Guest blog: Presidential Update – “Time passes quickly when you’re enjoying yourself!”
“Time passes quickly when you’re enjoying yourself” That’s certainly true of my Presidential Year. It’s over half way through….time marches on.
I haven’t been idle either. It’s been hectic, but a real privilege to meet so many of our members, potential members, stakeholders and partners as I attend Branch meetings, conferences and events.
A few of the highlights in the last few weeks alone have included:
- On 2nd February I was delighted to attend the launch of CIWEM/Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust joint Report, “A Place for SuDS?” in the House of Lords. This Report is very timely – the Government is due to review its planning rules and we are strongly recommending that the statutory provisions for SuDS enacted in 2010 do need to have a policy rocket if we are not to miss out on the benefits which SuDS bring across a plethora of social, health, cultural and environmental targets. The Government’s target of 1 million new homes by 2020 must not be achieved in isolation from a sustainable approach to drainage -we don’t want to witness any more years of lost opportunity. There is much England could learn from the experience of the devolved administrations on this front!
- A personalised guided tour of the Leeds Flood Alleviation Scheme from my fellow Trustee, and Past President, David Wickes. His office overlooks the River Aire, but David knows I’m a chap who likes to see projects close-up so he took time to impress on me the benefits Phase 1 of the project have already yielded and what is planned once the cofferdam and the cranes have completed their tasks. Most remarkably, an otter has recently been spotted in the River Aire -the first recorded sighting for 200 years. What a win that is! This was a happy coincidence, for I was in Leeds that evening for the Tyne & Humber Branch event as a judge on the John O’Neill Otter Trophy Competition. Three young members each gave excellent presentations, with joint-winners, Cambel Plant and Fritha Bevin-McCrimmon, going forward to compete in the Young Environmentalist of the Year competition. Well done to you both, and also to Sarah Warren, the runner-up!
- I met the current holder of Young Environmentalist of the Year, Helen Allister, at the UN World Water Day celebrations in the House of Commons on 20th Helen gave an excellent speech on her work with Water Aid in Mozambique which certainly impressed on us all the need for sustained efforts which lead to sustainable solutions. Aaron Burton from the CIWEM Water Resources Panel then spoke about some innovative techniques in water use efficiency which will undoubtedly need to be a part of the sustainable solutions. I gave an overview of the challenges for our water resource over the next few decades and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Those of you who’ve heard me know I never miss an opportunity to press for a more pro-active approach to the UN’s SDGs!
- The Environment Agency’s Flood and Coast Conference in Telford on 30th March provided another platform for both the SDGs and CIWEM’s Report “A Place for SuDS? I spoke at the Plenary Session on the Thursday – on Globalisation and Integration – and met many of you there and in the first class exhibition hall. CIWEM had a stand – Tim, Alex and Cheryl from CIWEM did a great job in exciting interest in membership and promoting the Institution’s outreach messages. At dinner on the Wednesday evening I met the winners in each of the seven categories of the Environment Agency’s Project Excellence Awards – a broad range of special projects and great to meet the successful entries face to face. I’d been honoured to be judge on the Agency’s panel earlier in the month, an experience which I had enjoyed, but it’s better still to meet the people.
I’ve enjoyed it all – and continue to do so. The most fun, however, was last Thursday afternoon at the Environment Agency’s stand. I was invited to participate in a “Speed Mentoring” session with young engineers, scientists and environmentalists – with the brief that I had to impart my career experience – best bits, worst moves, learning techniques, etc. I was joined by small groups, all eager to hear what I had to impart. But it was me who learnt the major lesson- and that is to confirm my faith in the young professionals of today. All of them, without exception, have so much to give – and that goes for all the talented young people I’ve met over the last few weeks- Helen, Firtha, Cambel, Sarah and Aaron, and many more. As an Institution and as professionals working in our offices or out on site, we need to nurture these young professionals. If we do, the future of the Institution, and all we believe in and promote, will be in safe hands.
CIWEM President and Trustee