Friday night saw the Coffee House discussion on Biodiversity with five key speakers - a great evening that this blog post does not do justice - complete with drinks and delicious cakes at Star Anise cafe in Stroud.
Photos of evening
These Coffee House Discussions are every month (not Dec or Aug) sponsored by the Green Party and this was the 50th meeting!! An amazing array of topics that have been covered....but Friday night some of the issues we covered included:
- What is happening to our plants and animals locally?
- Will the proposed sell-off of our forests damage our wildlife?
- How is the Bee Project doing?
- What can be done internationally?
- Can climate change agreements save the rainforests?
Ian Redmond OBE (pictured above in first photo and left) lives locally and was the lead speaker - describing himself as a 'jobbing naturalist' - like his mentor, the late Dr Dian Fossey, his work shifted in 1978 from research to conservation work, after poachers killed Digit – a young silverback in one of the Karisoke study groups – to sell his skull and hands. His books about primate and elephants have been translated into many languages. He works for a whole catalogue of organisations and is the Envoy for the UN Great Apes Survival Partnership and this year was appointed an Ambassador for the UNEP Convention on Migratory Species. See more about apes here.
Ian was able to talk about the recent biodiversity conference in Japan which he attended and the upcoming Cancun conference - while sharing many of the challenges ahead he also shed some optimism and hope - in particular about the development of the controversial REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) programme. A commitment to interim financing for REDD+ and deforestation projects in less-industrialised countries needs to be agreed upon for the future. Ian shared how this could be made workable if indigenous people were included.
This year is the UN Year of Biodiversity. Many scientists believe the earth is undergoing a sixth great extinction event caused by humans. Extinction is natural, but scientists estimate the current pace outstrips the average rate by 100 to 1000%. About a third of assessed species worldwide are threatened with extinction in the wild. This is a serious serious issue.
Dr Simon Pickering (pictured left with chair of teh evening Martin Whiteside), a former Green District councillor with a wealth of biodiversity experience - like at Cotswold Water Park and now with Ecotricity. He was up next with a look at national policies regarding biodiversity and the changing picture - the importance of linking areas of conservation rather than having 'islands' - he also shared some of the local changes that are already occurring due to climate change like more egrets.
Ivi Szaboova-Baxendale of the Stroud Valleys Project (pictured left) was up next with a look at many of their local projects and how they are engaging with different groups of people in the community. In particular speaking about the groups where people with mental health problems come and support conservation work and get enormous benefits from participating.
Last up were the Bee Guardian Foundation - Jessie and Carlo both spoke about the hugely successful year they have had - click on label below for some of those stories. We finished the evening with a bottle of champagne to celebrate their £50,000 win to turn Gloucester into the first Bee Guardian city (see more here).
A great evening. Thanks to all organisers. And better still Ian looks set to return with a film or two in the new year.