Skip to content

Dukia Burges-Watson's diary

Updated Thursday 12th September 2013

Dukia Burges-Watson from Hugging The Coast discusses her interest in environmental issues.

How did you become interested in environmental issues?

I grew up in Tasmania, Australia where environmental issues have been in the press and all around me since I was a young girl. I first got involved around the ‘Franklin Dam’ issue. This was a wild river in the South West of Tasmania that was going to be dammed to produce hydro-electricity.

At the time (in the 1980s for me) there were lots of protests and people came from all over the world to try to save the river (David Bellamy got locked up in a Tasmanian jail for protesting against the dam!). It was considered to be one of the most significant environmental campaign victories in Australia’s history, but it also captured the attention and helped in forming many ‘green groups’ around the world – including the German greens.

In retrospect, I’m really glad the river was saved and that I learned so much from being involved, but it saddens me that it is still such a divisive issue in Tasmanian politics. Environment should be important to everyone, but in Tasmania there are many negative attitudes towards green campaigners, and equally many green campaigners are negative towards industry. I’d like it better if we could all work together…

What are you most interested in relation to environment at the moment?

I have long been interested in seaweed as a resource. A little like bamboo, it grows really quickly and doesn’t require many resources to do so. It is full of nutritional goodies that don’t exist in land based plants, and I’ve long been interested in understanding why we don’t eat it much in the west, but it’s such an important food in other parts of the world.

Seaweed is an environmentally interesting product because it captures carbon, grows quickly and doesn’t need our precious fresh water to do so. I’d like to see us enjoying seaweed a little more in the diet, because it can taste great and it’s very good for you. I think younger people have a better chance of developing this resource because they’ve grown up with sushi and don’t seem so reluctant to try it.

I am also chair of a community garden in the north east of England, the ‘Station Masters Community Wildlife Garden’. We have one of the only known slow worm populations in this part of the world and we are working hard to ensure that the slow worms can inhabit the space alongside people using it to learn about growing food and biodiversity issues. You can look at our facebook site to see what we are up to – at stationmasterscommunitywildlifegarden.

What do you think you will be doing in 1 year, 5 years and 10 years’ time?

I will probably still be doing what I’m doing now but I hope I’ll be better at it as time goes on - and will have had more success at getting people interested in seaweed! I still have much to learn, and while the evidence is getting better, there is still so much we don’t know about the benefits of seaweeds in the human diet.

What makes you most optimistic, and what makes you most pessimistic about the future in relation to environmental issues?

I’m concerned about many things to do with the future, environment and the rapid loss of biodiversity on the planet. But what interests me most is how we are going to feed everyone and keep them healthy and happy. I think we need to think about food from ‘source to senses’ - this is a term my colleagues at the University of London and I thought up to replace the idea of ‘farm to fork eating’.

If we understand better the source of our food, what is the best thing to grow and why, and get better at understanding why we like the foods we do, we can not only ‘link up’ the important questions of where our food comes from, but we might enjoy it better and live better too!

I am optimistic about the future of seaweed and when I was at the last International Seaweed Symposium in Bali in April 2013 I saw lots more scientists and industry people getting behind these ideas.

This diary is featured in the Creative Climate Learning Journey Neither Land Nor Sea.


For further information, take a look at our frequently asked questions which may give you the support you need.

Have a question?

Other content you may like

Is it true that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to eat junk food? Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: GinniDeVille article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

Is it true that the poorer you are, the more likely you are to eat junk food?

New American research suggests that - perhaps aptly - there's an bulge in the middle of income strata when it comes to tucking into fast food.

What are your chances during a zombie apocalypse? Creative commons image Icon Sam Javanrouh under CC BY-NC 2.0 licence under Creative-Commons license article icon

Science, Maths & Technology 

What are your chances during a zombie apocalypse?

According to mathematics we'd all die in a zombie apocalypse but nature and computer science offer us more optimistic outcomes. 

Is it possible to have respect for the poor and homeless? Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Johny Rebel article icon

Society, Politics & Law 

Is it possible to have respect for the poor and homeless?

During a campaign interview, Theresa May speculated on why people might visit foodbanks. The OU's Dr Dave Middleton asks if there's a balance between respectfully giving, and giving respect.

World AIDS Day Creative commons image Icon giant AIDS ribbon on City Hall / Jennifer Boyer / CC BY 2.0 under Creative-Commons license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

World AIDS Day

1 December is World AIDS Day, a day designed to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died.

World Heart Day 2016 Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: World Heart Federation article icon

TV, Radio & Events 

World Heart Day 2016

Today is World Heart Day. Find out all about your ticker with our free courses and activities concerning the heart.

OpenLearn Live: 31st August 2016 Copyright free image Icon Copyright free: Public domain article icon

History & The Arts 

OpenLearn Live: 31st August 2016

The brothers who started the mass production of aircraft. Then more free learning across the day.

What happened to Rio 2016's leftover food? Creative commons image Icon Indra Galbo under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 license article icon

Health, Sports & Psychology 

What happened to Rio 2016's leftover food?

Gourmet chefs fed the athletes of the Olympic Games. Then, they fed the poor.

Taking part in the voluntary sector video icon

Money & Business 

Taking part in the voluntary sector

This course is for people who are interested in being involved or progressing in the voluntary sector.

Dawn Parsonage-Kent - Earth in Vision Creative commons image Icon The Open University under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license video icon

Nature & Environment 

Dawn Parsonage-Kent - Earth in Vision

Dawn Parsonage-Kent, Creative Director at Green.TV, expands on green television, how to rebrand the vulture, and the implications of changing audiences for environmental broadcasting.

30 mins