Five Takeaways from Perspectives on Personalised Ecology

Do you remember your first experience with nature? Was it alone, or with others – was it positive or negative? How did that experience shape your behaviours and choices in later life? Do you now work with nature, or have you intentionally chosen a different path?

Hosted by the Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) at the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus, the Perspectives on Personalised Ecology event was well attended both in person and online despite what seemed like an impossible confluence of industrial strikes and challenging weather. The event provided leading research insights from teams on the RENEW ‘Renewing biodiversity through a people-in-nature approach’ project, a partnership between the University of Exeter and the National Trust.

Each of us has a personalised ecology – a set of direct interactions with the natural world that change through the day, the week, the season, and across our lifetimes. This event brought together a diverse set of talks that looked at personalised ecology from a range of perspectives, including philosophical and ethical approaches to nature experience; evidence-based research on coastal environments, health and wellbeing; creative engagements with nature through poetic practice; and citizen assembly methods underpinning the recently launched People’s Plan for Nature, led by the National Trust, WWF, and RSPB.

Here we provide five pithy takeaways from the day.

There are opportunities to limit and reverse ongoing disconnection of humans from nature where it does occur.

– Prof. Kevin Gaston

Kevin Gaston is an ecologist who conducts research into the relations between people and nature, including the benefits that people gain from interactions with nature, and the impacts of people on nature. This work ranges from characterising people’s personalised ecologies to identifying priority areas for nature recovery.

Above. Prof Kevin Gaston opens proceedings. David Bavin from RENEW ExCASES – a solutions generator designed to tackle issues facing biodiversity renewal that are not covered in the main RENEW themes. 

I think we need to help the next generations to find the language to articulate their feeling about nature and biodiversity.

– Dr John Wedgwood Clarke, ‘Finding home in the tin slimes: Gt Wheal Seton Settling Tanks as a place of ecological and poetic revelation’

John Clarke is a poet, prose nonfiction writer, editor and academic. He builds creative-critical dialogue and collaborative practices into his writing and teaching.

I think we have to be careful when using negative terms with people, and actually flipping around and talking about the value of nature experience and the benefits of nature experience might be a useful place to go.

– Dr Lewis Elliott,  ‘Coastal environments, health, and well-being’

Lewis Elliott is an environmental psychologist who conducts research into the public health benefits of access to, and contact with, the natural environment. He has a broad interest in aquatic environments, physical activity, and mental health, and his research methodologies span analysis of large secondary datasets and behaviour change interventions.

Above. Dr John Wedgwood Clarke explores the startling resilience and grounding power of nature. Dr Lewis Elliott connects nature with human health and wellbeing.

Generational ignorance can deprive a generation of historical knowledge which is important for it to grasp the true reality of its situation.

– Prof. Catriona McKinnon, ‘Ethical perspectives on the extinction of experience’

Catriona McKinnon is a political philosopher working on environmental and climate justice, intergenerational ethics, and geoengineering. Her research in these areas adopts a broadly liberal approach which reflects her other research interests in contemporary liberal political philosophy. She is increasingly engaged in inter- and transdisciplinary work on environmental issues in order to make questions of justice and ethics central to public and policy debates.

The People’s Plan for Nature is a plan created for the people, by the people of the UK – a vision for the future of nature, and the actions we must all take to protect and renew it.

– Alex Hunt, ‘Personal Ecologies: Perspectives from the People’s Assembly for Nature and People’s Plan for Nature’

Above. Prof. Catriona McKinnon considers ethical perspectives on the extinction of experience. Alex Hunt presents the People’s Plan for Nature.

For more information on Perspectives on Personalised Ecology, the People’s Plan for Nature, RENEW, or the Biodiversity and People Network please contact or Alternatively, to meet the team behind the research, please follow this link.