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Previous Macaulay Lectures

Each year the Trust, in partnership with The James Hutton Institute, organise the annual Macaulay lecture.

The aim of the lecture is to stimulate thinking and dialogue about contemporary environmental issues in order to honour the vision of Dr T B Macaulay from whose endowment in 1930 both the Trust and the Hutton trace their origins. Further information about Dr Macaulay can be found here.

The lectures are aimed at an informed, professional audience and each one is given by a world renown academic. The list below shows an archive of recent lectures. The most recent lecture can be found on the following page.

Wednesday 4 October 2017

Professor Jackson’s book, “Prosperity without Growth”, is a world-renowned landmark in the sustainability debate. Originally published at the outset of the global financial crisis, Jackson's seminal work challenges orthodoxies, causing us to question the primacy of economic growth at all costs, and has drawn praise across the world from politicians to Nobel Prize-winning economists.

Against a backdrop of Brexit, and ongoing debate over Scotland's economy and where growth could or should come from in the future, Professor Jackson showed how we can exist within the ecological limits of our planet and helped us understand how we can chart a course to a new longer-lasting prosperity.

For the first time in the 40-year history of the TB Macaulay Lecture, the lecture was streamed in real time to viewers across the world through the James Hutton Institute's YouTube channel. A video of the lecture is available to watch on YouTube.

Prof Jackson also discussed how much Scotland has changed both economically and socio-politically in recent years, focussing in particular on Brexit from a Scottish perspective; on how Scotland can develop its economy; and on how economically autonomous Scotland can be in a globalised world facing major environmental challenges.

Thursday 13 October 2016

The publication of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015 is the public expression of a global consensus regarding a desired pathway for our future. The 17 goals and the 169 targets indicate the areas where progress is needed and help to focus the attention of researchers, policy-makers and practitioners. However, the publication fails to clarify how the goals and targets interconnect, including trade-offs and synergies that need to be resolved to avoid unintended consequences. Achieving the promise of the full suite of the Sustainable Development goals requires the development of three additional elements:

  1. new aggregated indicators or measures of human and ecosystem well-being;
  2. new dynamic models of the integrated system of humans and the natural world, and
  3. innovative ways to build broad public consensus on the future we want and best to achieve this.

The video of the 39th Macaulay Lecture is available on YouTube39th T.B. Macaulay Lecture - The UN Sustainable Development Goals and the dynamics of well-being

Tuesday 13 October 2015

Soils are home to a vast diversity of life that is essential for a variety of ecosystem functions – from the tiniest microbes to larger soil animals and plant roots. The UN has designated 2015 as the International Year of Soils to acknowledge their importance and to raise awareness on the need to protect this valuable resource for future generations. Although it is well established that soil organisms provide essential services including decomposition of organic matter, nutrient cycling, cleansing of water, and regulation of pests, the complex relationships in soil are often overlooked in management and policy decisions. The Global Soil Biodiversity Initiative (GSBI) was established in 2011with the goal of advancing the knowledge of soil biodiversity science. The GSBI aims to increase the implementation of findings on the benefits of soil biodiversity and identify ways to restore, conserve and promote soils and soil biodiversity. Scientists investigating life in the soil emphasize the critical role of soil biodiversity at all trophic levels to soil functioning and plant production, and thus, our reliance on living soils for a sustainable future.

Thursday 25 September 2014

The lecture will tackle the challenge posed by increased calls for policy developers and decision makers in Scotland to base their decisions more firmly on the underlying science. Professor Sutherland will argue that the current processes often lead to poor and slow decisions and the inefficient or problematic use of resources.  He will outline various problems and describe methods that can help individual policy developers and decision makers and also improve the decision making processes.

Friday 14 June 2013

In the 21st century, the scale and intensity of human impacts on the biosphere and biodiversity are widely recognised: we live in the Anthropocene, the era of humankind. Through the 20th century the conservation movement developed strategies to defend nature from human pressure. There have been successes but human impacts continue to grow.

Impoverished and novel ecosystems are being created that have no exact 'natural' analogue. These make any simple idea of 'naturalness' profoundly problematic and challenge our understanding of conservation. Are current conservation strategies suited to future challenges? Do they need to change, and if so how?

Thursday 27 September 2012

Achieving increased levels of productivity using existing land whilst causing minimal environmental damage is one of the greatest challenges of modern agriculture.  Sustainable intensification, as the concept is known, was the subject of the 35th T.B. Macaulay Lecture, delivered by Professor Jules Pretty OBE, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Essex.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Europe’s populations and economies fundamentally depend on the supplies of food, water, energy, and material - from within and beyond the borders of Europe. But is this stock of natural capital being used sustainably and are the environmental resources secure enough to sustain today’s economies and people in good health? Are we using resources efficiently and can we really decouple further economic development from the use of resources and their environmental impacts?

To address these depends critically on the availability of, and access to, reliable environmental information, but there are sometimes vested interests entangled in much of the evidence brought forward to support various policies and actions.  This lecture will examine the differing roles of academics, research institutions and independent bodies in creating the sufficiently robust evidence for policy-makers and ask whether today we are seeing evidence-based policy making or policy-based evidence.

Friday 5 June 2009

Land use has generally been considered a local issue, but is becoming a force of global importance. Worldwide changes to land resources are driven by needs for food, fibre, water and shelter for six billion people. Global croplands, pastures, plantations and urban areas have expanded in recent decades, accompanied by increased energy, water and fertiliser consumption, and by biodiversity loss. These changes have increased human consumption of the planet’s resources, but undermine the capacity of ecosystems to sustain food production, maintain freshwater, regulate climate, and restrict infectious diseases. We face the challenge of managing trade-offs between immediate human needs and the long-term capacity of the biosphere to provide necessary goods and services.

Friday 6 June 2008

Recently, the OECD review of rural policy in Scotland argued that integration is needed between the many organisations involved – a conclusion that harks back to earlier models of Integrated Rural Development. This talk asks whether the concept of Integrated Rural Development still has any meaning in the context of the new approaches to rural governance being adopted within Scotland and more widely across Europe? These approaches are characterised by multi-level interactions (including vertical and horizontal partnerships) between public, private and voluntary sectors, in what is sometimes seen as a 'nobody-in-charge world'.

The talk seeks to link the question about integrated rural development to re-theorisations of concepts of spatial planning, place-shaping, capacity-building and neo-endogenous development. It considers how rural development policies in Scotland, and Europe more generally, might be re-cast through supporting the empowerment of local communities. The talk will conclude by asking how we might strike an appropriate balance between enabling and mobilising local actors to pursue their own strategic agendas and the desire of governments to impose their agendas. Might rural communities actually be better served by 'disintegrated rural development'?

Friday 16 November 2007

One of the great scientific challenges is trying to understand how the operations of ecosystems, on which we all depend, are regulated by their biological complexity. Nowhere is this challenge more intractable than in soil, site of many essential services such as carbon and nutrient cycling, and home to great - and largely unknown - biological diversity.

New approaches and technologies offer real hope of progress in tackling this problem, but there is an urgent need to communicate the importance of soils to the global ecosystem and to human civilisation, to slow or halt the damage being done to the world's soils.

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