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Starting now ...

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Today is one week short of a year since the announcement that our blog would be “Starting soon!”

Our world's changed fundamentally this past year. During this time, the awareness of nature journaling expanded significantly in some parts of the world. In South Africa, more individuals joined Nature Journal South Africa’s community. We nature journaled together in wonderfully diverse habitats at Durban Botanic Gardens and Garvie’s Beach, Mbozambo Wetland (SAPPI in KwaDukuza/Stanger), and in Nature Reserves at: Palmiet, Umhlanga Lagoon, Beachwood Mangroves, Krantzkloof, Karkloof, Umngeni Valley, Springside, and New Germany. We facilitated nature journal training for Level 1 Nature Guide trainees for the Wilderness Leadership School based at Stainbank Nature Reserve in Durban.

Some local organisations began exploring how to integrate nature journaling in their programmes. For example, Wildlife ACT Community Conservation Programme in Zululand is integrating nature journaling into their uBhejane Kid’s Camps and Wildlife Ambassadors Clubs. BirdLife Port Natal hosts nature journaling for birders activities as part of their monthly activities. The Botanical Artists Association of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal Coastal branch now also includes nature journaling as a regular part of their programme activities. These activities are on hold until it is possible to ease the restrictions.

The COVID-19 pandemic also entered our lives. South Africa went into lockdown on 27 March 2020. During these difficult times, nature journaling has helped us to connect with nature, to be nurtured by nature. We continue to nature journal from home during the lockdown. Locally we are communicating by online chat. We support each other with inspiration, encouragement and laughter. Tanya Dayaram proposed that we collect our shared pages and posts in #NJSA_lockdown_edition. These are some of the contributions.

Thanks to Jack LawsNature Journal Club on Facebook, we cross paths in the wider international community. Some of us participated in the Nature Journal online parties started by Gargi Chugh. During May, others of us participated in the workshop series “Drawing Birds” taught by John Muir Laws (aka Jack) in collaboration with Audubon California. Definitely worth watching Garden Birds, Waterbirds, Raptors, drawing along and doing the homework!

Audubon appeared more clearly a third time when a member of the Nature Journal Club Facebook group brought to our attention that John James Audubon was African American. He is presented in most illustrations as white. He is sparked the birding movement through his research and art in early 1800s.

The Audubon Society, the US BirdLife International partner, came into our lives again this past week in an article “Black Birders Week’ Promotes Diversity and Takes on Racism in the Outdoors“. Black birder, Corina Newsome, announced the first ever Black Birders Week to

“highlight Black birders in response to the Central Park incident, which started when Christian Cooper, an avid birdwatcher who is Black, asked a white woman to put her dog on a leash as required by park rules. When the woman, Amy Cooper, declined, Christian Cooper began filming. The resulting video shows Amy Cooper warning she is going to tell police that “there’s an African American man threatening my life,” then calling 911 and again emphasizing the birder’s race.”

To learn more about why this could have been a death sentence for being Black while birding read this New York Times article. To learn about the Black Birders Week’s goals read here.

Audubon CEO, David Yarnold, wrote to Audubon staff, then posted publicly:

“Dear colleagues,

Black lives matter. Our nation is in turmoil because our governments, our institutions (including Audubon), and private individuals haven’t done nearly enough to act on that fundamental truth.

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery should still be alive—our deeply flawed and unequal criminal justice system must change. Christian Cooper’s life never should have been threatened for asking someone to leash a dog in a bird sanctuary. Black Americans should not face lower odds of survival and prosperity across every measure of wellbeing in this country, but they do.

… Audubon is choosing action. Instead of using vaguer words, we’re going to talk about how Audubon can become antiracist in everything we do, internally and externally. That’s going to be a long conversation.”

Read the full message here.

As protests spread through the US and across the world, we all need to have long conversations about how to create communities and society that are compassionate, just and equitable for all people, and for the planet. It’s the only home we have.

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