Tributes to Morgan Parry, leader of Welsh sustainable development
A light footstep on the world
Roger Thomas, former Chief Executive of the Countryside Council for Wales
Morgan Parry born in Liverpool to Welsh parents in 1957, went to both school and university in the city before spending the rest of his life in the Wales he loved. An ardent supporter of Welsh culture and heritage, he championed the Welsh language in every aspect of his life – through his public speaking, writing and broadcasting, and within the organisations with which he was associated.
His passion was our natural environment and his early career, after a post-graduate course in countryside management at Bangor University, was spent in conservation management. He worked initially for Gwynedd County Council, as warden at Parc Padarn and then Parc Glynllifon, where he was fundamental in establishing the present-day site. Morgan was then appointed Director of the North Wales Wildlife Trust, before moving on in 2000 to become the first Director of WWF in Wales, later chairing the Wales Sustainable Development Forum, Cynnal Cymru.
Throughout this time he was also actively involved in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament – in 1987 raising funds for the Greenham Common protest through a sponsored bike ride around Wales – and also in Friends of the Earth Cymru.
In 2010 he was appointed by the then Environment Minister Jane Davidson as chair of the Countryside Council for Wales, a role he embraced with considerable energy, expertise and enthusiasm. More recently, upon the establishment of Natural Resources Wales in 2013, he became a board member of the new organisation and represented it on the UK-wide Joint Nature Conservation Committee.
Morgan was a good friend to many and an accomplished chairman of the Countryside Council for Wales, with whom it was a pleasure to work. But more than that, he was a gifted communicator in the cause of living within our means. His writing was always eloquent and thought-provoking, his lectures and presentations articulate and challenging. It was, though, the way that he lived his life that set him apart and made him a truly inspirational figure.
Many can see the dangerous consequences of our western lifestyles and quite a lot can write and speak with authority on this subject. However, few make the difficult transition towards minimising the impact of their own lives. Morgan was one of this small band with whom many of us aspire, but fail, to join. He trod the world with a light footstep that also made him heavily yet subtly influential.
He was not one to loudly proclaim his virtuous approach. His way was to demonstrate by example and to let others realise over time what he had done and was doing. Thus, for example, his journey to a conference in Rotterdam in 2012 was by bus, train and boat, as he had calculated that this would minimise his carbon footprint, albeit at some personal inconvenience. He did not then tell his European colleagues how he had arrived there but, over the course of two days, what he had done gradually emerged through many conversations. There was enormous respect for someone who was trying to do what we all agreed needed to be done.
To quote a Dutch colleague with whom Morgan worked on sustainability issues: “Morgan had a way of being present without claiming attention. He looked at you in an accepting way, and if you had an idea he really listened. In our hasty world these kinds of qualities are scarce”.
There were many other sides to Morgan. As father to Math and Martha, he shared Wendi’s pride in nurturing their children.
He was also keen on DIY, though not through any obsessive interest. He simply believed that he could find a way to do everything and, as evidenced by the smallholding where he lived in the Snowdonia foothills, he was right.
Morgan’s passion for rugby came out in two ways. He was organiser of junior fixtures for his local club in Caernarfon. As all junior rugby organisers know, this complex task is a logistical and political challenge that would defeat many. And as a supporter of Wales, he was renowned for being as voluble in front of the television screen as he was when at the Millennium Stadium.
A long-time music fan since his early days as a DJ in Liverpool University, Morgan would search out any gems hidden amongst the CDs in friends’ cars as well as maintaining an extensive collection of vinyl albums at home. On New Year’s Eve, just a few days ago, he particularly enjoyed the opportunity to play and discuss favourites from his collection during a family gathering.
Diagnosed with a metastatic lymphatic cancer in the summer of 2013, Morgan did not let illness impede his life more than was absolutely necessary. He continued to attend board meetings and committees of Natural Resources Wales, as well as continuing a near normal life outside work. Instrumental in securing an international conference on ecosystems for Wales, held last October in Bangor with 230 delegates, he was unfortunately hospitalized during the event that he was meant to chair. Nonetheless, he took advantage of the live web broadcast to follow the proceedings.
He was actively planning his diary for the New Year and the suddenness of Morgan’s passing has shocked friends and colleagues throughout Wales and beyond.
A man who gave us a view from the future
Peter Davies, Welsh Commissioner for Sustainable Futures
There is no doubt that in the untimely passing of Morgan Parry, Wales has lost a leader of huge determination, courage and vision, and a man of real integrity, warmth and humour. There have already been many tributes to Morgan’s contribution as an environmental campaigner and leader of national bodies such as WWF, Cynnal Cymru and the Countryside Council for Wales. He was also a key influence in shaping the commitment to sustainable development which has been at the heart of the devolution process.
Morgan passionately believed that the duty to promote sustainable development as set out in the Government of Wales Act provided the basis for a distinctive approach for the devolved government of Wales. He played a key role in both supporting and challenging successive administrations in the application of this duty, probably most notably through his influence on the current Sustainable Development Scheme –‘One Wales One Planet’, based on the premise that Wales should aim to reduce its ecological footprint from three planets to one in the life time of a generation. It was also over this period that he chaired Cynnal Cymru, the sustainable development forum for Wales. He guided the organisation to play its most influential role based on building a Wales-wide forum membership and convening a strong representative stakeholder Board.
