Human Environments

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sarah_neal_thumbnailWe are pleased to welcome Dr Sarah Neal (University of Surrey) as this week’s speaker in the Human Geography Research Cluster seminar series.  She is a Reader in the Department of Sociology at the University of Surrey, and has researched and published widely in the fields of race, ethnicity, multiculture, community, belonging, place and policy-making.  She will be speaking about ‘Elective conviviality and community imaginings: the social and ethnic dynamics of social leisure organizations in diverse urban places’.

In this she notes that there has been something of a ‘convivial turn’ in the research approaches to understanding contemporary urban social life and everyday social relations. In its early formulations conviviality emphasised the social processes of multicultural populations getting along in an unstable, adapted, contingent living together and recognized the contradiction of both resentment and resilience around ethnic tensions and conflicts. However, conviviality has more recently drifted towards a focus on passing civilities, light socialites and ‘low social demand’ interactions of disconnected, diverse but proximate populations. In turn this thinking has been questioned for overstating these interactions and their connective possibilities. In this critique conviviality is defined more as an urban etiquette or civility for managing and masking older hostilities and racialised anxieties.

Her paper asks how then might it be possible to go beyond these positions and argue for the revival and relevance of the concepts of community to conviviality thinking?  The paper uses qualitative data from Living Multiculture, a two year, ESRC funded research project (2012-2014) to explore how membership of, and relationships within, a variety of social leisure groups in three different English urban geographies can throw light on the dynamics of sustained encounters of cultural difference and social care over time, within localized and affective geographies, emphasizing a collaborative doing and social exchange within a variety of (semi-formal) social leisure groups.

She will be speaking in the Sorby Room, Wager Building from 13.00-14.00 on the 4th February.

 

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Dr Agatha Herman

Dr Agatha Herman

Dr Agatha Herman is Lecturer in Human Geography with interests in ethics, geographies of justice and international development.  In September 2014 Agatha began her Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship in which she is exploring ‘the power of Fairtrade’ to bring about sustainable and empowering development both to and beyond its producer communities.

In recent years there have been growing criticisms of the certified Fairtrade movement both in academia and the media. However there has been a significant lack of research actually exploring the impact which Fairtrade has on the producer communities.   Thanks to a British Council Researcher Links Travel Grant, since January Agatha has been in South Africa working with the Fairhills Association at Du Toitskloof Cooperative Cellar and Bosman-Adama (both Fairtrade wine producers) to really understand their experiences; focus groups and photo elicitation exercises with the farmworkers have illuminated the progress which has been made but also the continuing challenges they face.

Fairtrade Grape Processing.  Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

Fairtrade Grape Processing. Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

She says, ‘I think that what makes my research so useful is that it helps producers identify their strengths and areas for improvement, and will give consumers a clearer idea of what their Fairtrade purchases are actually supporting.  The need for Fairtrade and the context in which it finds itself varies from country to country so my research will take me to all of the current Fairtrade wine producing countries – South Africa, Chile, Argentina, Lebanon and Tunisia – in order to fully understand the system and its developmental impacts.  In turn, this will help to strengthen the Fairtrade system itself by making it more effective, transparent and responsive.’

Agatha’s research interests in resilience and development in production systems as exemplified here connect into broader interests in food politics, ethics and power relations.

Valentines Day Event at the Crèche.  Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

Valentines Day Event at the Crèche. Taken by a photograph elicitation participant (Feb 2015)

In recognition of her dedication Agatha  has been invited to return as a visiting scholar to the Ruralia Institute at the University of Helsinki (Finland), where she will further her research on social resilience and cultural connections within agriculture through new writing collaborations as well as speaking about her findings so far in both the Mikkeli and Seinäjoki units. On route she will be stopping off in Bonn (Germany) to develop new connections with Fairtrade International in order to better understand the global systems and relations of Fairtrade in terms of its standards, how they are put into practise and how they connect into the international development aims of the organisation.  To learn more about the contemporary fair trade movement, take a look at her forthcoming co-authored chapter with Mike Goodman in The Handbook of Research on Fair Trade, which will be published in June 2015.

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image2At the latest HERG meeting a research seminar took place in which we had the following PhD speakers talking about their projects prior to a group discussion:

Abu-Bakar Siddiq Massaquoi

“Topic: Addressing tenure and livelihood matters for REDD+ in Sierra Leone: Exploring the problems and prospects of an Adaptive Collaborative Management (ACM) approach.
My research examines the issues, options and outcomes of collaborative and adaptive management strategies for forest and natural resources management in three protected areas (national parks) in Sierra Leone. The purpose is to explore the possibility and value in blending the two approaches for addressing local tenure and livelihood concerns and for producing incentives for enhancing adaptive capacity, social learning and meaningful participation. Essentially, the study will guide the application and operationalisation of adaptive collaborative management for addressing various local concerns for REDD+ and other forest management regimes.”

