for access to nature".

One proposal is ensuring everyone has a green space within a 15-minute walk from their home.

Head of Link Richard Benwell said: "Sadly, 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 the same time they are significantly less likely to visit natural spaces.

"There are multiple complex reasons behind this, as well as contemporary well-documented experiences of racism people encounter.

"Access for all and addressing the barriers people face should be one of the guiding lights for all nature sites."

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There are also broader claims in the report about the UK and climate change, stating: "The UK’s role in the European colonial project has also driven the current climate and nature crises."

It comes as the EU's climate service has revealed that global temperatures have pushed past the 1.5C warming threshold for an entire year for the first time.

World leaders pledged to limit the long-term temperature rise to 1.5C in the 2015 Paris Agreement, in a bid to avoid the most damaging impacts of global warming.

Scientists have said warming can still be slowed if countries step up their measures.