Lloyd Anderson, Director Science, British Council UK
What is the British Council's involvement with the environment?
The Council is increasing the money it spends on the science,
engineering and the environment – to £8 million a year. So
we’re gradually stepping up our commitment to the environment,
seeing as at the heart of achieving sustainable development.
Our main focus in education in the broadest sense – everything
from building networks between environmental scientists, to helping
people facing environmental problem meet with UK experts.
The British Council has focused on environmental democracy.
Things have gone wrong with science because of a very linear
model of communication, which says that if you educate people
better, then they’ll be more receptive to technological
GM foods showed how mistaken this model is. The more people know,
the more they worry. You can’t educate their concerns away.
Instead, you have to recognise many communities of interest and
facilitate critical interactions between these groups.
With the environment, there is a tremendous opportunity to do
this. In the UK, for example, more people belong to environmental
action groups than political parties. It's opportunity to get people
more involved in the democratic process.
How successful do you expect the World Summit to be?
Like Rio, this is a tremendously important event. Before Rio, no
one really thought environmental issues were that important. But now
the environment has real political credibility. We’ve some
progress since Rio – but we’re still only starting to grapple
with the big issues.
The World Summit is necessary to reaffirm that this agenda
matters – to get real agreement between the world’s governments.
Unfortunately, I think we risk repeating the split we saw at Rio
between rich and poor countries. Many developing countries are
poorer than they ever were – and this makes it extremely difficult
for them to develop in a sustainable fashion.
Why are you supporting the Daily Summit?
The British Council wants the Daily Summit because we want to try
and pick up the news and views, chit chat, and backroom discussion
from the summit.
It’s often the discussion in the margins that really influences
government. And people want to hear more than the formal statements
coming out of the summit – they want to be let into the process
and have a sense of what actually happens on the ground, and why.
Do you things have got better or worse since Rio?
Worse, I think. Some problems, like air pollution, have got
better – but only in the rich world. Global warming and chemicals
in the environment stand out as two big problems.
Optimists, like Bjorn Lomborg, think that we can work our way out
of any situation with technology, but I think we’re going to see
more problems emerge.
It’s true, we’re adaptable, but we are
shifting from one unsustainable regime to
another and we have lost many of the environmental
buffers we once had.
10 August 2002