Participatory mapping: the next Jungle Book?

Sensemaking / Participatory mapping: the next Jungle Book?

Amazon Watch coordinator Gregor MacLennan talks about his work with communities to preserve ecosystems, and his journey since graduating from Forum for the Future’s Masters programme.

15 May 2012

Amazon Watch coordinator Gregor MacLennan talks about his work with communities to preserve ecosystems, and his journey since graduating from Forum for the Future’s Masters programme.

Gregor MacLennan

Class of: 2000 – 01 

Currently: Peru Program Coordinator, Amazon Watch

Why I chose the MProf 
I'd studied anthropology for my undergraduate degree, and was interested in working on issues around conservation and development. I was starting to hear about sustainable development, and liked that it balanced the human and the environmental challenges. Then I saw the course advertised, and it seemed the perfect fit.
 
What I learnt 
Through the placements in different industries and sectors, Forum really set me up for the work I do now: whether it's working with communities, talking with shareholders and investment firms, or probing a CEO about a company's impacts. It has helped me to understand the different perspectives people have, and how to reach out to them in the most effective way.
 

Career to date
After the Masters, I went with a friend to Peru to visit a community I'd worked with previously. We discovered that the whole place had been overrun by illegal loggers, so we got involved in trying to help the community out. I founded a small, non-profit organisation doing grassroots campaigning and stayed for seven years. After that, I moved to San Francisco to work for Amazon Watch, which challenges corporations and banks over destructive oil drilling and infrastructure projects that threaten the survival of indigenous peoples.

What I plan to do next
I'm increasingly interested in participatory mapping, and how we can use maps and other visualisation techniques to tell stories and share perspectives. In Peru, I helped communities draw maps of where they lived which show that the rainforest isn't just an expanse of green, but a place brimming with history, hunting, burial grounds and medicinal plants. It's a way of demonstrating to companies that they can't just come in and destroy an area for oil. I'm pretty excited by the possibilities at Amazon Watch for exploring those techniques more.

Advice for future leaders
You mustn't feel like you have to influence the largest number of people possible – just focus on what you enjoy, and what feels right, and do that.

Gregor MacLennan was in conversation with Katie Shaw.

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