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Evacuating nuclear disaster areas is (usually) a waste of time and money, says study

More than 110,000 people were moved from their homes following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011. Another 50,000 left of their own will, and 85,000 had still not returned four-and-a-half years later.

While this might seem like an obvious way of keeping people safe, my colleagues and I have just completed research that shows this kind of mass evacuation is unnecessary, and can even do more harm than good. We calculated that the Fukushima evacuation extended the population’s average life expectancy by less than three months.

To do this, we had to estimate how such a nuclear meltdown could affect the average remaining life expectancy of a population from the date of the event. The radiation would cause some people to get cancer and so die younger than they otherwise would have (other health effects are very unlikely because the radiation exposure is so limited). This brings down the average life expectancy of the whole group.

But the average radiation cancer victim …
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Watermelon work

Did you eat any melon over Christmas? Or a strawberry? Have you seen a watermelon since the summer, maybe cut up in pieces in a boxed-up plastic ready-to-eat fruit salad? If so, that will help you relate to the dilemma for Spanish farmers and the workers they employ that I wrote about in an article called Misconceiving ‘seasons’ in global food systems, the case of the EU Seasonal Workers Directive published in the European Law Journal [1].

In this journal article, I essentially analyse a law, a European Law, but one that now governs the conditions under which seasonal workers from outside the EU can come to Europe to work in agriculture (and other ‘seasonal’ sectors) [2]. It also outlines their rights while they are here, making it both labour law and migration law [3]. This is brought together in an attempt to meet the needs across Europe for workers that pick the counter-seasonal crops such as strawberries, raspberries, melons and watermelons, as well as those summer vegetable crop…

Localising the Sustainable Development Goals for Bristol

In 2015 the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were ratified by 193 of the UN member nations. These goals set ambitious targets to address worldwide issues of sustainable development, such as social inequality, responsible and inclusive economic development and environmental protection. They were created for everyone, everywhere and have been described as ‘the closest thing the world has to a strategy’.

Who will be responsible for ensuring we achieve these goals and how will they be achieved?
In the realm of international agreements, national governments have traditionally been responsible for local implementation. But a combination of profound global demographic shifts and a sense that national governments are increasingly incapable of tackling complex global challenges due to domestic political wrangling has given rise to a global movement to place cities at the heart of efforts to tackle both local and global challenges.  This movement, which is coalescing around a constel…

Informal power in the city: where does change come from?

An event in December shared the findings of a new collaboration between the University of Bristol and Bristol Pound into the use of informality and how informal approaches at a city level can extend influence, support innovation and ultimately inform policy.

“So, what is informal power? An academic term is ‘informal governance’ and it’s the unseen and undocumented activity that contributes to city and policy change. It might be a conversation in the street, meeting a colleague or friend for coffee, or a networking event where ideas are discussed and developed. To an extent therefore it’s about who you know and who you feel comfortable discussing a new project or approach with, drawing on shared values and aims.

Over the course of this year, Sarah Ayres and myself at the University of Bristol have been working with Ciaran Mundy and colleagues at Bristol Pound to see how our academic understanding could be translated into the way that a city-wide social enterprise could play a part in c…

Reliable and sustainable micro-hydropower in Nepal

Despite massive potential to generate electricity through large scale hydropower, Nepal often faces power cuts and the national grid only reaches around 65% of the population. Much of the non-grid connected population live in rural, hilly and mountainous areas where grid extension is difficult and costly. Micro-hydropower plants (MHPs), which deliver up to 100kW of electrical power, extract water from rivers and use it to drive a generator before returning the water to the same river further downstream. These systems can provide electricity for lighting and productive end uses that can vastly improve people’s quality of life. Since the 1970s, micro-hydro turbines have been manufactured in Nepal. Now there are around 2,500 MHPs installed across Nepal.

When these systems break or run poorly it has an adverse effect on the quality of people’s lives. Through my research, I am hoping to find methods to improve the reliability and sustainability of MHPs in Nepal. The aim of this project wa…

CONNECTED – a new network to tackle vector-borne crop disease in Africa

Last week I was immersed in the world of African crop diseases, specifically the vector-borne kind, as part of the launch of CONNECTED. For those, like me, who aren’t an expert in the field – vector-borne diseases are those which are carried around by an organism (like a fly or insect) from one plant to the next.

This major new network brings together UK scientists with colleagues from across Africa to co-produce innovative new solutions to vector-borne crop diseases. And it turns out, there are a lot of them.

Africa has over 100 years of history with plant viral diseases. In 1894 cassava mosaic disease hit, followed by maize streak virus in 1901, and cassava brown streak in 1936.  Each had caused devastation, and in many cases, death.

Standing in the room and listening to presentations led by our African colleagues, there was a clear desire to work together – across disciplines and continents – to make a significant and lasting impact on crop disease reduction in Africa.
This aftern…

MetroLabs visit: Sharing experiences of implementing smart cities

In December 2017 I was invited to take part in the Metro Lab Annual Summit, taking place in Georgia Tech in the United States. I thought it worthwhile to share a few of my own thoughts about the meeting and what can be drawn from the experience.

The MetroLab Network includes 41 cities and 55 universities within the United States that have formed city-university partnerships that focus on research, development and deployment projects to offer solutions to many of the challenges facing urban areas. These allow decision makers and researchers to work together within their cities to achieve better urban living, while being able to share best practice from each other’s experiences.

The visit was facilitated by the UK Science and Innovation Network, part of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who provide opportunities for international collaboration. As well as delegates from the University of Bristol and Bristol City Council, we shared the visit with delegates from Glasgow and Strathclyde…