Global Environment & Society Academy

GESA Masters Reading Group: Biodiversity and Wellbeing

The University is developing a biodiversity policy and one of the pillars of that policy is well-being. This group will explore the contribution to well-being biodiversity makes in general, and on-campus specifically

Hosted by Dr Liz Van der Meer and Dr Alette Willis

Biodiversity is popularly defined as:

“the variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part; this includes diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems” (Convention on Biological Diversity).

Current biodiversity loss due to human-induced rapid environmental change occurs across flora, fauna, habitats and ecosystems. We now live in a period defined by climate change and the sixth mass extinction of species. With human populations increasingly inhabiting urban environments, we also see a loss of individual and community connection with non-human organisms and biodiversity and in some cases lack of focus/understanding around the benefits of other species and continued processes to human health and well-being. This reading group will explore different aspects of “one health”:

  • How climate change has affected biodiversity and what this means for human communities, discussing ways in which biodiversity mitigates effects and provides for adaptation
  • The link between human well-being (including mental and physical health) and biodiversity, considering access to green spaces and the importance of human-non human interaction and relationality

The GESA Reading groups are inclusive and relaxed, their aim is to bring students from a variety of disciplines together to discuss particular topical issues from the environment and society arena.  After short presentations from our academics, students will break into smaller facilitated discussion groups.

Attendees are asked to think through the following questions, which will be explored at the event:

  • Is it a sign of poor mental health to be sad, angry, depressed or anxious about global environmental issues such as the loss of biodiversity?
  • Drawing on peatbogs and possums, how might we consider the restoration of ecosystems and biodiversity in relation to health?
  • How would you argue for or frame the importance of puffin conservation for Scotland, considering CC impacts and a broad conception of "one health"?
  • Why might considerations of biodiversity and health be important to the functioning of universities, their spaces and their places?

Attendees are asked to go through some of the recommended reading in advance of the event:

  • “Loneliness in an Era of Mass Extinctions,” Alette Willis, chapter for Narratives of Loneliness: multidisciplinary perspectives from the 21st century. Editors Olivia Sagan and Eric Miller. Routledge. Please click here to access.
  • "Hosts as ecological traps for the vector of Lyme disease" article. Please click here.
  • Guardian article: A World Without Puffins? article. Please click here.
  • Biodiversity, peatbogs and climate change (IUCN UK Committee Peatland Programme Briefing Note 2014). Please click here.



Oct 24 2018 -

GESA Masters Reading Group: Biodiversity and Wellbeing

The University is developing a biodiversity policy and one of the pillars of that policy is well-being.

Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, High School Yards, Edinburgh EH1 1LZ