Sustainability

You are currently browsing articles tagged Sustainability.

Professor Danny Dorling

Professor Danny Dorling

Our first speaker is Professor Danny Dorling who is a social geographer well known for his popular social science texts on injustice, inequality and population. He is currently the Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford and has previously worked in Newcastle, Bristol, Leeds, Sheffield and New Zealand. With a group of colleagues he helped create the website www.worldmapper.org, which shows who has most and least in the world. Much of Danny’s work, which concerns issues of housing, health, employment, education and poverty, is available open access (see www.dannydorling.org), and his recent books include “Population Ten Billion”, “The Social Atlas of Europe” (with Dimitris Ballas and Ben Hennig), and, in 2015, “Injustice: why social inequality still persists”.

His talk – “Cohesion, sustainability, equality and education… is geography the missing link?” – is about ideas inspired by pictures, graphs and world maps. Through trying to answer the question – what is it in the differing nature of the economy of cities and regions which results in different outcomes? – he explores why social cohesion and trust is higher in Japan than in the UK and questions how we can make cities more sustainable in general.
His presentation will look at some summary statistics for 25 affluent countries and thus for the largely urbanized populations within them. The UK and Japan are very different states in that household income inequality is very low in Japan and very high in the UK. An updated version of these statistics are presented and then the relationships between economic inequality and over consumption of goods, of meat, of food in general, of water, of clothes, or air flights and of gasoline is considered.

Finally, he compares the education outcomes of countries and argues that it is hard not to conclude that, at least statistically, the UK comes out of any comparison poorly when it comes to cohesion, sustainability, regional inequalities, and city planning, and general educational ability. Japan (again as a comparator) appears similar to other more efficient and more equitable countries. However, even in Japan people consume too much and do not trust each other enough. If everyone in the world behaved like an average citizen of Tokyo we would still need two planets to live on. If they behaved like an average citizen in London we would need nearer four planets.

He will be speaking in the Sorby Room, Wager Building from 13.00-14.00 on Thursday 21 January.

Tags: , , , , ,

‘Are we looking after our soils?’

Chris presents to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee

Chris presents to the Parliamentary and Scientific Committee

As soon as you enter the House of Commons you get a buzz. There are lots of people engaged in conversation and the sense of being at the centre of government is palpable. The further you enter into the myriad of rooms you can understand the huge expense that will be involved in any refurbishment.

We are in committee room 19, but there are many other meetings indicated on the display boards and you realise the difficulty any campaign will have making an impact.   The presentations go down really well; I focus on the biological variability of soils and the problems of establishing robust soil health indicators as well as introducing the Soil Security Programme. Jack Hennan from Cranfield University describes the physical variability of soils and the limitations of national monitoring. The final speaker is Helen Browning from the Soil Association who presents seven ways we can improve soils.

After drinks about twenty of us have a sit down dinner and Stephen Metcalfe MP the Chairman of the Parliamentary and Science Committee opens the debate ‘Are we looking after our soil’. After 30 minutes of vigorous conversation where a number of soil threats are highlighted (e.g. growing unsuitable crops such as maize, the problems of sustainable management associated with short term tenancies), we search for a single action to recommend.  A commitment to increase organic matter in arable fields by 20% is proposed by Helen Browning. While we can all see pitfalls in this we recognise it as a clear ambition that will have a beneficial outcome.

 

See Professor Chris Collins’ staff profile

Visit the Soil Security Programme website

Tags: , , , , ,

On 14th July, Human Geography PhD students convened a workshop themed “Governing the Anthropocene: actors, institutions and processes.”  As a first of its kind, the workshop brought together students from across the University of Reading whose research focuses on the environment, sustainability and development. The workshop was an excellent opportunity for discussions, sharing ideas and networking amongst PhD students who attended.  It also served as a friendly platform for constructive feedback on research works.

