By ADRIAN ELY, STEPS Centre member

I am in China on the eve of Ecosummit 2007 attending the conference in Beijing to represent STEPS. For the next two months, I will also be meeting with Chinese researchers and trying to learn Mandarin.

It’s 9pm on 22 May and I have just returned from the ‘welcome reception’ for the EcoSummit 2007, in advance of the start of the conference tomorrow. We were welcomed by Ru-Song Wang, President of the Ecological Society of China, who remarked on the ability of air travel to bring like-minded researchers together with relative ease, whilst at the same time drawing attention to the local and global environmental changes associated with it. The Chinese word for “crisis”, he said, represented both “opportunity” and “risk”, and the heart of the EcoSummit was to balance the challenges of human development and environmental sustainability.

Following the opening ceremony tomorrow, the programme begins with four keynote speeches which draw on ‘ecology in the 21st century’, ‘science and entrepreneurship’, ‘an integrated, trans-disciplinary science of humans-in-nature’ and ‘ecoscaping’, demonstrating the enormous breadth of the disciplines and ideas represented at the conference. The diversity of the nationalities represented (600 people from 70 countries, in addition to the same number of Chinese delegates) is also wonderful. I’m really looking forward to the forthcoming five days, and will be reporting back periodically on “The Crossing” with some of the highlights.