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Access to nature has never felt more important for many in the UK. As the Museum works to champion nature in our towns and cities, we've been hearing from people up down the country on how they want their own relationship with green spaces to feel.
A Youth Advisory Panel (YAP) has been discussing access to the natural world with Museum staff. Over a period of five months, during the height of the COVID pandemic lockdowns in the UK, 12 young people from diverse backgrounds have been sharing their thoughts and experiences.
Yogi Nagam, who has been attending the bimonthly YAP meetings, explains what the group set out to achieve and the conversations that were had.
Yogi says, 'During our conversations, our focus turned towards access to green spaces for Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) groups, as reports from the UK Government and National Trust suggest a large difference in how people in different communities get to and want to enjoy outdoor spaces. Microaggressions, the quality and maintenance of urban green spaces and transport to more rural green space all came up and were discussed frankly and openly.
'It was challenging at times, but this experience has been a really constructive and powerful one.
'Conversing over the course of a period of six months allowed us as a group to visit and revisit people's experiences and understand their stories and views more deeply. I really feel people should be able to exist in outdoor spaces, feeling the benefits for themselves and starting a relationship with the natural world around us.
'As a group of people who weren't acting as part of the Museum but working with it, we all felt able to express our thoughts freely and often saw the problems we identified leading us to conclusions where taking the groups' experiences and ideas to relevant policy and decisionmakers in local and national government matter.
'To be part of this project has been a pleasure. The support and structure of the group as well as the flexibility of the YAP has been fab. I hope it can continue on at the Museum and provide insights to the work and projects that are yet to happen.'
Find out a little more about who some of the Youth Advisory Panel members are and what they are proud of achieving over the last few months.
It feels like we're actually taking an active part in something. The YAP is so much more in depth and it feels like we're trying to think about how to create a change and a positive impact that will hopefully help people in some form or another.
I think a lot of organisations doubt that young people want to be involved, but that's not true: we're here, we want to be involved and we are active in the things we think are important, even if it is not in the stereotypical way that perhaps older generations may have thought of.
When I first came to this I didn't really know what to expect. But I have learned from everyone here about the importance of green spaces and the environment. It has been educational for me, and that is good. I'd never really thought about how BAME people had a reduced access to nature and now it has given me a point of view that I can actually think about and it is more important than I once considered.
I'm proud of the conversations we've had and the ability to come up with solutions. Being part of the YAP has been important to me as I've come to realise that more young and diverse people are interested in the outdoors and how we can find ways to make it more accessible to everyone.
There is power in youth voices and we do have something to offer, and hopefully these voices will become embedded in the Museum.
The YAP has been considerably more educational, interesting and ambitious than I expected. Learning about the inequality in access to green spaces that I always knew was there, but had never fully articulated, has been good for me. Young people seem to be approaching the issues of where they want change in a way that is harder to do as a Museum.
The fact that we have connected with each other during a pandemic is something I am really proud of. None of us really knew each other before all of this and I learned that we must give each other time, space and the opportunity to share our experiences, particularly when it can be quite vulnerable and nerve wracking.
I think that people should not underestimate the voices of young people in how powerful and strong they can be to facilitate and foster change.