This year’s IEMA Connect 2023 conference kicked off with a keynote session with National Geographic explorer Dr Rosa Vásquez Espinoza, who reflected on her adventures in the Amazon and the need for us all to reconnect with nature.
The Peru-born biologist spoke passionately about the need to preserve Indigenous wisdom, outlining how true sustainability comes from connecting “the modern world, the scientific method, and ancestral knowledge.”
She said: “If I asked you what sustainability is, most of you would give me a definition around meeting our needs without compromising or depleting the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
“I like to call it generational fairness, and for Amazonian people, to keep their culture and practices alive, they literally need to practice sharing it generation after generation, mostly orally.
“Through my experiences, exploring some of the most remote, exotic and even dangerous places on our planet, I believe that, when looking to incorporate sustainability into our lives and organisations, we can look to the Amazonian people, who live in harmony with their surroundings and believe that all life forms must be respected and treated with dignity and ethics.”
When giving examples of Indigenous knowledge, she explained how people in the Amazon have long known about the medicinal benefits of stingless bees, when others have been oblivious to their qualities.
“In fact, we have documented over 14 illnesses being treated with stingless bee honey and other direct products,” she continued. “We have discovered that they are rich in anti-inflammatory compounds, anti-microbial, and potentially even anti-cancer molecules as well.
“They have become such an important part of people's economies, allowing them to bring in sustainable income, feed their kids, have their medication, and deterring them from engaging with destructive practices, such as cutting down trees, or hunting animals to survive.”
However, she explained how too many of us have lost touch with nature and the wisdom that comes from connecting with the natural world.
“One of the main reasons we are in an environmental crisis is because we have lost the connection with nature,” she said. “Many people now see nature as something separate from them, as if they exist separate from nature, when in reality, we humans are nature.
“If we internalise these concepts, we can integrate green skills into our individual lives and organisations. So I encourage you to go outside, reconnect with what’s around you, become a voice for nature, at any level, small, medium, big, they all contribute to making a difference.
“Maybe that will inspire you into taking action, to start a brainstorming session with your team, and coordinate them to provide new ideas, new solutions. When we are talking about sustainability and protecting our planet, we are ultimately talking about protecting humanity.
“I hope that these lessons from the Amazon have inspired you into sparking new ideas.”
The presentation began two days of events and networking at IEMA Connect 2023, with over 100 people speaking at more than 50 sessions, and nearly 3,000 IEMA members registered.
Attendees will hear about and discuss carbon accounting, climate finance, nature markets, utilising transferrable skills into sustainability, and much more.
“You will also have a chance to meet and interact with our policy and senior leadership teams to give us your thoughts on the future of IEMA,” CEO, Sarah Mukherjee MBE, said.
“Please do take the time to have a look at everything on offer. We have a wide variety of sessions on offer, including panels from our circular economy, impact assessment, biodiversity and climate change experts – there really is something for everyone.”
Catch up on all the IEMA Connect sessions on demand here: IEMA Connect 2023 (cvent.com)