Centre for Applied Philosophy, Politics and Ethics 17th Annual Interdisciplinary Conference

Activity: EventsWorkshop


Planting the Seeds for Critical Conservation: A Decolonial Guide to Visiting Britain’s Seed Banks

In the face of climate change, grand-scale conservation efforts have gained global interest and importance. Seed banks are an increasingly common institutionalised practice where, through the collection and storing of different (“threatened”) natural species, future biodiversity is protected. Only 24 miles from Brighton, the Kew Millennium Seed Bank brandishes a world-renowned collection of more than 2.4 billion different seeds, which is open for members of the public to visit. Seed banks as such often pride themselves in their “global partnerships” which enable them to “collect” and “protect” samples from all over the world. Emboldened by depictions of impending climatic disaster, such promises are often deeply depoliticised, and obscure the social ties and troubles of international seed collection interventions; the “rendering technical”, acultural and legible of non humans; and how conservation (especially in British context) is a pursuit essentially rooted in and reinforced by colonial structures.

In this session, we explore how colonialism, climate politics, human-nature divides and disaster capitalism are embedded in British natural conservation efforts, with the Millennium Seed Bank as a case study. We shed light on some interesting parallels between how seeds and specimens are handled in British conservation schemes (and the performativity of doing so), and Britain’s intensifying immigration policy, and the role that counting and climate change play in both. Rather than a traditional seminar style, this session will follow a
more organic Q&A format, facilitated by Xan Chacko and Maia Brons. Providing ample evidence for attendees to ask questions and intervene in the conversation, we hope to plant the seeds for other people to develop their own critical, decolonial perspectives as they may visit the Millennium Seed Bank or other conservation interventions within and beyond Brighton’s surroundings.
Period2 Sept 2022
Event typeConference
LocationUnited KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational