Debating nature’s value at Cambridge conference

Published: 4 April 2018 at 15:30

Sun shining through trees in a forest

Leading experts and artists come together for event at Anglia Ruskin University

What value do we attach to a forest or a stretch of coastline? Should we put a price on a riverbank or a footpath across fields?

Leading experts will debate the concept of “natural capital” – and what we might risk losing if we apply capitalist thinking to the natural environment – at a conference at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge on Wednesday, 11 April.

The event will feature a debate between Craig Bennett, CEO of Friends of the Earth, and Tony Juniper, Executive Director for Advocacy and Campaigns at WWF, which will be chaired by Green MEP Molly Scott Cato.

The “Debating Nature’s Value” conference is part of a project, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, involving academics from Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute and the University of East Anglia.

Running alongside the conference is Liquid Land, a contemporary art exhibition in the Ruskin Gallery, which brings together nine artists whose work considers the complexities of landscape and the environment.

Incorporating a variety of media from moving image, installation, performance and sculpture, the works explore the material, economic, ecological and cultural agendas at play when we experience and represent a landscape.

In a number of the works particular landscapes are constructed from a variety of sources such as Cornford & Cross’ moving image work Black Narcissus that fuses the abstract profile of financial graphs with the illusory space of computer generated imagery.

Rosanna Greaves, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at Anglia Ruskin, will premiere her specially commissioned film exploring the unique history and folklore of the Fens, while Lotte Scott’s installation is made from charcoal being applied directly to the walls of the gallery.

Professor Aled Jones, Director of Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustainability Institute, said:

“The concept of natural capital implies the possibility of valuing nature in monetary terms. The conference will cover how we currently value nature and whether putting a monetary value on it will help us to conserve it or provide an economic argument for alternative uses for the land.

“We hope the presentations, talks and accompanying exhibition, with performances by the artists, will provoke debate around this important topic which is already forming part of the government’s 25 Year Environment Plan.”

The conference in Cambridge on 11 April is free to attend and includes lunch and refreshments. To register, visit the Eventbrite page.

The Liquid Land exhibition, curated by Rosanna Greaves and Harriet Loffler, and supported by Arts Council England, is free to attend and on display from 5-21 April.  The Ruskin Gallery is open Monday-Saturday, 10am-4.30pm.