Making London Nature-Smart

A post in two parts:

– Making London Nature Smart

– A lunch break in London Zoo


Pelican look

The Symposium

Some links out to some talks, gathered from attending the one day symposium ‘Making London Nature Smart’ hosted by the Zoological Society of London organised by ZSL, Imperial College’s Grand Challenges in Ecosystems and the Environment initiative, and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research, UCL


Pelicans and a Heron

‘With London’s population of over 8.3 million people set to rise by a further million by 2024, the pressure on biodiversity is only set to increase. This symposium brought together interested parties who represent all sectors of London life, including government, scientists, academics, businesses and citizens.

The day focused on three key themes: biodiversity monitoring, public engagement and new technologies. New ways to monitor biodiversity and understand people’s relationships to nature, including using new technologies and citizen scientists, were discussed.’

All of the presentations were interesting! – and are accessible through the Nature Smart wepage.

You can hear all of them one after another via the SoundCloud site.  And you can open their visual presentations accompanying each presentation via the symposium webpage while you listen.

Here are a few that were perhaps most relevant to my research:

Mathew Walpole – UNEP-WCNC,  A 20 minute keynote Cities and the future of biodiversity – A global view via SoundCloud, talking about challenges and opportunities, as well as imaginative examples from cities worldwide focused on urban biodiversity.

Biodiversity loss is a matter of great concern amongst conservation scientists but the wherewithal to reverse this trend is generally lacking. One reason is that nearly half of the world’s people – now more than half – live in urban areas and are increasingly disconnected from nature. If there is to be broad-based public support for biodiversity conservation the places where people live and work should be designed so as to provide opportunities for meaningful interactions with the natural world. Doing so has the potential not only to engender support for protecting native species and also to enhance human well-being. Accomplishing these goals will necessitate conservation scientists forging new collaborations with design professionals, health practitioners and social scientists as well as encouraging the participation of the general public.

(Quoted from the report ‘Biodiveristy conservation and the extinction of experience’ 2005)

Daniel Raven-Ellison: Why we should make London a National Park City

Matthew Frith, London Wildlife Trust: Can London retain its wild?

‘Gardens into hard space: 2.5 times Hyde Park a year – this is how people want to have their gardens … producing a public that is environmentally illiterate … Nature is demonised or sanitised … And we have nature deficit disorder – lots of people don’t know how to garden any longer.  … Residents are not ‘allowed’ to use their common spaces … ‘


Pelican and Heron

The Zoo

In the middle of the day, I went out into London Zoo – my first visit.

How strange to wander through the signposted zones of the world’s biodiversity, penned in. I thought about the lack of acknowledgement about what we’re doing, talking about biodiversity within metres of ‘kept’ animals from all corners of the world.

Within this menagerie, I thought about how we talk and think about nature still so often as ‘over there’. We classify and make distinctions that suit our comfort, and forget what we’ve captured and shipped, collected and displayed; how we humans have made our selections. This zoo’s population is not included in our meeting or biodiversity lists, it’s somehow in another place.  The zone of the zoo means it can be excluded. Yet here it is, bold, central, present. And what about the thousands of exotic pets kept by people in the UK?

Real Heron, Fake Heron and Penguins

In amongst the Pelicans, a Heron.

And in with the Penguins, a fake Heron, and a real Heron.

Things are what they seem.

I stand in the zoo and imagine all the animals, reptiles, insects, birds in this city of London, all of them around me in 10 miles in all directions, and they are from all over the world.  In tanks, cages, homes, sheds, trees, rivers, in soil, the sky.  The presence of all these creatures.  Why exclude any of them? They live in amongst us, we’re in relation.  If something is corralled and kept, it is not thought of as part of our wildlife.  We steward species from other parts of the world because we want to have them in a place where we can see them, monitor them, care for them and save them.  These multiple controls, choices and desires need a more open acknowledgement.

A tree, a fake mountain, a real tiger.

All the creatures are on our island.  It’s a kind of ark.

Tiger at London Zoo on shelf

Tiger in London ZooTiger at London Zoo CU

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