Australasian Plant Conservation (formerly Danthonia)
Originally published in Danthonia 7(4), March 1999
the Vice President of ANPC Inc.
Vice President, ANPC, and Chair,
IUCN Species Survival Commission Plant Conservation Subcommittee
It is often said that "familiarity breeds contempt" and sometimes we do only
give things their full value when they are out of reach. The cookie in the cookie
jar becomes far more attractive and mouth watering when the cookie jar is on
the top shelf! I have felt like this during most of February when I was a lecturer
with Heritage Expeditions on their Antarctic expedition ship. Locked into a
polar environment with 46 tourists and staff is a fascinating experience and
personally I enjoy it. But there comes a yearning for things green. Travelling
back to New Zealand we landed for one day at Enderby Island in the Auckland
Islands group and it seemed that Enderby was never more fresh looking, green
Too often plants are taken for granted. There was a time when I probably felt
that I had to be a little apologetic about being a botanist. After all, botanists
do not study the exciting things in life like tigers, orang-utans and coral
reefs. A little wiser and considerably older, I now realise that plants do "do
things", that they underpin all life on earth, that the sex life of orchids
is exciting stuff, and that plants such as Rafflesia, bristlecone pine and subantarctic
megaherbs are spectacular "oo-ah" parts of biodiversity. In other words there
is no need to apologise for plants for being a field botanist.
In fact, the period since my own PhD studies in the 1960s has been an exciting
one. When I was a student there was no formal discipline of conservation biology,
biodiversity had not been coined as a word, and "hot spots" were not even a
winkle in anyone's imagination. Botanic gardens in the 1960s were only just
starting to move away from their traditional roles, and computers were generally
something in the mind of science fiction writers. All this has changed and with
it has come both increased responsibility for preservation of the world of nature
and increased opportunities to do so.
ANPC has been an innovative world leader as a national network which links
people and institutions working at a range of levels in plant conservation.
It bridges the gaps between government and non-government agencies, policy research
and practical hands-on conservation, educators and "do-ers".
My personal belief is that to make a difference to the world we live in we
need to do three things above all else - we need to listen and learn, we need
to develop and equip people now rather than searching for the ultimate methodology
and system, and we need to facilitate practical and people-based outcomes where
there is a real sense of ownership by stakeholders and communities. My personal
interests range from the very local such as botanical surveys of farmland, through
regional and national with university teaching and policy development to global
with involvement with the Species Survival Commission plant conservation programme.
I am personally challenged by the opportunity to serve as Vice-President for
ANPC, especially if it can help raise awareness of ANPC in the international
community, as well as helping to bring New Zealand and Australia closer in their
plant conservation vision. Fortunately, e-mail and other communication systems
have decreased trans-Tasman distances, and I do get to Australia moderately
often. So, I look forward to meeting with many more in the ANPC network in the
future and to being closer involved with a very forward-looking group of people.