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 holiday 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.