Welcome – Haere mai

Welcome to this forum for discussion and debate about cultural perspectives on biodiversity, the topic of a dedicated symposium & workshop in the Biodiversity: 2010 and Beyond Conference (Dunedin NZ,  Nov. 2010)

NEWSFLASH: WE CONTINUE POST-CONFERENCE! Thanks to all that attended the workshop -To see highlights discussion, click on Highlights tab above. PLEASE   everyone –  whether you attended the conference/ symposium / workshop  or  not –   take a minute to answer our survey!  Did this process work or not?

click here for survey

26 Dec 2010:       The blog can now be found by outside search engines.      Continued discussion is welcomed.

PREVIOUS BACKGROUND STATEMENT: Here are listed 8 different topics of discussion proposed by you, the prospective workshop participants. These will be discussed in the open-space workshop on 25 Nov, but for the next weeks we have the opportunity to initiate debate & dialogue in this on-line forum. Please contribute your thoughts by adding comments to any topic. Although we expect robust dialogue, please leave respectable remarks. It may be useful to include cross-reference to specific subjects of talks and posters that will be presented in the Symposium. (Click on the Cross-link tab above to access the abstracts for the Symposium.)

Let the dialogue begin!

Click on a topic to the right to be taken directly to the discussion page, or scroll down below to see the topics listed with their brief background rationale. If you would like to leave a comment on this blog/workshop process, click the Leave Comment link directly below.


11 responses to “Welcome – Haere mai

  1. Are we being too boring? Postings have been slower than I had hoped. Perhaps our first offerings were a tad too rigid and some academic dust needs to be blown off them? Certainly we hope readers will offer their thoughts, however brief and informal, to get the exchange flowing. I’m new to blogging so I’m not sure whether this forum can trigger a discussion involving a wide cross-section of commentators. What has been your experience of what works and doesn’t? What type of posting do we seek? Are lots of people reading the Forum but few wanting to contribute comments?

  2. Perhaps if people were to e-mail the link through to some of their interested colleagues they might drum up a bit of enthusiasm. I’m not sure how many people have yet read the forum but I suspect there are many who have read but chosen not to contribute. I admit to rarely contributing to blogs myself.

    I know that there are a substantial number of environmental professionals in New Zealand who are wary of expressing unorthodox ideas for fear that it might damage their career prospects. I’d suggest that such people use a pseudonym in the ‘name’ column.

    In any case, many ecologists consider ‘cultural perspectives’ to be somewhat peripheral or superfluous to ‘our mission’ and will be happy that the conference has been segregated in such a way that they can avoid such encumbrances. I will admit, at times, to some sympathy with that perspective.

    Nevertheless, I genuinely believe that ‘getting on with it’ may not be the answer. After all, the Americans spent billions of dollars ‘fighting the good fight’ against forest fires in the early 20th century only to realise, in hindsight, that this was largely a mistake. New Zealand, similarly, has a long list of expensive, ill-considered attempts at environmental management. Hence, before we ‘push on’ it might be worth pausing to reflect on whether we could be making the same kinds of mistakes over again.

    It could be said that more patronising, blinkered, reductionist research is the last thing New Zealand needs. For example, if I read one more paper beginning, ‘invasive species are now considered second only to habitat loss as a leading cause of’…

    In other words, WE GET IT, the world isn’t what it once was, and we’re all pissed about – but where to from here? The answers, ecologists, are not as objectively discernable as we might wish.

    Many of our colleagues have expressed, for years now, the need for environmental issues to more fully consider the social and cultural matrixes in which they reside. Let’s not run back to our statistical tests every time our values are contradicted.

    Provoked enough yet? Probably not…

  3. And so if we get it, and we’re pissed, but the multitude and magnitude of problems and the complexity of their social/cultural/political/economic matrix is just soooooooo over whelming….. where do we begin? What bite-size aspect of an issue is the most important or logical place to start?
    I never thought I would wind up quoting A.A.Milne in this blog, but here I go. My father used to recite from The Old Sailor at relevant moments:
    “There was an old sailor my grandfather knew
    Who had so many things which he wanted to do
    That, whenever he thought it was time to begin,
    He couldn’t because of the state he was in…”

  4. Invitations to join this on-line forum were sent mainly to NZES conference registrants, but a few researchers in the cross-cultural arena were also included. People should feel free to send the URL to their colleagues with an interest in the subject. The more the merrier, provided contributions are relevant and thoughtful . We could even open it to the world-wide web. At the moment it is not locatable by the search engines – what do people think about us taking that next step?

  5. It’s true, I think people are often happier when doing, however delusional. Our forebears spent their lives planting exotics and we spend ours riping them out. And yet, we are both happy at our work. We both feel that we are making the world a better place. Everyone wins?

    I have asked ecologists to consider social and cultural aspects of their work, but perhaps this is unreasonable. Perhaps if they wanted to study or talk about that stuff they would have become sociologists, geographers or anthropologists. Do ecologists intrude on other disciplines conferences?

    Ecologists have always struggled with the image of being a bunch of pseudo-scientific greenies and have tried to gain respect as ‘real’ scientists. For example, when I tell people I’m an ecologist they often inform me that they are into recycling or wearing hemp, as if I should necessarily care about such things.

    Ecology is a branch of biology, not a lifestyle. Some ecologists might be happy (and justifiably so) keeping it that way. Discuss.

  6. Henrik – opening the discussion up to a wider audience might be a good idea. There is scant debate eminating from ecologists. As per the above, not sure if it is apathy or disinterest.

  7. the magic dragon

    Apathy or disinterest! How quick you are to judge. Don’t forget that scientists are trained to think carefully about their topics of research, and frequently produce multiple drafts of a manuscript so that it reaches a coherence and quality prior to public presentation. Blogs are a very different kettle of fish indeed – and on topics such as these which to my mind require a considerable amount of reflection, both about the nature of science itself, and ona personal level, it is perhaps not surprising that few people write comments (I should add this is typical of mainstream blogs as well). One way round this used by mainstream bloggers is to ask the readership to identify themselves by answering 3 simple questions about themselves.

    • It’s not so much judgement as provocation. The carrot or the stick – I’ve tried both. Again, I’d encourge people to use pseudonyms to conceal their identity. Then they can just write as they like, and no consequences.

      Don’t think that the above is my real name. I mean – come on – Jamie? How ridiculous! The Magic Dragon on the other hand, now that’s a good name! Much more believable than, say… Jon.

  8. We thought it would be interesting to create a word picture of the titles and abstracts for the upcoming NZES cultural symposium. The entire set was entered to http://wordle.net/ to produce the following summary (the larger the word, the more times it was used in the abstracts and titles).
    (see image to right, atop recent comments list)
    It seems that our blog discussion has focussed a lot more on issues of values, place and identity than the papers which have triggered the discussion. There is a useful warning that the voices in talks and posters are mainly from Universities too, and the absence of frequent use of Reo (Māori language).

  9. Another plea, if you haven’t please fill in the survey. We are eager to open this forum up to the outside world, but want to get your informed feedback first. Do it today! Better yet, do it now! -And then the intrigue can begin (what will others make of our discussions?)!

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