Biological Diversity & Motivational Diversity

I just completed my first weekend on the MSc in Mindfulness Based Approaches at Bangor University. It was a wonderful three days. I enjoyed communing with like minded people and learnt a great deal – notably some of the major differences between psychology research and taxonomy. In response to one of my questions the lecturer pointed out that most psychology research papers are out of date within two to five years and so there is no point in building a big bibliographic system. Taxonomists struggle to maintain their 250 year back catalogue.

Surprisingly I am once again the proud owner of a student card! I hadn’t thought I would be presented with one. It could be useful for a discount in the pubs in Edinburgh.

Being back at my desk and in the world of biodiversity informatics feels a little jarring. How on earth could I be motivated to pursue both the technicalities of biodiversity assessment and the therapeutic applications of mindfulness meditation? Fortunately I get enough email each day for an answer to be embedded in one of them.

Purity and Prejudice: Deluding Ourselves About Biodiversity Conservation by Douglas Sheil & Erik Meijaard (DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2010.00687.x) goes at least part of the way to making the link. My favourite quote is:

Legitimacy requires appreciation not only of biological diversity but of motivational diversity. Listening and engaging are essential in effective conservation and we should be willing to accept priorities that do not favor our own personal views and beliefs over others.

If the central tenet of this article – that we are unwittingly influenced by our notions of ‘tainted-nature’ – is true then it follows that we have a responsibility to look inward and work out what our real motivations actually are. I would argue that we can only understand this by putting discursive thought to one side for at least some of the time to live with our raw experience. How can we possibly hope to take our own motivations into account if we don’t have a systematised method for discovering them that goes beyond a sentimental response to our own likes and dislikes?

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