Mighty Ihesiulor

Topic: Geographies of health and well-being in West Africa: a case study of Nigeria’s Niger Delta region.

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Brian Chirambo
My topic is: Addressing Drivers of Deforestation in Zambia: A methodology Critique of REDD+

The aim of the presentation was to share what my research was all about. Specifically I addressed my research questions, hypothesis, objectives and proposed methods.

Dennis Mailu

“My topic is ‘a critical assessment of governance of urban ecosystem services: A case study of Kibera slums, Nairobi Kenya.’

My study focuses on water governance in an urban poor context, demonstrating links between resilience principles and practice.”

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Giuseppe-FEOLA_1594_wDr Giuseppe Feola engages  in interdisciplinary research with a focus on  understanding how and why social-ecological systems transform along particular pathways, and under what conditions societal change towards sustainability may occur. Giuseppe’s research has three main foci, namely sustainability, resilience and transformation of agriculture and rural systems, alternative economies and grassroots innovations for sustainability, social change theory and sustainability.

Recent publications

Giuseppe has recently published two papers in leading international journals. In “Societal transformation in response to global environmental change: A review of emerging concepts”, published in AMBIO, Giuseppe contributes to the emerging scientific debate on societal transformation by discussing the potential and limitations of different transformation concepts, and by critically reflecting on the challenges of social research to support transformative change. Giuseppe explains: “There is a growing interest in societal transformation both as an academic concept as a goal for  public policy-making. However, there is no agreement on what societal transformation means, , what it should entail, and how best it can achieved. With this paper I seek to provide structure to the scientific dialogue and to reflect on the challenges of social research on the subject of social transformation.”

In, “Researching farmer behaviour in climate change adaptation and sustainable agriculture: lessons learned from five case studies”, published in the Journal of Rural Studies, Giuseppe and his co-authors have  developed an analytic framework that other scholars can use when designing future interdisciplinary studies on farmer behaviour. The framework facilitates interdisciplinary research on farmer behaviour by opening up spaces of structured dialogue on assumptions, research questions and methods employed in empirical research.

Giuseppe’s publications are available at: www.giuseppefeola.net/publications

International visit

Between January and March 2015 Giuseppe was visiting scholar at the Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) at Michigan State University, a visit that was funded by a British Council Researcher Links grant. Through this visit, Giuseppe has strengthened his collaborations with leading researchers in the interdisciplinary research field of human-environment interactions. Giuseppe was also invited to give a research seminar at CSIS. In his talk, titled “Do informal institutions adapt to the influences of environmental and economic changes? Insights from a Colombian peasant community”, Giuseppe presented the findings of the recently concluded research project ‘Adaptation between resilience and transformation: a Colombian case study’ funded by the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust.

To find out more, visit Giuseppe’s staff profile.

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Private Sector Resilience

Photo Peter McMannersPeter Mcmanners, who is a member of the HERG Resilience Research Cluster, presented a seminar to geography students on private sector resilience. He outlined the significance of sustainability in the context of a business response. The underlying rationale for the private sector to engage with sustainability was explained. He also pointed out the limitations on business to apply their capabilities to fashion significant change to the way they operate. Business is constrained by investors with short time horizons and an overall expectation placed on business to focus on bottom-line performance. Many of the changes required in society and the economy, to deliver sustainability and resilience, have the characteristics of long-term systemic change. This is something we are not very good at. The culture of short-term results is not conducive to the long-term strategic planning required to deliver a resilient economy alongside a sustainable society.

Current research into sustainability in aviation was used to discuss private sector resilience within a particular case study. This exposed a policy stalemate where the aviation industry is held back and unable to advance towards a low emissions future. There is the potential for a bright future for aviation but it requires radical change. In a global highly regulated industry with substantial sunk costs there is little appetite for transformational change. Current research into a new model for aviation was outlined and discussed with different passenger segments based on the premise that flying slower could be the catalyst to develop a new generation of low-carbon air vehicle.

Finally, the seminar returned to the big picture of the global economy and an examination of the macroeconomic policy which sets the context within which business operates. Discussion was around whether economic globalisation will continue of whether the imperative of resilience will be the driver towards a more proximized economy. The seminar did not arrive at a definitive conclusion but raised the possibility of a transformation in macroeconomics to provide business with a different macroeconomic framework within which to operate.  As sustainability and resilience rise up the policy agenda, we are likely to see much more consideration of transformational change as policy makers accept that the current state of affairs cannot continue indefinitely. If the private sector is to play an active role in such a transformation, it will have to be part of a wider initiative orchestrated by politicians and policy makers.

The seminar was a thought provoking session which produced lively discussion and debate.

For further information: McManners, P. (2014) ‘Reframing economic policy towards sustainability’, Int. J. Green Economics, Vol. 8, Nos. 3/4, pp.288–305.

