Headfudge 'digs deep' in a Q&A with nature presenter Atul Kumar
Atul works as a fundraising consultant for environmental charities, as well as being a presenter, podcaster, writer, actor and voiceover artist.
Tell us about what you do…
I have quite a few things on the go! My day job is fundraising and communications consultancy for various wildlife and environmental charities. For the last 15 years or so I’ve combined this with writing and presenting, with a focus on the environment and science. I currently host two podcasts: one that looks into various environmental issues, and another, Alien Places, that looks at our world from the perspective of a hypothetical alien.
What should we expect next from Atul’s Earth?
I’ve recently completed a book based on the Alien Places concept, and that will be released in the next few months. I’ve also made a start on my second book, Minnie, which is a story about a genius physicist who invents a comprehensive solution for climate change. I’m also looking into making some short videos about the big lessons that humans can learn from nature.
Do you have a favourite place to visit in the New Forest or coast?
I grew up in Cornwall and have always loved going to the coast for watersports, as well as cycling in woods and forests. I try to get a balance between returning to places I like, and going on adventures to new places. Lyndhurst in the New Forest is a favourite of mine as a starting point for cycling around the New Forest.
How has sea pollution affected the marine life on the south coast over the last 12 months?
Unfortunately sea pollution is increasing, with plastics found in oceans across the world. The south coast is no exception. I’ve been on a few beach cleans on the south coast in the last 12 months, and found far too many fragments of plastic of varying sizes. For humans I’m more worried about the microplastics that are too small to see.
For marine animals they are often unable to distinguish plastic from edible and nutritious food bobbing about in the ocean. They eat the plastic but they can’t digest it or extract nutrients. Plastic was, after all, invented to be difficult to break down. Eventually marine life can and often does die from starvation, ironically despite having full stomachs.
What’s often not mentioned in this conversation, however, is that this means microplastics are entering the food chain and are already being discovered in human bodies. We simply don’t yet know the human health implications of this. Even if someone doesn’t care about the environment or marine life, the impact of sea pollution on their own health should be a major reason to care about plastic pollution.
After having a recent Headfudge photoshoot at the Liberty Owl, Raptor and Reptile Centre... it got us thinking about the bird life in the New Forest. Typically, what are the top most 3 common birds we should see in the Forest?
The New Forest National Park is one of the best places for wildlife in Britain, as it contains far more than one type of habitat. There’s a diversity of landscapes, including open heathlands, internationally important wetlands, nature reserves and ancient woodlands. With habitat diversity comes bird biodiversity.
So around 100 bird species are in the New Forest, with an additional 20 or so species visiting or passing through on migration routes. Common bird species you might see in the New Forest include blackbirds, robins, chaffinches, wrens, lapwings and curlews. Perhaps more importantly, the New Forest is a stronghold for bird species that are threatened or near threatened, such as nightjars, kingfishers and Dartford warblers.
As we rapidly approach summer, what changes in wildlife should we see?
During the summer the New Forest is buzzing with the sounds of insects such as dragonflies and damselflies, typically found hovering above bogs and pools. European nightjars have a spectacular call that you can hear in the early evenings – if you’re not familiar with their sound, have a listen on Youtube first before you head out into the Forest, so you know what you’re listening out for. Mind your head in the summer evenings though – swooping bats may be out feeding on the moths and other insects!
What can we do to encourage the next generation to respect nature and look after wildlife?
We can’t look after what we don’t understand or value. So the most important thing for the next generation is to experience wildlife directly. Young people need to be given the opportunity to enjoy wildlife and have fun whilst out in nature. This means they will value wildlife when they get older, and then ultimately, they will fight to protect it.
Young people also need to be taught in schools about the more indirect benefits of wildlife and biodiversity that are difficult to experience directly. These include the interdependencies within and between ecosystems, and the role of wildlife and nature in storing carbon.
In the past humans have made technological and medical advances by studying wildlife biology and DNA. There are many more, even bigger, potentially society changing lessons from nature just waiting to be discovered by the next generation.
What can we do to help preserve wildlife and nature in the New Forest?
In practical terms there are simple things you can do to help preserve wildlife and nature in the New Forest, such as keeping to waymarked trails when cycling and walking. This allows species such as ground nesting birds to breed in peace.
If you’re a dog owner, it’s critically important to keep your dog under control in the New Forest. Dogs can attack wildlife unexpectedly, and they won’t distinguish between endangered and common species. Research in some parts of the world is finding that there is a stronger negative correlation between wild dogs and particular species, than there is a positive correlation between suitable habitats and the prevalence of those species! In other words, never underestimate the importance of controlling dogs when it comes to preserving wildlife and nature in the New Forest.
How can people get involved in helping keep our beaches clean and our coasts happy?
Over the past two or three years an increasing number of beach cleans are being organised on a regular basis. You can find out the details of the next ones in your area by looking at the websites of organisations such as Surfers Against Sewage, the Marine Conservation Society or your local Wildlife Trust.
Why is wearing good quality outdoor wear so important?
Good quality outdoor wear underpins your experience of nature. If you’re not warm enough or your clothing lets you down in other ways, you might end up spending less time outdoors and experiencing wildlife.
How is what you do relevant to Headfudge Design and Clothing?
My writing and presenting, and indeed my fundraising consultancy work, is all about helping people and funders to understand the multiple benefits of wildlife and why we should conserve it. That means getting outside to experience and enjoy the outdoors, and that means having suitable clothing. It’s not enough to be just functional, however, or people won’t wear it. Outdoor clothing also needs to be fashionable or well designed, and that’s what Headfudge have achieved across their range.
What do you like about Headfudge Clothing?
I like that Headfudge have combined good quality clothing with a style and logo that I can wear and feel represents who I am and what I like. I enjoyed beaches, surfing and other watersports when I was growing up and travelling around the world after university, and still enjoy those things now that I live in Bournemouth. Wearing Headfudge kind of reminds me of happy outdoor experiences in the past, as well as prompts me to get outdoors again and make new memories for the future!
The name Headfudge is also a fun way of referring to what might be described as the mental health benefits of spending time outdoors. If you’re in a ‘headfudge’ and need or want to clear your head, pop on your Headfudge clothing and go outdoors. The evidence for the physical and mental health benefits of being outdoors has accumulated in recent decades to the point where it needs no further explanation, it’s just time to get out there!
The fashion industry is changing and soon I think it will be case of: if it’s not eco fashion, it’s not fashion at all. I like that Headfudge have considered the environmental impact of their production processes, packaging and supply chain, and are continuously looking into how to make further improvements in this area.
Atul's website: https://atulsearth.co.uk
Atul's Blog page: https://atulsearth.co.uk/podcasts
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What's Atul wearing?
- Black Fleece Lined Shower & Windproof Jacket - £75.00
- Black Padded Gilet - £55.00
- Red Marl Lightweight Zip-up Hoodie - £40.00
- Indigo Crew Neck Logo T-shirt - £19.00