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Public Lecture Series: MDRT Lecture Professor Alister Scott

Northumbria University


Professor Alister Scott, Faculty of Engineering and Environment

Changing the nature of nature in land use policy and decision making

Refreshments will be available from 6pm


Traditionally nature is seen as an impediment to growth and development. It is associated with policies of constraint within a narrative that sets economic growth as the antithesis of nature conservation. Indeed, nature is poorly accounted for in policy and decision making frameworks within neoclassical economic cost benefit analyses which struggle to capture the value and benefits of nature in any meaningful way.

Therefore it is no surprise to note both at global and national levels that the state of nature is declining rapidly with significant loss of biodiversity and species at critical level. Such data fuels increasing speculation and fear that the planet is at a tipping point of environmental collapse largely through the short term actions of human interventions.

This lecture argues that in order to move forward we need to change the way we view and account for nature set within more holistic and interdisciplinary perspectives. We need to move from the one dimensional silos that characterise our governance frameworks to identify and assess the stocks (natural capital) and flows (ecosystem services) of nature and the resulting multiple benefits and services it gives to society. In this way we can transform the role of nature from a constraint to an asset for growth and community well-being with better policy and decision outcomes.

Drawing on his research undertaken for the UK National Ecosystem Follow programme, Professor Scott will present examples that show how this new way of thinking about nature is making a difference in policy formation and decision making. This neoliberal thinking, however, is not without its dangers and these will be highlighted with new principles suggested to help ensure that nature is given the recognition it needs for all our futures.  

About the Speaker

Professor Scott’s career has encompassed both policy (Dartmoor National Park and Scottish Natural Heritage) and academic positions (Welsh Agricultural College, University of Wales Aberystwyth, Aberdeen University, Waikato University and Birmingham City University). He left Birmingham City University as Professor of Environment and Spatial Planning and joined Northumbria University as Professor of Environmental Geography in 2016.

His research addresses messy problems concerning policy and decision making across built and natural environments. Recent projects include the Rural Economy and Land Use Programme Managing environmental change at the rural urban fringe and the UK National Ecosystem Assessment follow on programme looking at new tools to improve policy and decision making.

His teaching covers a wide range of governance subjects straddling urban and rural domains and is based on real life projects working in partnership with community groups and professional bodies. He was awarded the first ever University of Wales award in 2002 for excellence in teaching and he is passionate about the need for teaching excellence that both challenges and motivates.

Professor Scott’s research leadership skills have been recognised with the RTPI award for planning excellence in 2012 and his teaching, research and industry engagement skills with the award as BCU staff member of the year in 2013. He is also a chartered planner of the Royal Town Planning Institute (MRTPI).

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Event Details

Northumbria University
Presentation Hall, Room 011, Design Building
City Campus East
Newcastle Upon Tyne


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