Becoming a parent changes your perspective on most things and one that has been profound for me is the way I feel about the impacts of climate change. I’m not going to lie, up until a year or so ago, I hadn’t read up enough about it to fully understand its significance and therefore, whilst I’m not saying I didn’t care, I just wasn’t that interested. I tended to switch off when the celebrity nature names and writers began to talk about it more; and when most of them do now, I still switch off. This is partly because many, young and old, although they may have made wholesale lifestyle changes, still fly profusely for work which will account for a large proportion of their own carbon footprints. I find this grossly hypocritical when they tell us to reduce or stop our own air travel. Lead by example. I’m exceptionally under-travelled, having only ever flown three times in my life (all round trips and short-haul) so cutting out air travel isn’t an issue. We’re going on honeymoon this year and I feel pretty bad about the flight for that, but against the limited air travel I’ve used in my life, my overall emissions are actually lower than the eu average. We do eat meat and we aren’t going to stop, but we are exploring local options for meat (where it is cost-effective) and have reduced our beef and lamb intake, as they contribute the most to carbon emissions. We also try to buy second hand, where we can and sell things on too, when we’ve finished using them. Also, over half of our daughters toys are wooden rather than plastic.

So, to my own, personal changes, which mainly relate to birdwatching and my Bird Therapy stuff. I’ve long been a proponent of local patch birding; and whilst I’m not anti twitching – it’s just not my thing – as those who have read Bird Therapy will know. I’m also pretty shit at being in the right place for coastal birds in the migration seasons and I don’t twitch, so I’m not going to miss much in the way of rarities. After last weekends local bird count (race) we were told at the tot-up, that one gentleman had walked his local patch rather than drive and had seen loads of great birds. That really inspired me and this year I’ve decided to just do my birdwatching around the town I live in, at sites that are walkable from my house and at worst, on my way home from work. I’m aiming to cut out all unnecessary birdwatching car journeys, unless I’m sharing a car with someone else. I feel massively empowered in doing this and being able to have a green patch in this years Patchwork Challenge setting myself an ambitious target of 80 species for the year! Plus – I get to go on loads of lovely local walks with our daughter too. From a Bird Therapy perspective, I’m no longer going to accept any commissions from publications that advertise long haul birding holidays. I accept that I’ll basically never write for a birdwatching magazine again, but I also can’t endorse it from a moral perspective. I’m also turning down any talk enquiries outside of Norfolk, which will help to keep my emissions down in general. I’ve recently turned down a talk in another country too, for the same reasons, although regarding air travel. Birdfair is an absolute no for me now too. They’ve hardly been allies of Bird Therapy in the past anyway; and as they endorse and are built on global birding and ecotourism, I just can’t be associated with it. I know that all of these decisions will impact on my ability to share my message but having suffered the massive negative networking impact of not being on twitter (I’ve shared my teaching pack with around ten people who’ve enquired) – I’m staring to get used to a natural disinterest in what I’m doing as it’s no longer shared by those nature celebs.

A lot of this perspective has come from reading the twitter feed of Javier, who posts as ‘low carbon birding’ and, although he doesn’t really know it, has taught me so much about the impacts of climate change and inspired me to change my views and lifestyle, along with my friends Tim and Nick. Javier came and met me at Birdfair this year when I was about to go and do my talk, I have so much respect for him and his work and it was a massive honour just to have a short chat with him.

5 thoughts on “Making some (climate) changes

  1. Interesting stuff. I went to Birdfair once (I think, it was on Rutland Water and I did find some second-hand books to look at while my husband looked at a million binoculars) and we were both a bit shocked at all the horribly expensive long-haul bird holidays, having by no means worked our way through the birds of Britain and Northern Europe yet! One thing that does annoy me about trying to be a low-carbon birder is the lack of public transport access to nature reserves. We don’t have a car and live in a city and can get to one local reserve on 2 buses and a decent walk (which is fine). Fortunately the West Midlands Bird Club do coach trips, not so bad as individual cars and a chance for my husband to get to reserves he’s only heard about.

    I hope you enjoy your “local patch” birding – sounds fun to me. Do go and see a bittern for us – almost the only bird left now that I’ve seen (on holidays in Norfolk in my 20s) but my husband hasn’t.

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  2. I’m glad that I’m not the only person who feels this way about long haul birding trips and who this greatly increases and individuals carbon footprint. We all need to make difficult decisions and make major changes in aspects of our lives, that includes birding.
    It’s a brave decision to put your principals before your ability to earn from talks or commissions.
    You have my admiration and I hope others follow your example. I will certainly be making similar changes to the way I work from now on.

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  3. Hi Joe

    Greetings hugs

    I fully agree with this mailing and do much of what you do now

    Age 67 I have only done 8 fairly short range return trips in my life the furthest was to Rome to a family wedding

    Not flown since 2008 on purpose

    Do only one long car journey a year no more that 120 miles each way for my one week holiday often visiting friends and family on the way

    Re wilded garden etc

    The only major difference is I became vegan in I think 1972 so have gained zillions of carbon neutral years from that alone

    The furthest we bird is about 8 miles to Ladywalk reserve

    Being physically disabled as much as I would love to cycle my arthritic joints say no way

    I am in a big rheumatoid flare and have a massive swollen knee so going out on a muddy reserve is no go right now

    This really impacts on my mood making it as dark as these days when it never seems to get light

    But! Watching loads of goldies, tits, sparrows, starlings, dunnocks, robins, winter thrushes plus corvids from my window and last week a hunting kestrel keeps me going

    Keep the faith

    Yvonne x

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  4. Hi Joe,
    Things are changing and you’ve made some difficult choices there. However, as you say, they’ll probably enhance your life anyway. People are taking control over their lifestyles and emissions and starting to make their own minds up about the messages we are getting from our supposed “conservation leaders” and doing the right things anyway, regardless of the fact that those in the birding media, the Birdfair and our conservation “leaders” are not walking the talk.

    Keep it up mate
    Tim

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