A 17-year-old birdwatcher, conservationist, and environmental activist has reportedly become the youngest British person ever to receive an honorary degree.
Mya-Rose Craig, from Bristol, received the award from the University of Bristol on Thursday in recognition of her activism, which includes campaigning to encourage young people from diverse communities to embrace environmentalism.
Craig, who is British Bangaldeshi, blogs as Birdgirl and has yet to sit her A-levels. She said that when she first got the email about the award she was so surprised “it felt like some strange sort of scam.”
But she said that the recognition showed her that “my message must be getting through.”
In 2016, when she was just 14 years old, Craig set up her organisation Black2Nature with the aim of ensuring Visible Minority Ethnic (VME) communities have equal access to nature and to involvement in environmental action.
In her speech during the graduation ceremony, she called for greater equality of opportunities for everyone, regardless of their background.
Here's the fantastic Mya-Rose Craig @BirdGirlUK receiving her honorary degree at #BristolGrad earlier 🎓— Bristol University 🎓 (@BristolUni) February 20, 2020
At 17, she's the youngest Briton to be awarded such an honour. It recognises her work to engage more children from minority ethnic backgrounds in conservation 🐦 pic.twitter.com/s87Y0OGxDm
“Slowly change is happening, but it needs to happen much faster because we need to engage everybody from every community to tackle the environmental crisis that we are finding ourselves in,” she told the audience.
“Now, more than ever, it’s important to recognise that inequality in engagement creates inequality of opportunity,” she continued. “And an unequal world can never be a sustainable world.”
She told those graduating at the ceremony to use their skills to “really go out and change the world for the better.”
On top of founding Black2Nature, however, Craig has also got an array of remarkable achievements to her name.
She filmed her first documentary at the age of just seven; at 13, she organised her first nature camp for VME teenagers in Bristol, and has now organised nine camps and two conferences; and in September 2018, she wrote the "Manifesto for Diversity in Nature Conservation"for naturalist Chris Packham.
So, I got it wrong, I am actually being awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science, D.S.c. h.c. - I really can't believe it. It is for running nature camps for inner-city VME teenagers & children, Race Equality in Nature conferences & campaigning to make the sector diverse https://t.co/zYANVw728V— Birdgirl (@BirdgirlUK) January 14, 2020
She’s also the youngest person in the world to have seen at least half of the world’s species of bird, according to the university’s statement.
Craig was nominated for the honorary degree by Prof. Rich Pancost, head of earth sciences at the University of Bristol.
“Although only 17, Mya-Rose has already created a phenomenal amount of positive change for nature and is a fantastic role model for her peers,” Pancost said. “In addition to being a world-leading ornithologist, she has delivered over 50 inspirational talks and is a passionate advocate for the need to engage people of all ages and backgrounds in both the conservation and the climate change movements.”