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The Human Environments Research Group is contributing to work on adaptation and urban resilience in the global South. Two items hot off the press include a paper based on CDKN funded work on climate compatible development in Mozambique by Castán Broto V, Macucule D A, Boyd E, Ensor J, Allen C, 2015, “Building collaborative partnerships for climate change action in Maputo, Mozambique” Environment and Planning A 47(3) 571 – 587

Emily Boyd with international collaborators Aditya Ghosh (Heidelberg) and Max T. Boykoff (Boulder Colorado) also contributed a chapter on Climate Change Adaptation in Mumbai, India in newly published book The Urban Climate Challenge: Rethinking the Role of Cities in the Global Climate Regime (Cities and Global Governance) by

Craig A. Johnson (Editor), Noah J. Toly (Editor), Heike Schroeder (Editor). Drawing upon a variety of empirical and theoretical perspectives, The Urban Climate Challenge provides a hands-on perspective about the political and technical challenges now facing cities and transnational urban networks in the global climate regime. You can purchase the book on Amazon here: http://amzn.to/1CpFrRC .

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Professor Mike Goodman has had two new books published on alternative food networks and food transgressions – click the links to read more.

“Farmers’ markets, veggie boxes, local foods, organic products and Fair Trade goods – how have these once novel, “alternative” foods, and the people and networks supporting them, become increasingly familiar features of everyday consumption? Are the visions of “alternative worlds” built on ethics of sustainability, social justice, animal welfare and the aesthetic values of local food cultures and traditional crafts still credible now that these foods crowd supermarket shelves and other “mainstream” shopping outlets?”

Mike’s work examines questions such as:

“What constitutes ‘alternative’ food politics specifically and food politics more generally when organic and other ‘quality’ foods have become mainstreamed?

What has been the contribution so far of an ‘alternative food movement’ and its potential to leverage further progressive change and/or make further inroads into conventional systems?

What are the empirical and theoretical bases for understanding the established and growing ‘transgressions’ between conventional and alternative food networks?”

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Elaeis guineensis

Elaeis guineensis

Ahead of the launch of a report by Geoff Griffiths and Ruth Evans on the environmental and social impacts of a proposed Palm Oil plantation in Liberia, Geoff featured in two interviews for the BBC World Service.

The Newsday interview was broadcast at 6am on Monday 24 June (55 minutes into the programme). Listen to the Newsday programme (available until 29 June.)

The World Business Report with Mike Johnson, a ‘head-to-head’ between Geoff and a representative from Sime Darby (Malaysia Palm Oil Company) was broadcast at 22:32 on Monday 24 June (15.35 minutes into the programme).   Listen to the World Business Report programme.

“Our work suggests that buffer zones of 1 to 4 km around local settlements would help local people retain farmland and some access to forest resources. Our innovative environmental assessment also identifies key areas for biodiversity, carbon storage, water supply and livelihoods. Protecting such areas would help to reduce negative impacts.” says Geoff. Read more on Phys.org

Read the full report: Palm oil, land rights and ecosystem services in Gbarpolu County, Liberia

Read about Geoff

Read about Ruth

Photo credit: Marco Schmidt / Foter.com / CC BY-SA

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Sally lecturingDr Sally Lloyd-Evans, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography has been awarded the ‘Gold Star Award for Best Lecturer in the Faculty of Science’ by Reading University Student’s Union.

Students nominate staff who they feel have had positive impact on their studies by supporting and inspiring them: “The winner of the Science Gold Star Award always gives enjoyable and interesting lectures, is incredibly enthusiastic and is always on hand to help students, whether that is via email or one to one meetings. Sally is praised by students for being supportive, patient and understanding, always being on hand to offer guidance and words of encouragement. When students were faced with a new style of working she takes time out to allow students to hand in drafts of their reports and offer hand written comments giving not only fantastic feedback, but motivational words of encouragement.”

Dr Steve Gurney, Senior Lecturer in Geomorphology, was short-listed for the award for the second year running which demonstrates how well-deserved Geography’s excellent reputation for teaching quality is.

Read about Sally

Read about Steve

More about the award

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International benchmarking review of UK human geography

International benchmarking review of UK human geography

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) and Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) launched the results of a benchmarking review of human geography this month.

The key conclusions from the report were:

  • UK human geography ranks first in the world. Findings also showed it as an empirically and conceptually innovative, diverse, vibrant discipline that in many areas sets the intellectual agenda
  • The UK publishes more than its share of major disciplinary journals; bibliometric indicators reveal international primacy both in volume and citation impact; and a large number of the seminal publications (books as well as articles) continue to have a UK origin
  • UK human geography is radically interdisciplinary and with the spatial turn in the humanities and social sciences has become an exporter of ideas and faculty to other disciplines
  • There was confidence that research in human geography had substantial impact on policy and practice and would successfully meet the challenges of the current impact agenda

Read the press release

Study Human Geography at Reading

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