Region abuzz for biodiversity this Bealtaine

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Thursday, May 9th, 2013
More than 160 people from right across the island of Ireland and beyond gathered in the Crowne Plaza hotel, Dundalk recently to learn about and discuss “Working Together for Biodiversity”. The conference was organised by ‘Action for Biodiversity’, a project part-financed by the European Union’s European Regional Development Fund through the INTERREG IVA Cross-Border Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body. The conference was timed to coincide with Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union and the meeting of the EU Heads of Nature in Dublin. This enabled the organisers to get not only a regional and national overview of successful models of working for biodiversity but also to attract speakers from the EU including Dr Micheál Ó Briain from the European Commission’s Environment Directorate who gave the keynote speech. The aim of the conference was to learn from some fabulous examples of thriving projects such as Burren Life in County Clare, which is widely recognised as one of the best practice examples of a community-led biodiversity project in the country. Participants also learned of some of the many successful ways to engage with the business community to promote the environment. The flourishing and multi-award winning ‘Action for Biodiversity’ project, now in its third year and involved in nearly 100 practical projects across the East Border Region, was also showcased. Doing practical projects, however successfully, is only one element of the project; letting people know what you have done and enthusing them is another and the conference organisers were delighted to secure two eminent speakers in this field. Futerra Communications, whose message is “Love not Loss”, argued that the way to change people’s minds and enable them to take action is not through stories of environmental devastation but through tales of success and wonder. Communication was also the focus of the speaker from ‘Dialogue Matters’, a consultancy based in the UK, which aims to move environmental conflicts from a win/lose situation to focus on co-operative and creative problem solving Mayor of Newry and Mourne District council, John McCardle, who attended the conference said, “This was really positive and inspirational conference and all the attendees learned a great deal, it was important that delegates from as far afield as Wexford and Derry were able to the region at its best.” The conference attracted participants from North and South, from local authorities, environmental charities and non-governmental organisations, from education and business and many members of the general public. Through the insight of excellent speakers and lively question and answer sessions, the conference explored how collaborative work and positive engagement with communities can help to spread the message that Working Together for Biodiversity is worthwhile, and will benefit people, places, nature and livelihoods over the long-term.
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