Cambridge Conservation Forum

On Friday I was invited to run a workshop at the 10th Annual Cambridge Conservation Forum. As my session wasn’t scheduled until early afternoon I set out to absorb as many ecological stories and metaphors that I could use in my narrative work. Apologies to all the other excellent speakers but the three most interesting talks for me were:

Tony Juniper the environmental campaigner and commentator was up first and took us through the emerging challenges and the key research and debates such as UN Millenium Ecosystem Assesment and Peak Oil debate. His talk was excellent, passionate, very well explained and argued and his final summation that the membrane between politics and culture is too impermeable struck a particular chord. As did the proposal that we need a new branch of Environmental Scientist based on Social Ecology with much stronger links to Economics, Psychology and Political Sciences.

John Hopkins an ex-work colleague made the brilliant comment that “our economy is embedded in the ‘environment’ yet there are no ecologists employed by the Treasury”. “Nor even let in to meetings” added a voice from the audience.

Steve Scott of the Forestry Commision gave a fascinating talk on the possibilities of ‘wood fuel’ which made the ownership of an Aga (other makes and designs available) suddenly become a real tool in the plight for more woodland management of Ancient Woods. Evidence suggests that reduced management creates more shade and results in lower species richness and so a greater demand for wood fuel might reverse this trend.

Finally Paul Donald of the RSPB explained his detailed trawl through the research to reveal whether there was a serious sex ratio problem in the dwindling populations of seriously threatened bird species. It was here that my mind switched and I thought how instead of me/Cognitive Edge/Sensemaker borrowing ideas from ecology how this type of problem would benefit hugely from the idea of signified fragments. If only the original scientists had flagged the importance of each of their separate pieces of research and data collection, ‘sex ratio’ evidence could be drawn from all the available data files. Instead Paul is left paging through final reports and appendices looking for material that ‘might fit’ his research needs.

Finally an excellent resource giving access to huge amounts of survey data can be found here and the new Cambridge Conservation Initiative can be found here.

My session at the conference will be covered by a separate blog posting shortly.

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