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Today, I talk to the Environmental Journalist and researcher Maxwell Ayamba about how he is breaking myths and barriers that inhibit Black and Minority Ethnic communities to connect with their surrounding natural landscapes. Maxwell makes us all see the danger in generalising this whole topic. This is a lively conversation, exploring this issue from many angles such as: history of migration within BME communities; mental health amongst black men; challenges that lie in gaining physical access to nature; the power of practical application in research and what being an ecocentric is all about!

Music by the talented guitarist and composer, Vlad Cuiujuclu. The track name is "The Limits of Unknown".

Show Notes

“If you don’t engage with Black and Minority Ethnic groups and give them the opportunity and exposure to the landscapes outside, these landscapes remain alien to them” – Maxwell Ayamba
It is easy to generalize, especially when it comes to working with communities that come from cultures and backgrounds we are unfamiliar with. Maxwell breaks down the these myths when it comes to generalization that happen in government policies that try to engage with minorities to the countryside. It is important to remember that when we talk about ethnic minorities, there are: patterns of migration, history of migration, history of settlement, and lastly, the experiences and exposure for the individual. 
Maxwell: “It’s really difficult for people who have migrated to western societies like the UK, who originally did have the contact with nature in their countries, to re-connect that to the natural environment here.”
Maxwell’s work has led to him co-founding Sheffield Environmental Movement, previously called 100 Black Men Walk, set up initially to promote walking and talking amongst middle aged black men. In most BME communities, mental health is seen as a taboo/ a stigma but when given a space for people to walk and talk in the countryside, they are able to share their stories and learn from others, allowing them to overcome some of the mental problems they are experiencing. 
That’s why ethnographic research (which is a qualitative method for researchers to observe and interact with the participants in their lived experiences) is important and sustainable in this context. This type of research allows those involved, an experience that is outside the box ticking process, embedding in their psyche that they’re doing it for their own benefit. 
Nature is a commodity that, in Western societies, is reserved and conserved as spaces for leisure and recreation. People in the West can often view nature as an asset, subsequently separating themselves from nature, which becomes an unconnected entity. In contrast, in Eastern societies or in indigenous communities, they depend on nature as a source of livelihood so there is a sense of preservation of nature. This preservation is deeply embedded in the knowledge that if nature is not preserved for now and future generations, human beings will cease to exist. 
We all have an environmental stewardship - a civic responsibility to contribute to the whole environment. Maxwell as an eco-centric person fully embodies this duty and believes that nature is a part of who we are; therefore, whatever we do, we have to remember that we are beings of nature. Furthermore, being an eco-centrist is like being in a web of life where each species has a role to play in the whole eco-system. 

 If you want to find out more information about the work Maxwell is doing and Sheffield Environment Movement, please visit the website:
Music by the talented guitarist and composer, Vlad Cuiujuclu. The track name is "The Limits of Unknown".

What is THITPIN?

Thitpin podcast is a fun and exploratory mission to uncover the layers of landscape, our relationship towards it and beyond what we define as our landscape to unearth and connect with people and places, ideas and history thereby connecting ultimately with landscape itself.

Each month brings a range of guests such as, from a monk to an environmental journalist, designers and artists, whose expertise, passion and knowledge will give us all the perspective of what it is like to experience the landscape from their standpoint.

A combination of factual research with intimate, personal and passionate conversations, this podcast is a must listen for curious minds that want to go in depth on a journey of uncovering and exploring the landscape around us.