The current situation with COVID-19 has put a halt on the ethnographic research that I have been conducting in Wester Ross for my PhD. As a result, I’ve launched with the support of the Biosphere a mini project on Sense of Place in the region.
It is a multi-media project, aiming to collect materials that highlight and celebrate the diversity of Wester Ross to give insight into residents sense of place. At the end of the project I hope to produce a sense of place video and or storymap for all to enjoy.
Isle of Man UNESCO Biosphere
I’m now in the middle of my second year doing PhD research. As part of fieldwork I spent time in the Isle of Man Biosphere, interviewing representatives of the stakeholder partners in 2019. This was organised for me by the project officer for the Biosphere based within the government department DEFA. I was able to travel all over the Isle of Man including Ramsey, Douglas, Peel, St Johns and Castletown for these meetings and had the opportunity to learn more about the perceptions of the designation among the partners.
As an interdisciplinary researcher, to me biospheres represent a unique context to examine the intersection of social, environmental and political issues. As the only nation-state 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. After speaking to the different stakeholders, I learned about the variety of work that is ongoing to connect nature and culture through different projects, and to tackle the challenges of working across sectors that historically may never have communicated and which have different priorities. For example, Culture Vannin, were advertising a paid internship for someone to communicate Manx language and culture through creative responses to the biosphere designation. Arguably, addressing the intersection of natures and cultures is 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. Whilst 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. To hear more, I appear here on Manx Radio.
I recently undertook some StoryMapping training, and using the example of my PhD, I tried to map the story of producing ethnographic space.
Even though I made this in a couple of hours, it shows the possibilities for visually, and spatially telling stories and I hope to be able to use this again in my PhD.