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Showing posts from June, 2016

Brexit, trust and the future of global environmental governance

Post-Brexit vote, we are posting some blogs from our Cabot Institute members outlining their thoughts on Brexit and potential implications for environmental research, environmental law and the environment.  
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Is Brexit the canary in the mine for global environmental governance? 

Britain’s vote to leave the European Union has troubling implications for global environmental governance. Water pollution, air pollution, and climate change have no regard for political borders. The world needs supranational political institutions to facilitate a coordinated response to these challenges. The EU is a relatively effective supranational institution for progressive environmental governance. EU nations have enjoyed major improvements in recent decades in areas like air quality, bathing water quality, nature preservation, and acid rain. The EU is one of the most constructive voices in global climate governance.

The decision to leave is therefore likely to…

Cassava virus: Journey from the lab to the field - Learning the ropes

Weeks 2 – 3
It’s been a bit of blur the last two weeks, getting to grips with all the activities that go on at the  National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI). I’ve spent time with Dr. Emmanuel Ogwok (Emmy), learning about the earlier days of Cassava brown streak disease (CBSD) research and how things have developed. Emmy took me on a tour to see the greenhouses where they are growing genetically modified cassava, which shows resistance to CBSD.
Diagnosing the problem
Emmy also introduced to me how they diagnose CBSD infections. We headed out to the field and sampled cassava plants showing CBSD symptoms, processed the samples in the lab and bingo, identified the presence of the virus in all the samples by reverse transcription PCR. This is similar to the processes we follow in the UK. It was great to actually sample the infected cassava from the field myself; in the UK we normally use material which was collected years ago.

It was interesting to learn about challenges, such…

Calling all Bristol environmental postgrads: Join the Cabot Institute Press Gang!

When my friend told me she was off to a Cabot Institute Press Gang meeting, I tagged along on a bit of a whim to find out what it was all about. After realising what important work the Cabot Institute was doing I decided to get involved as a Press Gang member, and have since attended lots of events and written around 18 articles for the blog. Now I’m writing this post to encourage other graduate students and staff members to join the Press Gang, have your say and develop your science communication skills!

What does it entail?
Being a member of the Press Gang means different things to different people. You can spend as much or as little time as you like performing the main activities of blogging about Cabot-themed news and writing press releases about newly published research from members of the Institute. Blogging is probably the most popular past time of Press Gang members – pick a subject in the news or a recent event or talk you’ve attended and tell the world why it’s important. Th…

Why is populism popular? A psychologist explains

This was once a referendum about whether or not the UK should remain in the EU. But not anymore. The referendum has effectively turned into a plebiscite about diversity and tolerance vs divisiveness and hatred: the Leave campaign in particular has largely ditched its long-demolished economic arguments and remoulded itself into an appeal to increasingly shrill and ugly emotion.

How could it have come to that? How could a campaign find so much popular traction by explicitly disavowing rational and informed deliberation?

Some commentators have responded to those questions with bewilderment and resignation, as if right-wing populism and hatred are unavoidable socio-political events, much like volcanic eruptions or earthquakes.

Far from it. Populism and hatred do not erupt, they are stoked. The “Tea Party” in the US was not a spontaneous eruption of “grassroots” opposition to Barack Obama but the result of long-standing efforts by libertarian “think tanks” and political operatives.

Likewis…

Brexit: A climactic decision?

In the lead up to the Brexit vote, we are posting some blogs from our Cabot Institute members outlining their thoughts on Brexit and potential implications for environmental research, environmental law and the environment.  
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With barely a week to go to the Referendum, the Environment has singularly failed to make itself an issue in the BREXIT debate. Yet it is impossible to explore any aspect of environmental law in the UK without encountering European Law.  It is therefore no surprise that environmental lawyers and environmental groups have been queuing up to express concerns about the implications of BREXIT - Margherita Piericcini's Cabot Institute blog on the impact on wildlife and habitats is an example.

So why has the environment not become a key issue?  I attended the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group’s event ‘A Climactic Decision: Brexit's impact on the UK’s climate and environment' at the Houses of Parliame…

Scanning the horizons: Our changing environment

For the evening of 7 June 2016, the Watershed was transformed into vaults of the Horizon programme as Horizon editor Steve Crabtree and University of Bristol Professor Jonathan Bamber took us on an environmentally-flavoured tour of the show’s history.

The Horizon programme is one of the BBC’s longest running series. First broadcast in 1964, it provides a gloriously honest portrayal of both the evolution of television and of science. The event, organised by the British Science Associationin partnership with the Festival of Natureand the University of Bristol’s Cabot Institute, meandered through the decades of footage providing a simultaneously amusing and sobering window into the progression of thinking in ecology and climate science. This is how the #FON16 starts! "Scanning the Horizon" with @cabotinstitute and @BritSciAssociatpic.twitter.com/Lneh9m9QdY — Imperial Spark (@ImperialSpark) June 8, 2016

The evening began with two near-identical snippets of footage; both taken from…

Cassava virus: Journey from the lab to the field - Settling in to Ugandan life

Katherine Tomlinson from the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol Cabot Institute, is spending three months in Uganda looking at the cassava brown streak virus. This virus dramatically reduces available food for local people and Katherine will be finding out how research on this plant is translating between the lab and the field.  Follow this blog series for regular updates.

I arrived late on Thursday night and spent the weekend getting acquainted with the hustle and bustle of Kampala life. I visited the impressive Gadafi mosque, cathedral, and food markets, which are full of just about every fruit and vegetable you could imagine.

On Friday, I met with my internship supervisor, Dr. Titus Alicai who is the leader of the Root Crops Research Programme at the National Crops Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI); he filled me on some of the exciting activities I’ll be taking part in, including visits to cassava field sites.

I was picked up and taken to NaCRRI in Namul…

New models of community energy

North Yorkshire County Council’s recent decision to approve Third Energy Ltd’s application to begin exploratory fracking in Kirby Misperton (by a majority vote of seven councillors to four) was seen by some as riding roughshod over the democratic process – 36 individual representations were made in support of the application, while 4420 were made against.  
On the same day, closer to home, there was news that Bristol Energy Cooperative would soon become the largest generator of community energy in the UK with the development of a 4.2 MW solar farm in Lawrence Weston.
The two organisations could not be further apart. While Third Energy Ltd is a recently registered private equity company with all shares held in house and likely backed by a parent oil and gas company (Third Energy UK Gas Ltd), Bristol Energy Cooperative is a community owned cooperative that has financed solar developments through community share offers, funding from the local council and ethical banks. Although at this st…