Q & A Discussion Panel Report – Day Three

Q & A panel on day three of the conference

Question One

Is there a plan for an England nature map, a grand vision for the whole of the country? (Simon Bates, Tamar Valley)

Jean Spencer, Anglian Water: That’s a really good question, I think their should be. Interesting to think how we’d do that. maybe organisations like ourselves could work with AONBs, Wildlife Trusts.  One way to think about that is to start not at the national scale but at the local scale bringing all the relevant organisations together at a catchment level, to map the biodiversity in that catchment. Maybe we could think about doing this in just one one area initially, demonstrate it works, then role it out.

Rob Stoneman, Yorkshire Wildlife Trust: The Wildlife Trusts have but together a living landscapes map for every region in each country, which is on our website. As interesting is connecting with the work green infrastructure grops have been doing and also the National Ecological Networks. In most of the old regional spatial strategies, they had biodiversity opportunity areas, which was essentially a nature map. Need to be a little careful because there’s white space on their we don’t ignore. And we have to be aware non of this is particularly well branding, coming back to Ed’s talk. We have talked for instance about a “national grid for nature”, but there must be better ways of describing what we are talking about.

Audience comment from John Peters, Devon: I started something a long time ago called the countryside survey 1990 and its been repeated four times since and it appears the data has been lost.

Question Two:

Ed I’d like your perspective on something we’ve been discussing. We have “landscapes for life”, we’ve got “living landscapes”, we’ve got “futurescapes”, we’ve got the National Parks “Breathing Spaces” – it’s a muddle. On the ground it works itself out, we all work together – but for everyone out there its just a mess.

Ed Gillespie, Futerra: I agree. It probably doesn’t matter on a site by site basis in terms of coherence and the scale of activity. But we talk a lot in environmental psychology about salience, of the visibility of action and about how much people trust in how much is being done.

There’s a sort of meta problem – you have the Carbon Trust talking to you in your workplace and the Energy Saving Trust talking to you at home, and you have umpteen other bodies involved and the public don’t grasp the coherence and the scale of activity that’s going on nationally in terms of climate change.

You probably have the same thing going on in terms of conservation. This should not be about a disparate disconnected series of individual projects, this is a coherent action programme that is looking at ecology and species level conservation – and this is really important in terms of the project having salience around how much is being done and how much is being achieved.

Question Three:

I did notice when Ed started his talk today that there was slight resonance when he went through the letters of the NAAONB. We’ve tried to rebrand the family. Could Ed help us in a couple of minutes!

Ed Gillespie, Futerra: What we do with all our clients is take them back to the “why”, to their intention and sense of purpose, because that is what will capture the imagination. Trouble is, rather than look at why we do things, we always get stuck with “what” we do. Nailing that intention can be really helpful in being compelling and creative in how you communicate.

Question Four:

I think we’ve got to go right back to basics. I think consumers are baffled by things like carbon capture, baffled by sustainability. If we are going to communicate, we’ve got to get back to these basics. 

Ed Gillespie, Futerra: Environmentalists are really good at trying to speak to everyone else like they like to be spoken too and it doesn’t work.

Question Five

There seems to be huge diversity about what the term sustainable development actually means, for instance we find it being used as a synonym for sustainable economic growth. Can the panel find a new phrase that embodies what it means? (Tim Beans, Norfolk Coast AONB)

Rob Stoneman, YWT: The phrase was taken by economists and really trashed as a phrase; that’s where the confusion started. It’s interesting to look across in to Wales – the Welsh Assembly was set up with the real definition of sustainable development behind it, as in the Bruntland definition, and is in the founding legislation of the Welsh Assembly, and you begin to see some of the decisions in Wales being based on genuine sustainable development. Its also interesting that the new NPPF has also adopted the real definition of sustainable development and there’s an awful lot of test work to do now to say, for example, to local planning authorities, “is this new warehouse actually consistent with the definitions of sustainable development?”. Its there to be recaptured.

Jean Spencer, Anglian Water: There’s still no real guidance to help developers interpret sustainable development.  It’s one of the areas that is being looked at in the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership.

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