University of Stirling student Zoe Russell spent a week in UNESCO Biosphere Isle of Man as part of her PhD studies and writes about the valuable experience:
I have just started my second year of PhD research at the University of Stirling, funded by the ESRC within the Scottish Doctoral Training Partnership. I’m working across the social sciences and arts and humanities to study nature and culture in the Scottish Highlands.
I recently had the opportunity to spend a week in the Isle of Man Biosphere as part of my fieldwork and it was a great experience.
During my week I was all over the Island including Ramsey, Douglas, Peel, St John's and Castletown - and having interesting conversations en route.
As an interdisciplinary researcher, to me the biosphere represents a unique context to examine the intersection of social, environmental and political issues.
As the only entire nation Biosphere, the Isle of Man is uniquely placed to grapple with the multi-faceted nature of addressing these issues to plan for a more sustainable future.
During my time on the Island, I spoke with a range of Biosphere stakeholders engaged in the process of collaborating to achieve sustainable development. The passion of all involved was clear to me, despite the challenges of working across sectors that historically may never have communicated and which have different priorities.
Arguably, that’s what makes the Biosphere such an important designation to those involved with it. It represents an opportunity, a new space to engage with each other, and to try to work together on the larger issues that transcend any one person or organisation’s ability to act.
This process is inevitably about finding the right balance of priorities to ensure a flourishing environment for people and nature. In this regard, there are many possibilities for future action and also throughout for islanders to become involved making this happen.
While on the Island, I learned about the distinct cultural heritage of the Manx people, including the Manx language, the Island’s biodiversity, encompassing all kinds of flora and fauna, and about agricultural practices. Many I spoke to acknowledged that there is always more work to be done to protect nature and culture and to bring them together. However, there is also a clear sense of pride in the Island and the work that has been going on over many years which makes it already a special place for people and environment.
Thus, for the Isle of Man, the Biosphere designation has a dual purpose. On the one hand, it represents an acknowledgement of what many already cherish and know to be special. On the other, Biosphere represents a catalyst for spurring on further action and the designation has the potential to support advocacy for change and improvement.
Now more than ever, given the complex global challenges faced, the onus is on everyone to participate in efforts to achieve sustainability, this is not just a task for Governments. Organisations face challenges of limited resources, time and capacity to act but this situation is not unique to the Isle of Man.
Despite such challenges, Biosphere has the potential to open the door to bold and innovative action for the delivery of sustainable development.
I thank all of those who spent their time talking to me and shared their views.