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Public lecture will explore vital link between people and nature

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Issued:08/05/12

The catastrophic impact of humans abandoning rural landscapes in favour of urban environments is the topic of a free, public lecture being given by a local environmentalist.

Ian Rotherham, professor of environmental geography and reader in tourism and environmental change at Sheffield Hallam University, will discuss how the relationships between people and nature have changed, and what the consequences are for issues such as global warming and climate change.

Until the industrial revolution, people relied on the natural resources around them, managing and shaping the rural landscapes in ways that both benefited them and changed the environment.

But, as humans have become increasingly urbanised - more than 50 per cent of the world's population now live in towns and cities - traditional methods of managing the land have been abandoned.

The decline in this management has had devastating consequences, leaving rural areas susceptible to the huge wildfires seen in parts of Australia and southern France, and flooding, such as that experienced in Britain recently.

Yet according to Ian, these consequences, and their causes, have been largely ignored, over-shadowed by threats of global warming and carbon-induced climate change. He believes the lessons of history have been unseen and ignored.

This ‘cultural severance’ has also led to a decline in the biodiversity of these environments, as the animals and plants that relied on human activity have disappeared. 

And Ian,who is from the department of architecture and planning at Sheffield Hallam,will argue in his lecture that this abandonment is having as great an impact, if not more so, on climate change as the increase in carbon in the world's atmosphere. 

Ian said: "All the natural landscapes around us have been shaped by hundreds of years of human activity and management. In human history, until recently, we have used and relied on the land in ways that both benefited us and changed the environment; people embedded in nature and dependent upon it."

"But, as we've increasingly moved to the urban environment, we have neglected the rural landscapes that we once relied upon. This is leading to devastating fires, floods and a decrease in the diversity of animals and plants that had evolved and adapted to thrive alongside us."

"To counter the consequences of this severance between people and nature, we need to explore ways of returning to working with the grain of nature rather than against it. We need to rediscover our connection to the natural environment and empower people in our communities to make use of the land once again. The first step is to re-engage with nature and to respect our place in the Natural World."

The lecture, People, Nature, History: the consequences of an intimate relationship, will take place on Wednesday 23 May 2012 at 6.30pm in Sheffield Hallam's Pennine Theatre, City Campus.

Places are free and include refreshments and a light buffet, but must be booked in advance at www.shu.ac.uk/events

For press information contact: Laurie Harvey on 0114 225 2621 or email laurie.harvey@shu.ac.uk.