The annual Earthwatch debate once again inspired and delighted on Thursday
evening, as a prestigious line-up of speakers went head to head in a battle
to choose an environmental mascot for Britain.
A lively and informative contest at London’s Royal Geographical Society,
the event was chaired by Bloomberg Television’s Andrea Catherwood and
saw five experts take the stage, to find a species that both represented
the UK’s invaluable natural heritage, and the British people’s inimitable
spirit. Their job, to then persuade an audience of 400+ that their
chosen species is vital to ecosystem health and the British
social and cultural identity.
Writer and environmental campaigner, Tony Juniper (left) makes a strong case
for the Song Thrush, as Prof Stephen Hopper and Earthwatch’s Sam Burgess
patiently wait their turn.
Kicking off proceedings, Andrea Catherwood told the audience that, "In
the International Year of Biodiversity, it is important we’re all aware
of the many natural treasures that reside within and around our island nation.”
We then heard from Dr Johannes Vogel, Keeper of Botany at London's Natural
History Museum. Painting a colourful picture of the bluebell, he confirmed that
around 30% of the world’s bluebells are right here in Britain. BBC Television
Presenter, Honorary Research Associate at the Oxford University Museum of Natural
History, and winner of Earthwatch’s 2008 Debate, Dr George McGavin then
put forward his argument that the humble bumblebee was the perfect environmental
mascot for Britain, saying quite eloquently that it is, “the little things
that make a big difference.”
Following a heated debate and having heard some very convincing opinions from
Earthwatch’s own Senior Research Manager for Oceans, Sam Burgess about
the enormous value of Deep-sea corals as carbon sinks, and Professor Stephen
Hopper, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew about the importance of the
mighty Oak tree to so many other species, debate attendees then cast their votes
by SMS text message - another first for Earthwatch on a night when a number
of people joined to debate via social networking site, Twitter.
The winner, by only a small margin was George McGavin who was understandably
“delighted to win on behalf of Bumblebees”, and particularly given
the stiff competition. “This whole idea to raise awareness of animals
that some people wouldn’t necessarily think about is absolutely the right
way forward”, he added.
So, a stimulating evening, full of energy and excitement, and one which Earthwatch
intends to build upon going into 2011, the 10th anniversary of our annual debate
series. “Our annual debate at the RGS is always a thought provoking and
entertaining event, but it also addresses some serious environmental issues.
Heartfelt thanks to the hundreds who joined us the RGS,” said Earthwatch
Executive Vice President Nigel Winser.
Debate Winner, Dr George McGavin collects his award from chair, Andrea Catherwood.
The Earthwatch Debate 2010 was kindly supported by: