I read an excellent article in Robin Page’s column in the Saturday Telegraph that will ring a bell with many opposing wind farms. Dr. Martina Tyrell, an anthropologist at Exeter University has addressed the issue of anecdotal evidence. We have all experienced the statements in Environmental Statements, written by academic consultants, often from a desktop survey, that we know to be palpably wrong. However all we can often offer is “anecdotal evidence”. This is seized on by the developers as having no scientific basis and therefore to be ignored. Dr. Tyrell makes the comment that conservationists and biologists often use this phrase to dismiss local knowledge as lacking in rigour and no more than the ramblings or hearsay of a farmer walking his fields. This despite their own research, at best, focusing only on specific parts of that environment. Dr. Tyrell’s studies are mostly with the Inuit and has exposed how their knowledge and expertise is routinely ignored by the conservationists and wild-life biologists in making management decisions regarding species the Inuit hunt. Dr. Tyrell further suggests that this evidence is not so different to scientific knowledge. Both are, or should be(!), founded on observation and engagement of the other senses, on experience, on experimentation and on the sharing of knowledge and expertise between and across the generations. So next time a smarmy QC tries to dismiss your evidence as ‘Anecdotal’ simply say no, it is ‘Non-Scientific Expertise’.
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