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Research and teaching in the midst of climate crisis

I became a co-convenor of the PSA Environmental Politics sub-group in 2019, against the backdrop of the rise of Extinction Rebellion and the increasing impact of the environmental movement. The convening team decided to reflect this in our workshop on ‘Activism and Academia in an Age of Environmental Breakdown’ at Nottingham Trent which aimed to not only bring together activists and academics but to critically reflect on the intersection between the two and try to explore how to hold academic events in this time of climate crisis. 

As anyone who’s organised an event knows, finding a convenient data is half the battle. Balancing the start of term dates for myself and the other co-convenors was difficult and the date of 20th September 2019 was one of the few that worked for us all. But surely holding an event on environmental activism on the date of the global climate strike was contradictory? After much discussion, we decided that the fit between the theme of the conference and the s…
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Cooking with electricity in Nepal

PhD student Will Clements tells us how switching from cooking with biomass to cooking with electricity is saving time and saving lives in Nepal.

Sustainable Development Goal 7 calls for affordable reliable access to modern energy. However, around 3 billion people still use biomass for cooking. Smoky kitchens – indoor air pollution due to biomass cooking emissions – account for the premature deaths of around 4 million people every year. The burden of firewood collection almost always falls on women and girls, who must often travel long distances exposed to the risk of physical and sexual violence. The gravity of the problem is clear.

Electric cooking is a safe, clean alternative which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and frees up time so that women and girls can work, study and spend more time doing what they want.

In Nepal, many off-grid rural communities are powered by micro-hydropower (MHP) mini-grids, which are capable of providing electricity to hundreds or thousands of households…

The case to become a Fairtrade University

In October last year, I visited the Bristol Fairtrade Network to discuss Fairtrade and the Climate Emergency and find out more about how the University of Bristol could become a Fairtrade university. I had never heard of Fairtrade being part of the solution to the climate crisis, but I’m always looking for ways to act on this vital issue. I love the concept of Fairtrade and believe that as consumers we should be more responsible for the impacts of our purchases – Fairtrade empowers us to do just that.

The meeting started off with introductions and ice-breaker facts about the climate emergency. These set the tone for the meeting; the climate emergency is happening right now, and we need to act as soon as possible to prevent disasters affecting all of us. The Global South is feeling the worst impacts of the climate emergency which makes this a justice issue. There was also a great range of people at the meeting – from experts to novices, and even a couple who had travelled from a nearb…

We have the vaccine for climate disinformation – let's use it

Australia’s recent bushfire crisis will be remembered for many things – not least, the tragic loss of life, property and landscape. But one other factor made it remarkable: the deluge of disinformation spread by climate deniers.
As climate change worsens – and with it, the bushfire risk – it’s well worth considering how to protect the public against disinformation campaigns in future fire seasons.
So how do we persuade people not to be fooled? One promising answer lies in a branch of psychology called “inoculation theory”. The logic is analogous to the way a medical vaccine works: you can prevent a virus spreading by giving lots of people a small dose.
In the case of bushfire disinformation, this means exposing, ahead of time, the myths most likely to be perpetrated by sceptics.
Bushfire bunkum Disinformation can take many forms, including cherry-picking or distorting data, questioning of the scientific consensus by presenting fake experts, and outright fabrication.
On the issue of …

Exploring the Wildfilm Archive in University of Bristol Special Collections

Bristol is widely seen as the ‘Hollywood’ of wildlife film-making and is famously home to the BBC’s Natural History Unit, formerly established in the city in 1957. The University of Bristol Library’s Special Collections has embarked on a 2 year project to preserve and promote the mixed-media ‘Wildfilm’ archive, supported by funding from the Wellcome Trust.

I am the Project Archivist working to catalogue and re-package the material, making it available to search online and access in person at the Special Collections reading room. There are treatments, post-production scripts, dubbing cue sheets, filming trip planning, photographs, research and correspondence – documenting a given programme from conception to broadcast – as well as audience research reports, publicity and press packs. 

A substantial part of the collection is audio-visual, including several hundred reels of 16mm film footage. Among the cans are films produced by Survival Anglia, the BBC, and renowned film-makers Niko Tin…

National greenhouse gas reporting needs an overhaul – it's time to directly measure the atmosphere

How much greenhouse gas is emitted by any individual country? With global emissions of carbon dioxide hitting a record of 36.8 billion tonnes this year, and delegates gathering in Madrid for the latest UN climate talks, it’s a pressing question.

One might assume that we know precisely how much is emitted by any given country, and that such figures are rigorously cross-checked and scrutinised. And in some respects, this is true – countries are required to report their emissions to the UN, based on exhaustive guidelines and with reams of supporting data.

Yet these reports are based on what are known as inventory (or “bottom-up”) methods. To simplify, this means that governments figure out how much greenhouse gas is emitted by a typical car, cow, or coal plant, and then add up all the cows, cars and so on to get an overall emissions figure.


While this method is essential to understand the make-up of a country’s emissions, it is ultimately reliant on accurate and comprehensive informati…

Are we all invested in climate crisis? USS, Shell and us

This week, academic and some professional services staff at the University of Bristol will be on strike. The industrial action relates, amongst other demands, to the terms of our pension benefits and contributions. Bristol is the first UK University to declare a climate emergency and the School of Education has developed its own Climate Strategy. Yet, our pension fund, USS, holds substantial shares in the fossil fuel industry. Let us use the time on the picket lines to build a climate Ethics for USS campaign.

USS investments in fossil fuels According to the USS 2019 annual report, 40.9% of the Pension fund’s £64.7 billion assets, what is known as its implemented portfolio, is invested in private equities (i.e. shares in private companies). Its website lists the top 100 equity investments (as of 31 March). Number one on the list is Royal Dutch Shell plc with equities valued at £538 million. Shell is the sixth largest extractor of fossil fuels in the world by volume. In total, I recogn…