So it turns out that the figure of 6000 delegates at the International Botanical Congress was wrong: it’s actually almost 7000! The official figure is 6,953 people from “109 countries and regions” [not quite sure what that means]. There are 3,519 talks scheduled to be given by scientists from 85 countries: botany is such an incredibly international venture! But then you can say that about all of the sciences.
Yesterday the IBC stepped up a gear with some public lectures in the afternoon. I managed to catch the one by Steve Blackmore on why greening of cities is so important, and the role of plants in improving urban living through microclimate modification, food production, aesthetic enhancement, etc. Couldn’t agree more and it’s a recurring theme in the IBC’s exhibition centre. The Chinese take this very seriously and Shenzhen has some lovely planting and green spaces; I hope to post more images about this later in the week but here’s one example I snapped on the way to the venue yesterday morning:
The other talk I saw was by the venerable Peter Raven, now in his 80s but still going strong and an inspiration to all of us youngsters 🙂 The theme of Peter’s talk was “Saving plants to save ourselves”, and the importance of the plant sciences for sustaining the Earth in the face of exponential population growth:
Peter introduced the “Shenzhen Declaration” – an open letter or manifesto that challenges international governments to take the plant sciences seriously and provides something of a road map for how that can be done. More on the Declaration in a later post.
At 6pm there was a welcoming reception to which all delegates were invited; simply getting that many people into one of the halls was a triumph of logistics, but they were also fed and able to drink as much as they wanted, all for free. Quite a feat to pull off; this shot was taken fairly early on in the proceedings; there was more than twice that number behind me:
Some more photos from the venue, starting with part of the main display about Chinese conservation. Not sure that a couple of stuffed pandas sends quite the right message, but who am I to quibble:
A behind-the-scenes shot of just part of the registration desk area:
The IBC is the only conference I’ve attended that has a SWAT team with automatic weapons, attack dogs, and riot shields on constant standby. You can just see some of them at the back of this shot, about as close as I dared photograph…..:
No conference is complete without an irritating robot giving out information in a cutesy, high pitched voice:
So the main scientific programme starts today; I’ll be going to a couple of the keynote lectures in the morning, then there’s a session after lunch on “Pollination by non-flying mammals” that I’m looking forward to. I’m then speaking at 4pm in the session on “Evolution of floral traits”, discussing some of the work that we have been doing in Tenerife. Wish me luck!
The session I’m talking in ends at 6pm. I’m still jet lagged and have been up since 4am so at that point I’ll be ready for a beer and some food!