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Australasian Plant Conservation (formerly Danthonia)

Originally published in Danthonia 7(4), March 1999

Introducing the Vice President of ANPC Inc.

David Given
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 and lush.

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.

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