|Biography||Posts & Training
I am Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex. I was Head of the Department of Biological Sciences from 2004-2008. I joined the Department in 1997, having worked for ten years at the International Institute for Environment and Development, where I was director of their sustainable agriculture programme from 1989. Before that, I worked at Imperial College. At the University of Essex, I set up the Centre for Environment and Society, which links across a variety of departments and disciplines. I was appointed A D White Professor-at-Large by Cornell University for six years from 2001.
With Rachel Hine and Ian Colbeck, I help to teach a 3rd year undergraduate course entitled 'Sustainability' (BS348).
This module is about our relations with nature, animals and places. It centres on the theme of connection and disconnection. For most of human history, we have lived our daily lives in close proximity to the land, however, within the next few years, for the first time, there will be more people living in urban than rural areas worldwide. When we lose nature and green places, we forget the animals and birds that once were there. We eat anonymised foods that have no place-based stories, and put the fat of the land on ourselves. At the same time, we are consuming the world to death. The modern lifestyles (and economies) put up as the most desirable in the world are precisely those that would need six to eight planet earths to provision if all the world’s population adopted them. Can we make it across this century?
Life made this planet as it is now, shaping and changing the conditions to make them more favourable to life. Individual organisms do the same thing by constructing their niches in ways to improve their likelihood of survival. As humans, we did the same over a few hundred thousand generations as highly successful hunter-gatherers. Today, we find ourselves in the remarkable position of being the first to change our environment to make it less favourable to life. We are making our own world inhospitable, and so risk losing what it means to be human. Gaia will become Grendel, unless sustainability is taken seriously, as if the world matters.
The aim of this module is to analyse and explore these environmental factors and relationships, and relate them to the potential for developing sustainable patterns of living for the future.
To pass this module, students will need to be able to:
1. Describe and discuss the key components of sustainability and the challenges of moving from current practices to more sustainable ones;
2. Describe the interactions between humans and animals, and the many conflicts and contradictions for ecological management;
3. Evaluate the impacts on natural resources from unsustainable practices;
4. Explore issues of waste management strategy including problems and solutions;
5. Understand and evaluate how green places affect physical and mental health;
6. Describe and analyse the benefits of sustainable practices in food production, in agricultural development and the pressures preventing them;
7. Show an integrated understanding of the cross-disciplinary (environmental, social, economic and policy) features of sustainability thinking and practice;
8. Use and practice the key skills of information retrieval, written communication and critical analysis.
Jules Pretty is Professor of Environment and Society in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Essex, where he was Head of Department from 2004-08. His books include This Luminous Coast (forthcoming, 2011), The Earth Only Endures (2007), Environment (4 vols, ed 2006), Biological Approaches to Sustainable Soil Systems (2006, co-authored), The Earthscan Reader in Sustainable Agriculture (2005, ed), The Pesticide Detox (2005), Agri-Culture (2002) and Guide to a Green Planet (ed, 2002). He is a Fellow of the Society of Biology and the Royal Society of Arts, former Deputy-Chair of the government’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE), and has served on advisory committees for a number of government departments. He is a regular speaker, contributor to media, and presenter of the 1999 BBC Radio 4 series Ploughing Eden, a contributor and writer for the 2001 BBC TV Correspondent programme The Magic Bean, and a panellist in 2007 for Radio 4’s The Moral Maze. He received a 1997 international award from the Indian Ecological Society, was appointed A D White Professor-at-Large by Cornell University from 2001, and is Chief Editor of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. He received an OBE in 2006 for services to sustainable agriculture, and an honorary degree from Ohio State University in 2009.
Memberships, Appointments, Boards
- Institute of Biology: Fellow (2003- ) FIBiol; Member (1986- ); 2009 Society of Biology (FSB)
- Freeman of City of London (1988- )
- British Agricultural History Society (1989- ), Suffolk Records Society (1989- )
- Advisory Board, Rural History Centre, University of Reading (1993-96)
- Neighbourhood Think Tank, London (1993-99), Agricultural Reform Group, London (1993- )
- Editorial Boards: Agriculture and Human Values (1995- ), World Development (1995- ), International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology (1999- ), Society and Ecology (2005- )
- Trustee: Farmers World Network (1997-01) and The Pesticides Action Network (1997-01)
- External Adviser, Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Steering Group (1998- )
- Member of European Landowners Policy Group, chaired by HRH Prince Lorenz of Belgium (1998- 01)
- Deputy Chair, UK Govt’s Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) (1999-2009)
- Chair, Colchester Anti-Poverty Forum (2000-02)
- A D White Professor-at-Large, Cornell University, USA (2001-2007)
- Chief Editor, International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability (2002- )
- Member of UN FAO steering committee on Land Degradation and Assessment (2002-04)
- Working Group on CGIAR Science Council (2002-03) & Selection Panel for members of Science Panel (2003, 2004, 2006)
- Member of International Jury for the Slow Food Award (2002- )
- Member of UK government’s GM Science Panel (2002-04)
- Member of English Nature’s Social & Econ Advisory Gp (2003-06); member of Natural England’s Science Council (2007- )
- Member of International Advisory Cttee, College of Humanities & Devt, China Agric. Univ, Beijing (2003-2007)
- Fellow of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (Jan 04). FRSA
- Member of Faculty of Agricultural Sciences Advisory Council, Univ of British Colombia (2004-2006)
- Member of HEFCE 2008 RAE Sub-Panel 16 (2005-2008)
- Trustee of Essex Wildlife Trust (2005-2009), Vice-President (2009- )
- Trustee of Operation Wallacea Trust (2005-2009)
- Member of University of Essex Council (2005-08)
- Member of Swiss National Science Foundation Expert Panel NRP 59 (2006- )
- Member of Lead Expert Group of Foresight Project Food and Farming Futures (2008- )
- Member of Royal Society working group on Biological Approaches to Improving Crop Production (2008-09)
- Chairman of Essex Rural Commission (2008- )
- Member of Expert Panel for UK National Ecosystem Assessment (2009- )
- Member of GFAR Global Author Team for GCARD (2009-10)
- OBE for “services to sustainable agriculture in the UK and overseas” (2006)
- Indian Ecological Society and Centre for Research in Rural and Industrial Development (November 1997): for “International Contributions to Sustainable and Ecological Agriculture”.
- Runner-up for the 2002 European Sicco Mansholt Prize for agricultural science.
- Agri-Culture book short-listed for 2004 World Hunger Year Harry Chapin Media Awards, USA (March 2004)
- Honorary degree, Ohio State University (2009)