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Showing posts from January, 2015

The science of sustainable development, what shall I teach?

Before the lectures
Next week I will teach the first of three lectures which constitute the Science of Sustainable Development within the Sustainable Development course at the University of Bristol. This is an open unit and can therefore be attended by first year undergraduate students from across the university.

The figure below shows how Sustainable Development is considered at the University of Bristol, clearly a hugely interdisciplinary and wide subject area!


Traditionally this unit has attracted a significant fraction of its cohort from Geographical Sciences, which is my current home department. This should make preparation of these three lectures relatively straightforward right? Wrong.
A fascinating aspect of the School of Geographical Sciences is its breadth and variety of research and expertise. This is the case not simply because our physical geographers work on everything from past climates to flood inundation modelling but also because there is also the ‘human’ side to ge…

Life of breath: Understanding air pollution and disease through the Arts

I have written on the Life of Breath blog about the symmetry between breathing as life, and breathlessness as death (as it appears in the words of the haka – see ‘I will not be drowned’).  The line media vita in morte sumus (‘in the midst of life we are in death’) was supposedly composed around the end of the first millennium, but is now believed to be a much older phrase, encapsulating a still older idea: that understanding something means encountering and attempting to understand its counterpart (1).  Just as All Hallows and All Saints are separated by nothing more than midnight, life and death cannot be separated from (nor understood without) each other. The Life of Breath project is a five-year senior investigator award funded by the Wellcome Trust (PIs Prof. Havi Carel at the University of Bristol and Prof. Jane Macnaughton at Durham University), considering breathing and its ‘pathological derivative’ breathlessness as two halves of a whole.

This sense of opposing ideas, linked …

Why we must Bridge the Gap

Much of the climate change of the past century has been caused by our burning of fossil fuels. And without a change in that fossil fuel use, continued climate change in the next century could have devastating impacts on our society. It is likely to bring increased risk and hazards associated with extreme weather events. Refugee crises could be caused by rising sea levels or droughts that make some nations uninhabitable. Climate change will also make our world a more uncertain place to live, whether that be uncertainty in future rainfall patterns, the magnitude of sea level rise or the response of global fisheries to ocean acidification.  This uncertainty is particularly problematic because it makes it so much harder for industry or nations to plan and thrive.  Or to grapple with the other great challenge facing humanity – securing food, water and energy for 7 billion people (and growing).  Because of this, most nations have agreed that global warming should be held below 2°C.

These c…