Doctor of Science
Friday 12 July 2013 at 11 am - Orator: Robert Dufton
Mr Pro Vice-Chancellor
Arguably the greatest change in public understanding and attitudes in relation to science over the past 30 years relates to the natural environment, to the importance of its conservation and to sustainable development as a necessary condition for human life to continue. Today we honour a Bristol graduate in science who has been described as one of the top 10 environmental figures of the last 30 years and as one of the "all time eco-heroes" by no less than the UK Government's Environment Agency.
Tony Juniper graduated from the University of Bristol with the degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Zoology exactly 30 years ago in 1983. He has gone on to become a researcher, a writer and - above-all - a campaigner. For more than 20 of those 30 years he worked for Friends of the Earth, in policy and campaigning, and latterly as its UK Director, from 2003 to 2008, and as Vice Chair of Friends of the Earth International between 2001 and 2008.
Tony grew up in Oxford and whilst no one in his family had much interest in nature, he was always obsessed with wildlife, spending much of his time wandering outdoors, watching birds, looking at butterflies, frogs and newts, and fishing. He kept birds as a child - budgies, cockatiels and lovebirds (all species of parrots) but also quails, finches, pheasants and starlings. And at one point a young crow which had fallen out of its nest. When it came to a university course, Tony chose Psychology and Zoology -reflecting his interest in animal behaviour - and Bristol University because a friend who was a year older than him was by then studying here.
Friends from his university days remember him as being very cool wearing an old RAF flying jacket and whilst they were merely cutting up locusts and worms, with his customary flair, he kept an entire aviary in the laboratory, full of zebra finches.
It was at Bristol that Tony met his future wife Sue Sparkes, on their first day at university. They have been together since 1985. Following her degree in Biochemistry, Sue went on to train and work as a chartered account, but for the last 5 years they have worked together. Sue is of course sitting here today accompanied by their sons, Nye and Sam, and by their daughter, Maddie, who is an undergraduate here at the University of Bristol.
After a couple of years working in conservation education and studying for a masters degree in conservation from University College London, Tony went to work for Birdlife International as their Parrot Conservation Officer, leading an initiative to prevent the extinction of critically endangered parrots. As a professional ornithologist, he became a recognised expert on this group, and in 1988 he co-published "Parrots: A guide to the parrots of the world" which was judged as reference book of the year by the UK Library Association. Tony's love of parrots subsequently led to his book "Spix's Macaw: The Race to Save the World's Rarest Bird" which eloquently tells the exciting story of Tony's work to ensure the survival of this most beautiful of species.
Tony joined Friends of the Earth in 1990, initially leading their tropical rain forest campaign, and later taking forward their work on biodiversity. His work on transport policy, and Friends of the Earth's campaign against the Newbury Bypass, brought him greater prominence and in 1998 he became the Policy and Campaigns Director, and then its Director in 2003. During this time he contributed to many of Friends of the Earth's achievements, including legislation to protect the UK's finest wildlife habitats and new laws to require more recycling.
One of Tony's greatest achievements was leading the campaign for Climate Change legislation. The campaign was called The Big Ask and was initiated in 2005 by Friends of the Earth under Tony's direction. Three years of determined and creative work, involving grass-roots activism, surprising cross-party collaborations, patient evidence gathering, coherent and vigorous argument and possibly the occasional threat, was finally successful with the passing into law of The Climate Change Act in 2008. This world-leading legislation makes it the duty of the Government to ensure that the net UK carbon account for all six Kyoto greenhouse gases for the year 2050 is at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline, an important step towards avoiding dangerous climate change. The Big Ask campaign undoubtedly ensured that the legislation was passed. Tony's role was key to this success, and was acknowledged by many politicians and other commentators. The Independent newspaper pronounced at that time that Tony was "by popular consent the most effective of Britain's eco-warriors".
Since leaving Friends of the Earth in 2008, Tony has continued to campaign, combining this with teaching and advisory roles. He is presently the Special Adviser to the Prince of Wales Charities' International Sustainability Project and is a Senior Associate with the University of Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership. His advice is sought by international companies concerned to meet their sustainability goals.
He also continues to find time to write. His most recent book, "What Has Nature Ever Done For Us?", answers its own question by demonstrating that nature provides immensely valuable "natural services" 24/7 - services as diverse as recycling our soil, predators ridding us of unwanted pests and forests renewing our fresh water. Tony's ideas and analysis are shaping the way people think about nature and the economy, and hopefully will further change the way we live our lives.
His energy is formidable. In 2010 he stood as a candidate for the Green Party and achieved the third best result of all the party's candidates.
Tony generously continues to give his time to the University of Bristol: his lecture at Bristol during our centenary year of 2009 was popular and inspiring, and more recently he gave the Annual Lecture of the London Branch of the University's Alumni Association, of which I had the honour to be Chair.
Tony's work has been widely recognised by others: in 2009 he was the first recipient of the Charles and Miriam Rothschild medal awarded by the UK Wildlife Trusts. He was named the first President of the Society for the Environment. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Institution of Environmental Sciences.
Mr Pro Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Tony Juniper as eminently worthy of the degree of Doctor of Science honoris causa.