Cath Denholm, our Deputy Chair, shares reflections on this week’s British Ecological Society/UK Government Conservation Agencies’ Conference on nature for future generations.
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was invited to attend the Nature for Future Generations conference (as the new SNH representative for the JNCC): But I enjoyed it greatly and came away with a lot of impressions. Here are some of them:
The range of speakers and topics – but particularly the range of angles that they came from – was very varied. There was only one information overload – but I’d challenge even the most dedicated ecologist to fully digest 11 x 3 min presentations in rapid succession before lunch.
The workshop I attended on Nature, Health and Wellbeing was a little disappointing. A colleague had given me an article to read on the way (Lang & Raynor: Ecological Public Health: The 21st Century’s Big Idea). It’s a great read and I was looking forward to developing the theme of how human health ultimately depends on the health of ecosystems. In the end the workshop lead (who wasn’t SNH) offered little more than the individual health benefits of accessing nature. Important yes, but not the whole story, and limited in vision.
And it’s a shame because, actually, the need to understand and be able to work right across complex systems – whether those are nature or health sustaining or both – was a significant call to action from many of the main speakers. Jacob Ellis from the Future Generations Commission in Wales (should we get one of those for Scotland, by the way?) was particularly good on this. Also Baroness Barbara Young, who challenged us at the end to think in terms of the whole ecosystem, not just habitat and species, was superb.
Another big theme was engagement. This came up in different ways from Seafish, from Juliette Young (‘different perspectives are a resource, not a problem’), from Louise MacDonald, Young Scot (who promoted SNH’s work with ReRoute very effectively), and from Helena Craig, mother of @BirdGirlUK, who couldn’t attend as she had school exams! Her messages on how to engage with young BAME people were powerful, but just as relevant to engagement with any group who isn’t accessing nature in the way we expect/want them to. However, no one matched Dara McAnulty (age 14) with the simplicity of his message that the next generation ‘Is not lost, you just haven’t found us yet.’ The other point he made which made all the parents in the room sit up was ‘you can like gaming and nature’ and ‘its actually through digital connection that young people like him made contact with other nature lovers.’
Two final highlights: SNH got lots of positive name checks for the contribution and leadership we are showing in many areas and for the boldness and clarity of our corporate plan and web name change.
And, while we didn’t get quite 50/50 female/male presenters, the 9 women who did present or chair main sessions all spoke from the pinnacles of their varied professions and experience and were brilliant – #WomeninLeadership. Check out the great twitter coverage #N4FG18