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Sit down and wake up! On Buddhist theory and planetary crisis

Mention Buddhism and you’ll often get a response shaped by its recent commodification into a self-care trend. Mindfulness apps, cheerful Buddha incense holders and the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up have led many to assume that Buddhism, like deep breathing and scented candles is primarily a technique for managing stress. Do I even need to tell you that these assumptions are wide off the mark? Probably not, yet even those who are aware ‘Buddhism’ goes deeper than these stereotypes may be surprised to hear it paired in the same sentence with ‘post-humanism’ ‘decoloniality’ ‘deconstruction’ and even ‘anarchism’. Yet I’m about to embark on research linking just these streams of thought. This October I’ll be studying for the MSc Society & Space with plans to continue to PhD study through the ESRC 3+1 route in 2021. My research will ask how Buddhism can help us reconceive the politics of the more-than-human world in an age of planetary crisis. Buddhist thought has a unique contributi
Recent posts

Five satellite images that show how fast our planet is changing

Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy You have probably seen satellite images of the planet through applications like Google Earth. These provide a fascinating view of the surface of the planet from a unique vantage point and can be both beautiful to look at and useful aids for planning. But satellite observations can provide far more insights than that. In fact, they are essential for understanding how our planet is changing and responding to global heating and can do so much more than just “taking pictures”. It really is rocket science and the kind of information we can now obtain from what are called Earth observation satellites is revolutionising our ability to carry out a comprehensive and timely health check on the planetary systems we rely on for our survival. We can measure changes in sea level down to a single millimetre, changes in how much water is stored in underground rocks, the temperature of the land and ocean and the spread of atmo

The case for case studies: a natural hazards perspective

As I wander the streets of Easton, as I have done over the last 18 months, the landscape becomes more and more familiar. Same streets, same skies. Things seem flat and still.   Living in this mundane landscape, I find it hard to believe that we live on a turbulent, roiling planet. But the Earth is not flat or still! Natural events happen daily, and extreme climatic events continue to escalate – although all we see in England is a rainy July. Some people are more vulnerable to the Earth’s vicissitudes than others. Since 2021 began, volcanoes in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Italy, Guatemala, and Iceland have erupted, and hurricanes have already gathered pace in the Atlantic. Many of these events have caused disaster for people living in these areas, losing homes, livelihoods, and lives.   Disasters erode and destroy, they leave scars and memories. We are fascinated by them: we seek to understand and to explain. How can we best do that? The case study is one way. Because of its in-de

‘Together we’ve got this’ - creating space for social sustainability in Bristol

Towards the bottom of Park Street large white letters against a pink backdrop read ‘Together, we’ve got this’. Alongside it the words ‘Bristol together’ are framed above an inscription reading: ‘Bristol’s safely reopening. Help us keep it open by washing your hands, wearing a face covering and keeping a safe distance from other shoppers. Thank you and enjoy your visit.’ I first spotted this sign in September last year. However, in the months that have slowly crept by since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic filled with lockdowns, isolating and social distancing, the word ‘together’ seems to have popped up all over the city. It can be found on street corners and shop fronts all along the Park Street-Queens Road-Whiteladies Road corridor that runs through the University’s campus, connecting the harbour and city centre to the Downs. Along this strip, a sign outside a cafe encourages social distancing with the words ‘We stand together by standing apart’, while a notice on the glossy slidin

We Need to Talk About Transport

The transition to zero-carbon is essential to the mitigation of climate change, but despite Paris Agreement commitments , transport emissions are still on the rise. The transition to clean forms of transport is a hot topic for the upcoming climate change conference COP26 , which will take place in November 2021 in Glasgow.  Researchers agree that there are solutions to the transport problem, both simple and innovative, but we need to act fast. That much is clear from a local example; Bristol needs to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 88% , to meet its ambitious net zero targets by 2030. For National Clean Air Day (17th June), I have been finding out about research on clean transport from experts at the Cabot Institute for the Environment  at the University of Bristol.  Professor Martin Hurcombe, ‘Access and Active Leisure in a Time of Pandemic: Tales of Two Cities’  Self-proclaimed ‘MAMIL’ (middle-aged man in lycra), Professor Martin Hurcombe from the Modern Languages department is a

How scientists and policymakers collaborate towards sustainable Bristol

In the world facing increasingly complex and interdisciplinary challenges, our job descriptions expand to account for new collaborations, duties, and types of knowledge to engage with. Civil servants are now expected to ground their policies in evidence, while scientists are required to translate their findings so that they’re useful to the citizens, industry practitioners or politicians. Climate action is no different. It comes to life at the curious intersection of activism, political will, market incentives, democratic mandate and, of course, scientific knowledge. As a university researcher, I am on a mission to ensure academic knowledge serves Bristol’s transition to the sustainable city. An effective collaboration across the worlds of science and policy requires some professional unlearning. Convoluted and jargon-filled academic writing style is not going to cut it if we’re serious about influencing ‘the real world’ (sorry). Similarly, our traditional output formats are simply too

Cutting edge collaborative research – using climate data to advance understanding

Perhaps you saw my recent blog post about an upcoming University of Bristol-led hackathon, which was to be part of a series following the Met Office’s Climate Data Challenge in March. The University of Bristol hackathon took place virtually earlier this month and was opened out to all UK researchers to produce cutting-edge research using Climate Model Intercomparison Project 6 (CMIP6) data. The event themes ranged from climate change to oceanography, biogeochemistry and more, and, as promised, here’s what happened. An enabling environment The event wouldn’t have run smoothly without the hard work of the organising team including James Thomas from the Jean Golding Institute who set up all the Github documentation  and provided technical support prior and during the hackathon event. The hackathon was also a great opportunity to road test a new collaboration space that the Centre for Environmental Data Analysis (CEDA) have developed to provide a new digital platform, JASMIN Notebook Ser