Surrey Hills Symposium 2021: Our Climate and Biodiversity Emergency

26th November 2021

The annual Surrey Hills Symposium returned on 24 November, both in-person and live streamed from the University of Surrey.

The Symposium was hosted by the University of Surrey, and we were joined for an introduction from Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Graham Miller. He discussed the fantastic practical action the university is taking to tackle climate change, for example by integrating education on the topic into every degree programme. 

Keynote speaker, Tony Juniper CBE, Chair of Natural England, brought home that we need to now take an integrated approach of intelligent choices to deal with the twin crisis of mass animal and biodiversity extinction and the global rise in average temperatures.  

The debate was chaired by Professor of Public Engagement in Science at the University of Surrey and BBC broadcaster, Jim Al-Khalili. It featured inspiring short talks from Marisa Heath, Surrey County Council Cabinet Member for Environment, Heather Ackroyd, Surrey Hills based artist of Ackroyd and Harvey, Daro Montag, Associate Professor of Art and Environment at Falmouth University and James Miller, Cambridge University student and young environmental activist. It was a powerful and energetic debate which covered off discussions such as what we can all do to provide action each morning, to what changes are being made locally to support biodiversity. 

Finally, Surrey Hills National Landscape Chair, Heather Kerswell, summed up the evening. 

Heather comments; 

“The evening was not about the Surrey Hills, it was about us facilitating a wider debate, and our speakers have done us proud. The debate now forms the context for our own work which goes right to the grass roots in Surrey.” She invited everyone to take home a tree to plant. 

Earlier on in the afternoon, innovative artists gave talks and workshops demonstrating the crucial role creative practitioners are taking towards the crisis and inspiring wider audiences to enjoy and care for nature, We heard how artist Anna Dumitriu has been working alongside scientists for the past 20 years on projects such as “Fermenting Futures” which contains a yeast capable of capturing Carbon dioxide and from sculptor Will Nash who has developed inhabitable sculptures to support local species. We heard from artist duo Ackroyd & Harvey about their recent collaboration with writer Ben Okri to create ‘On the Shore’, an enormous grass banner of words created in the turbine hall of the Tate Modern that was processed to the embankment and floated on the Thames. Creative arts practice that can positively contribute to addressing the climate and biodiversity emergency locally and globally.  

This was followed by the Surrey County Council Climate Change Delivery Plan Launch Reception. With representatives attending from across Surrey’s communities, businesses and organisations. The evidence-based plan outlines the steps necessary to reach the net zero targets of 2030 as an organisation and 2050 as a county. 

To watch the Surrey Hills Symposium 2021, please click below.