This Sacred Earth

Report on one-day colloquium

Eighty caring people gathered at Mandeville Place on Sunday 30th June in response to the growing awareness that the current rate of exploitation and degradation of the earth and our environment is neither sustainable nor morally justifiable. At the least enlightened self-interest, and arguably man’s duty, lead to a very different approach, which was developed by speakers covering Enlightened Agriculture, Sustainable Fisheries, the great steps being made in Forestry, Earth Jurisprudence and Forest Schools, as described in the speakers own words that follow, and the final session was a panel session.

Enlightened Agriculture   The present, materialist, entirely anthropocentric approach to wildlife conservation – concepts such as “natural capital” and “ecosystem services” – falls far short of what’s needed to keep our fellow creatures (and ourselves) in good heart. We need an amalgam of good science — mainly ecology; good practice; appropriate policies, with a supportive economy; and – the sine qua non – the right attitude. Above all, we need to restore our sense of the sacred. Colin Tudge is a biologist by education and a writer by trade. He is author of around 15 books on wildlife conservation, food, agriculture, evolution, and genetics, and has an ever-increasing interest in metaphysics. In 2010 he helped to set up the Oxford Real Farming Conference and, now, the College for Real Farming and Food Culture.

Sustainable Fisheries   In fisheries there is nothing more wonderful than a sustainable fishery replenishing itself annually and surrendering its bounty for universal benefit. As we learn more about how to support this process there is hope for the earth being assisted in fulfilling its natural functions. Much damage is being done but we do know as the dominant species how not to behave.  Stephen Akester is Director of MacAlister Elliott and Partners a fisheries management consultancy group which he helped to found in 1977.  He has worked there for the past 40 years managing teams and projects on fisheries and marine resource management resident in Africa, Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific region and more recently UK based. Stephen currently works on programs for the World Bank in 9 countries of West Africa and 2 countries in south Asia, he supervises a team of fisheries assessors in certifying fisheries as sustainable (or not) for the Marine Stewardship Council in all oceans of the World.

 Forestry:Biodiversity as an integral part of commercial land-use – essential or just nice to have?”

A new generation of well managed commercial forestry has demonstrated the value of Ecological Networks (ENs) in maintaining or restoring biodiversity. ENs are networks of corridors and nodes which maintain compositional biodiversity and ecosystem services in an agro-forestry setting. In simple terms with Mother Nature as part of the solution the future of sustainable forestry can be secured. Other land use can also benefit. Peter Gardiner: Retired Group Natural Resources Manager for Mondi, an international packaging and paper company. After many years in Southern Africa his global role included Mondi’s European and Russian operations. He represented Mondi at the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and has visited many forestry countries.

Earth Jurisprudence Why should Nature have rights and what does it mean? What is ecocide and why does it matter? Modern law has human benefit as its main purpose. But the demands of expanding human populations require a new understanding of the unity of Nature and Humanity and how they may live in harmony. Earth Jurisprudence is an attempt to express that understanding in law with far-reaching implications for human life and conduct. Ian Mason explores the issues.   Ian Mason is a barrister and former global convenor for the United Nations Harmony with Nature initiative. Ian has written and spoken extensively on the subject of Earth Jurisprudence since meeting with Thomas Berry who first introduced the idea in his seminal book, The Great Work, in 1999. Ian is also President of the School of Philosophy and Economic Science.

Forest Schools: ’What is Forest School and why is it deemed so beneficial to our children?’ This will include a brief look at the origins of the Forest School ethos and how this has developed in the U.K., drawing on personal experience and current research studies. Rounding off with a consideration of how to take Forest Schools. forward.  Jan Hockley was born in Canada and moved to the south of England in the early 1960’s. She studied Natural Science in London, finally teaching at St James School where she introduced a Forest School and trips to Minstead Study Centre, an eco-haven in the New Forest.

The Panel session questions were good and the answers even better, and the feedback received to date has been excellent.