IMG_5646The term “anthropocene” has made its way into the diction of scientists, researchers and academics, to refer to the current geological era. An era of profoundly different futures created for the global society, and far from anything previously experienced. The workshop focused talks on changing global environmental governance considerations, needed to meet the critical challenges of climate change, poverty, land use change, water and sanitation and deforestation.

The full-day workshop, which took place at Reading International Solidarity Centre, brought together both conceptual and case study perspectives focusing on international to local scales.  Country case studies of research presented were across the board from UK, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Mozambique, Malaysia and Indonesia. The full workshop programme and presentation abstracts can be viewed here: GA workshop 2015.

From the workshop, it was evident that the University of Reading is engaged in very cross-disciplinary, intriguing and insightful research in the area of natural resources and environmental governance. Cross-cutting themes presented include:

  • The increasing significance given markets in pursuing development and sustainability, which seems to reinforce existing power structures though in some cases is faced with local resistance in practice;
  • How the state manifests itself and its changing role, or its absence in addressing current resource-use problems;
  • The importance of NGOs in the implementation of development projects, and in scrutinizing non-state actors in private regulation and;
  • The nature and forms of participation, and it’s varied conceptualization as a means to an end or as an end in itself.

The workshop culminated with a highly valuable and interesting discussion on ways forward.  It was obvious that progressive and transparent policies are required at multiple levels to bring about meaningful change, and that the public has a role in requesting change from policy makers.  This can only be achieved when the public is motivated and politically engaged on issues such as climate change that otherwise would be viewed by individuals of the public as huge and external to do anything about. In addition, it was noted that PhD students should strive to capitalize on avenues that bridge the gap between their academic research and policy/practice.

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Dr Giuseppe Feola attended the 11th International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE), which was hosted by the University of Leeds on 30 June – 3 July 2015. The European Society for Ecological Economics brought together scientists across traditional disciplines, and explored solutions for the transformation to a sustainable society.

gf-conf

Giuseppe made two presentations. In the first one, he reported results from a research project on institutional change and continuity of peasant communities in the Colombian Andes (project description here). This study increases our knowledge of peasant communities in this particular region, and adds to the body of scholarship that is refining our understanding of how institutions adapt and how culture changes in response to compounded climatic and economic disturbances. In the second contribution, Giuseppe presented a critical analysis of emerging concepts of societal transformation toward sustainability. This analysis provides structure to the scientific debate on transformation toward sustainability, and identifies two priorities for future research, namely to foster dialogue around the complementarities of different concepts, and to test different concepts empirically (full paper available here).

Giuseppe-FEOLA_1594_w

You can read more about Giuseppe at his staff profile.

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

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.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Peter McManners low resDoctoral researcher Peter McManners has had his paper ‘Reframing Economic Policy Towards Sustainability’ published in the International Journal of Green Economics. This reports conceptual research at the interface between macroeconomic and environmental policy, applying the concepts of sustainability and resilience. A key observation is that the dialogue about sustainability over recent decades has failed to reduce the threat that human activities pose to the global ecosystem.

Peter proposes that the time has come to question deep-rooted assumptions, including the role of economics. In this paper, priorities are re-examined and principles developed to be able to build a sustainable economy. It is argued that sustainability economics is subservient to society’s higher objectives and is about control and balance, rather than laissez-faire free markets. A new definition and conceptual model for sustainability is proposed that is closer to reality than the traditional models having cornerstones of ‘culture’, ‘land’, ‘population’ and ‘energy’. Using this model allows economic policy to be repositioned in support of the needs of society and compliant with effective stewardship of the ecosystem to deliver a resilient economy operating within planetary limits.

Peter McManners is a doctoral researcher in his third year supervised by Emily Boyd and Steve Musson.

McManners, P.J. (2014) Reframing Economic Policy Towards Sustainability, International Journal of Green Economics, Vol. 8, Nos. 3/4, pp 288-305.

Tags: , , , , , ,