Difficult Conversations: Mayor of Leicester to join expert panel to discuss making cities greener

The Mayor of Leicester will join a public Q&A alongside University of Leicester experts to explore the relationship between cities and nature.

Cities have very often taken from nature without giving much back in return but a panel of experts are hoping to find ways to make Leicester’s relationship with its surrounding countryside more mutualistic.

Sir Peter Soulsby, the Mayor of the City of Leicester, will be joined by a multidisciplinary team including researchers from the University of Leicester for a panel discussion and Q&A exploring how relationships between cities and nature can thrive.

The free event (Difficult Conversations: Cities of the future) will be hosted at the University of Leicester’s Bennett Building on Tuesday, 15 November 2022 (6.30pm-9.30pm).

Panellists for the discussion, followed by a public Q&A, include:

  • Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of the City of Leicester since 2011, known for is his passion for wanting to transform Leicester into a cleaner and greener city already having brought in several initiatives.
  • Dr Moya Burns, Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Science at the University of Leicester, who currently researches citizen science and nature-connectedness, forest ecology and restoration as well as urban ecology.
  • Dr Natalie Darko, Associate Professor at the University of Leicester, Director of Inclusion, NIHR Leicester Biomedical Research Centre, and an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the Stephen Lawrence Research Centre at De Montfort University, who specialises in health research and practice that addresses equality, equity, diversity, and inclusion of underrepresented and minority groups.
  • Dr Ceri Jones, Clinical Psychology Lecturer in the Clinical Psychology Unit in the Department of Neuroscience, Psychology and Behaviour at the University of Leicester, who researches the therapeutic and health benefits of the environment, green space and outdoor therapy.
  • Professor Mark Williams, Professor of Palaeobiology who studies the major changes to life on Earth over geological timescales. Recently he has focussed on changes to life resulting from human activities in the Anthropocene, hence his interest in the growing impact of cities.

Dr Moya Burns said: “Many people don’t realise how rich in biodiversity cities can be and how they can in fact be far richer in biodiversity than the countryside. 

“It’s important to work with city residents to ensure we continue to support urban biodiversity in a changing climate and, via processes like citizen science, continue to build the evidence base to make informed environmental management plans for the future.” 

Dr Natalie Darko said: “This event will discuss how the green and sustainable development of our city, can transition in a way that is truly inclusive addressing inequalities in access to nature and green spaces.

“Sustainable development policies, actions and the green transition for our city can ensure equal rights and opportunities to all, build on the diversity of our city, and enable meaningful intercultural interaction, active co-production, and co-evaluation.”

Dr Ceri Jones said: “There is growing evidence of the therapeutic benefits of accessing and engaging with the countryside and green space. 

“Yet green space access is not equally distributed, with people living in the poorest areas having the least access to green space. 

“Conversely when they are able to access good quality green space they experience greater health benefits than those from wealthier areas. 

“In turn they develop greater environmental stewardship. Therefore it is important to conserve the countryside not only for environmental and ecological benefit but also for the benefits to human health.”

Professor Williams said: “Cities are engines of change that are driving much of the environmental damage we see around us.

“For humans and the rest of life to thrive, we will need to develop cities that emulate the natural ecosystems in which they embedded.

“This will become increasingly important as more and more people live in cities during the 21st century.”

Difficult Conversations will be chaired by Professor Turi King, Professor of Public Engagement and Genetics, and co-presenter with Stacey Dooley of BBC Two’s DNA Family Secrets.

Though the event is free to attend, guests are encouraged to book their places through Eventbrite.