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“Lucky break” – a scientist sings about restoring ecosystems

Art and science are definitely coming closer together, if recent articles in New Scientist magazine are anything to go by. Of course the beauty of the natural world has always inspired painting, poetry, photography and music – and it’s great to see scientists themselves contributing to this work.

Dr John Quinn is a principal scientist at NIWA, New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research and he specializes in freshwater ecology and biodiversity.  A few weeks ago we were swapping good sources of information and he sent me a link. I’d forgotten that John and his guitar are seldom separated, and the link goes to a song he wrote on the plane after attending the 4th World Conference of the Society for Ecological Restoration in Mexico in August 2011. Inspired by hearing Imelda May at the Bunbury Blues and Roots Festival, John penned and performed a great blues number that is also a call for ecological restoration.

Entitled “Lucky break”, John’s song celebrates the Earth’s ecosystems that support us and asks why we’re  gambling with their health when the stakes are so high. It’s a great blues number – click here to see him perform it.

Interestingly, in December last year, three of my friends and colleagues from elsewhere in New Zealand and overseas were in Auckland to attend the 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology (ICCB 2011). They were much struck by a discussion about “conservation grief syndrome”: scientists are only human and do become despondent about how much is to be done if we are to continue to enjoy the beauty and benefits of nature and the plants, birds, fish, insects and animals that contribute to our emotional, psychological, spiritual, cultural and economic wellbeing.

Writing this up now reminds me of an observation from a friend who regularly takes long cycling trips in little-traveled parts of the world: he said that all the biologists he meets are very depressed about the state of the environment, while all the economists are very upbeat.

This happened  a number of years ago, so it’s great to see a vigorous and spreading discussion all round the world about the need for our economic system to address social, cultural and environmental wellbeing.