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Teach for the Future: Greening the national curriculum

Do you feel like you learnt enough about climate change in school? Most likely, you didn't as only 44% in a national survey of students felt like they had. If you think that's disgraceful than I have good news for you. In the last few months the National Union of Students (NUS) launched a partner charity called Students Organising for Sustainability (SOS). SOS's first campaign is 'Teach the Future' which aims to incorporate sustainability into the wider English curriculum instead of the topic being squeezed into either Geography or Science. The campaign includes the first ever legislation to be drafted by pupils and students: The Climate Emergency Education Bill!

The Climate Emergency Education Bill has extensive demands from students across the UK for sustainability to be included in all parts of their education, as well as a guide for supporting teachers and student voices. There's even proposed money earmarked for making educational buildings net-zero carbon…

Lab efficiency: Towards a greener future

The Laboratory Efficiency Assessment Framework 2020 (LEAF) marks the University of Bristol’s move to a greener future. Following on from the University’s ‘climate emergency’ declaration and 2030 carbon neutrality pledge, we’ve set a new ambition for 100% Green Lab Accreditation and institutional LEAF. This will make us the first University in the world to achieve this.

Labs impact the environment, in fact they have a greater environmental impact than offices by at least five times. They use more water and energy, produce larger quantities of waste and generally use more resources. In order to tackle this ever-growing problem LEAF was created with lab users in mind and sustainable thinking at the forefront. LEAF is an innovative tool used to drive sustainability and efficiency within STEMed labs.

In 2019 the LEAF national pilot took place involving 16 national Higher Education Institutions, including the University of Bristol. To gain LEAF accreditation each participating lab must meet…

World Water Day: Water scarcity challenges under climate change in East African drylands

Climate change presents great challenges for dryland regions, especially in communities where socioeconomic livelihoods are tied to the consistency of seasonal rainfall. In the dryland regions of East Africa, drought is a major threat to rainfed agriculture and to drinking water supplies, and regional climate is projected to increase drought frequency and severity.

Since 2000 alone East Africa has been struck by 10 droughts, which generated three severe famines affecting millions of people in the region. Although there is often consensus about the growing regional threat posed by drought, there is a major disconnect between the climate science (meteorological drought) and assessments of usable water resources (hydrological drought) that support livelihoods.

Affected communities need straightforward answers to a practical set of questions: How will regional climate change affect soil moisture required to grow crops or the water table in wells that provide precious drinking water in a …

World Water Day: Climate change and flash floods in Small Island Developing States

Pluvial flash flooding (otherwise known as flash flooding caused by rain) is a major hazard globally, but a particularly acute problem for Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Many SIDS experience extreme rainfall events associated with tropical cyclones (often referred to as hurricanes) which trigger excess surface water runoff and lead to pluvial flash flooding.

Following record-breaking hurricanes in the Caribbean such as Hurricane Maria in 2017 and Hurricane Dorian in 2019, the severe risk facing SIDS has been reaffirmed and labelled by many as a sign of the ‘new normal’ due to rising global temperatures under climate change. Nonetheless, in the Disaster Risk Reduction community there is a limited understanding of both current tropical-cyclone induced flood hazard and how this might change under different climate change scenarios, which inhibits attempts to build adaptive capacity and resilience to these events.

As part of the first year of my PhD research, I am applying rainfa…

Climate change displacement: a step closer to human rights protection

On 20th January this year the United Nations Human Rights Committee released a landmark decision on people seeking international protection due to the effects of climate change. The decision did not include specific guidance as to where the tipping point lies, but it nevertheless remains highly relevant to future similar potential cases around the world.
The case and the plot twist  The case deals with the individual communication made by Ioane Teitiota, a national from the South Pacific country of Kiribati, under the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Based on this Protocol, he claimed that New Zealand had violated his right to life by rejecting his request for refugee status and returning him and his family home in 2015. 


Teitiota argued in his case that the effects of climate change, such as sea-level rise, had forced him to migrate from Tarawa (the principle island in Kiribati) to New Zealand. He claimed that freshwater on Tarawa…

Reconnecting the civic university with the climate agenda: thinking globally acting locally

As someone who has spent the last decade leading a research programme encouraging partnerships between universities and communities, I very much welcome the publication of the new Civic University Commission report from the UPP Foundation. There is much in here to applaud: the call for strategic commitment by universities to civic engagement; the demand for a new approach to adult education and widening participation; and the need for sustained national funding for civic collaborations. But it is hard to avoid the fact that there is a glaring blind spot in a report that claims to be making a case about the future of universities. Namely, there is no reference to climate change. This is surprising given the significant and far-reaching implications of a changing climate not only for universities but for the communities in which they are based. For a report on the civic role of the university not to engage with climate change – when issues such as Artificial Intelligence, ageing popula…

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…

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…