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Campus News

Leading botanist and environmentalist Peter H. Raven spoke at Warren Wilson College Nov. 3 on biodiversity

by Micah Wilkins, web editor

Peter H. Raven spoke in the chapel last Thursday evening. Photo by Wyatt Pace

Dr. Peter H. Raven spoke in the Warren Wilson College Chapel last Thursday on the topic of biological diversity and the elements that are threatening it today.

Raven is a prominent botanist and environmentalist, advocating for conservation and biodiversity. He has taught Botany at Stanford University and Washington University and he now holds the position of director and President Emeritus of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis.

Three years ago, Margo Flood, who retired in May from her positions as director of the ELC and as President’s Advisory Committee sustainability official, heard Raven speak at the All-Taxa Biodiversity Inventory (ATBI) annual conference in Tennessee. The ATBI is one of the largest biological inventories on the planet, which seeks to inventory the estimated 100,000 species of living organisms in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. During the conference, Flood was very impressed by Raven’s argument.

“In his keynote talk, Peter Raven made the best case I’ve ever heard for why [we should] care about biodiversity; not just the scientific argument, but the economic, social and cultural importance of biodiversity to everyone, no matter where they live,” Flood said. “Biodiversity is sometimes regarded as a higher order value. Meaning, if you’ve got food to eat, and a roof over your head, perhaps then life will be secure enough to be concerned about shrinking biodiversity. Peter Raven placed biodiversity, in his talk, as integral to food security [and] economic security.”

After hearing him speak, Flood began campaigning to bring him to campus, as his case for biodiversity as integral to a resilient, sustainable life is not one often heard, she said.

While campaigning to bring him to campus to speak, Flood learned that Warren Wilson trustee George Stuart worked with Peter at National Geographic, and with Stuart’s help, Raven was brought to campus three years later, to speak to the campus community last week.

After his talk, Raven told Flood “how impressed he was that faculty, students and staff were united in their work toward a sustainable future.”

According to Flood, “he was happy to be among kindred spirits who ‘get it.’”

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