New Networks for Nature
In Touch with the Wild
David Attenborough Building, Cambridge
22-24 September 2016
New Networks for Nature is an annual event which brings together people from a variety of backgrounds in science, environmentalism and the arts, who share a belief that the natural environment is crucial to human imagination, creativity and well-being. I have the honour of being an ‘Ambassador’ for this network. This year’s symposium was held in collaboration with Cambridge Conservation Initiative.
As part of Friday’s events, I chaired an afternoon session on ‘Reconnection’, with geographer Ivan Scales, writer Sharon Blackie, and street artist @ATMStreetart. This session took as its starting point the question of how we take personal connection with the natural world to a broader audience. Ivan used his work on biodiversity conservation in Madagascar to talk about the political ecology of reconnection; Sharon spoke of the ways myths and stories of place help us reconnect; and @ATMStreetart showed some of the fabulous over-sized bird images which he paints on walls in urban areas to remind people of what has been lost and what still remains.
The session was prefaced by Katharine Norbury, speaking and reading from her brilliant recent book, The Fish Ladder.
On Saturday morning I led one of a dozen workshops, Listening to a Landscape, on how poets connect to the physicality of landscape through sound. These workshops were followed by a closing session on Hope. It was cheering to hear 30-second summaries of restoration and reintroduction from around the room. The final and most moving words, infused with a lifetime of experience and an ultimate uplifting belief in humanity, came from Sir David Attenborough himself — a truly inspirational man:
‘In our hearts we know that we are part of the natural world. If the natural world is diminished, we are diminished.’ – David Attenborough.
Next year’s New Networks for Nature annual event will take place in Stamford, 16-18 Nov 2017.