He was never afraid to question the business as usual approach to the economy, as well illustrated in his challenge to successive economic strategies, but always putting forward constructive alternative models for sustainable economic development. Equally he played a key role in reshaping the management of our natural resources, being an advocate for change leading to the formation of Natural Resources Wales. Above all he recognised that this job was not complete and I am sure his fellow Board members will ensure his values are embedded in the new organisation as it develops its future role.
His wise advice, challenge and support have been a constant presence for me personally – initially during my time as Commissioner for Wales on the UK Sustainable Development Commission and latterly as Commissioner for Sustainable Futures. He has been an ally and a brilliant advocate for sustainable development. He will leave a huge gap. However, I know his passing will reinforce our efforts to ensure we strengthen our ability to deliver a sustainable future through the planned Future Generations Bill. This process will begin with the national conversation about the ‘Wales we Want’ which the Minister has asked me to initiate to help establish the long term goals that we need to achieve for the benefit of future generations.
Morgan, as always, was well ahead of Ministers in his thinking with his IWA presentation to the National Eisteddfod in 2009 on Wales in 2050 – a View from the Future. In it he looked back from 2050 in his son’s voice to describe future life and times. As Morgan highlights “it was easy to get long term targets in Government plans, but much harder to get them and us to act in a way that would secure our future survival”.Using the voice of a future generation provided an extremely poignant but powerful message, which can be the stimulus for others to imagine the future they want for their children and combine in a common effort to achieve a better future. There could be no more fitting tribute and enduring legacy.
Passionate environmentalist who lived his beliefs
Anne Meikle, Head, WWF Cymru
Morgan Parry loved the natural world and was passionate about conserving it. He made the journey of discovery that many environmentalists of his generation made – the realisation that the threat was from humanity and to counter it effectively we need to consider how to meet people’s needs in a different way.
Morgan and I probably met initially, we decided, on a CND march in Bridgend in the 1980s (or afterwards somewhat inevitably outside the police station). But I came to appreciate him fully and call him a friend after I came to work for him at WWF Cymru in 2005. I quickly realised the depth of his knowledge on so many subjects from climate change to energy production.
This knowledge made him a respected contributor to conferences and debates on many topics. He shared his knowledge with me unstintingly, never stopped encouraging me to use my very rusty Welsh and, most of all, inspired me and all his staff to believe that, ‘Yes we could do it’, no matter how ambitious ‘it’ was, or how inadequate we felt to the task. That encouragement, that ‘can-do’ attitude, made us all more effective people.
Thus a career which was forged from the world of CND and protests joined with a concern for people, to make him one of Wales’ most effective advocates for sustainable development.
He was passionate about Wales, its beauty, its natural wonders, its culture and its language. This love was bound inextricably with his commitment to protecting the natural world, making him the ideal person to communicate with people in Wales. WWF-UK was fortunate, indeed, that he was there to found our office in Wales – WWF Cymru – in 2000 and to establish our place in Welsh society. We had decided that, post devolution, we needed offices in the four countries of the UK to lobby our respective Governments for change. We could not have found a more fitting leader for this enterprise in Wales.
Morgan coupled his deep love of his country with his sound knowledge of conservation management. He knew the institutions and politics of Wales very well. He allied his gift for being able to see the big picture to his belief that no goal was too ambitious. He appreciated the viewpoint and concerns of people from other walks of life and so could engage effectively with business people, engineers, politicians, and eco-warriors alike. But his gift for communicating clearly meant he could also explain all this to the mythical ‘Mrs Jones in Merthyr’.
As another colleague, Lee Waters said, he was “someone who understood how to navigate politics to secure environmental advances”. He was also a man who could see new and innovative ways forward and make them happen. For example, he had the foresight to take forward the idea of ecological footprinting. Back in 2003 this was an academic project which had yet to provide any practical benefit. He put Wales at the forefront of this new approach of accounting for our global impact as consumers, by ensuring that Welsh Government and academia were involved in WWF’s work to use our footprint as a measure of our sustainability.
This ultimately led to Welsh Government’s development of One Wales: One Planet and a commitment to reduce our footprint to our fair share of the Earth’s resources. That’s an idea which is still bearing fruit in the current government’s plans for a Future Generations Bill.
But for Morgan, practising what you preached was a matter of principle. Therefore he set about reducing his own footprint to a sustainable level. To be inspired by his example read his case study on our website here.
When looking at the tributes from colleagues certainwords occur repeatedly – warm, caring, passionate, pragmatic and knowledgeable. We will all miss his passion, his humour and his encouragement. None more so than his family, to whom our hearts go out.
We could not have found a better man to establish WWF Cymru. His understanding of the natural world and the threats to its conservation, his principles, knowledge of Wales and its institutions, his sound strategic sense and ability to communicate with all, built the respect and influence of our organisation. His influence will long outlast him. Our most fitting tribute will be to create the kind of sustainable Wales to which he gave his whole working life.