Several weeks ago the biggest day in AGI Scotland’s annual calendar finally arrived.
As an organisation whose aim is to advance the careers and opportunities of its members, it is important that the conference packs in the most relevant, exciting topics of the day as well as offering rare networking opportunities that can only be found at Scotland’s biggest cross-sector GI event. We were very pleased to have not only a sold-out venue but a series of presentations that we felt were really relevant to today’s challenges, across a cross-section of many GI-related sectors. See some pictures from the day.
The annual conference provides a day of great satisfaction for the AGI Scotland team – seeing months of planning effort come together, new connections made, valuable insights shared – but also an opportunity for reflection on what it means for our community going forward.
This year’s “Sustainable Scotland” theme really could (indeed, should) be an overarching theme every year going forward. We are witnessing environmental disasters around the world at ever greater frequency and Scotland has as much role to play as any other country in looking after our environment and our planet for the betterment of ourselves, future generations, and the multitude of life forms that also make this place home.
On a practical level the GI community is very much involved in essential projects which contribute to a more sustainable future. One of the biggest takeaways of the conference for us was the striking degree of involvement our community has in sustainability, often in unexpected ways and sometimes in opposing ways. The agenda included some unlikely speakers for a GI conference but each presentation showed how deeply embedded GI is in many sectors, and how GI skills and expertise can be a driving force for injecting creativity and increasing value – ecological, social, economic – in projects that improve sustainability.
It shouldn’t be surprising how big a role GI plays in sustainability projects, but it is remarkable how easily it can go unnoticed to the public in general and how “green” goals can likewise be accomplished without drawing attention. An interesting example of this was presented by John Maslen of Greenspace Scotland: John showed us how public land assets – which range from slivers of grassy verges to entire parks – can have untapped green energy potential which can be utilised without sacrificing their public utility. For instance, geothermal energy can be generated beneath a park using entirely underground, invisible infrastructure to provide clean energy to nearby homes or the national grid.
Sometimes though, our sustainability goals can come in conflict. Dr Steve Carver, University of Leeds, spoke enthusiastically about the value of wild land and its prevalence within Scotland. The environmental benefits of preserving wild land and biodiversity are too numerous to list, as well as the social benefits to the people who visit wild places. Our community plays a key role in identifying wild land as well as planning opportunities for increasing and protecting green space. However a key aspect of developing a sustainable future is the production of clean energy, which can come into conflict with preservation of wild land. Nick Green from Savills UK demonstrated the degree of GI skill and resourcefulness needed to plan and install onshore wind farms, a key piece of our clean energy mix. Many of the top sites for new wind farms are also in or near important areas for preservation and ecological restoration, so does a compromise need to be made to accommodate more energy production at the expense of some environmental degradation?
We think not. The conference, having shown off the fabulous breadth, innovation and drive of the GI community, also showed that we do all care about our constructive role in promoting a sustainable future. We work in many sectors but have a lot in common and we remain a close community. By working together and continuing to be active proponents of GI and its potential in facilitating sustainability, we’ll be able to come up with the creative solutions that Scotland (and beyond) needs. By calling on each other and sharing our experiences and viewpoints, we gain essential understanding that can influence our own projects to achieve solutions forming part of a cohesive, sustainable whole.
We hope you’ll keep an eye on our activities over the coming year and join us for next year’s conference in Glasgow (date to be announced) which is shaping up to be AGI Scotland’s biggest yet!