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Showing posts from November, 2018

Learning about cascading hazards at the iRALL School in China

Earlier this year, I wrote about my experiences of attending an interdisciplinary workshop in Mexico , and how these approaches foster a rounded approach to addressing the challenges in communicating risk in earth sciences research. In the field of geohazards, this approach is increasingly becoming adopted due to the concept of “cascading hazards”, or in other words, recognising that when a natural hazard causes a human disaster it often does so as part of a chain of events, rather than as a standalone incident. This is especially true in my field of research; landslides. Landslides are, after all, geological phenomena studied by a wide range of “geoscientists” (read: geologists, geomorphologists, remote sensors, geophysicists, meteorologists, environmental scientists, risk assessors, geotechnical and civil engineers, disaster risk-reduction agencies, the list goes on). Sadly, these natural hazards affect many people across the globe, and we have had several shocking reminders in recen

Teaching controversial subjects in a conservative area

Political polarization, the ever-widening divide between Right and Left in the US, is an obvious problem. We have lost our ability to communicate with one another: using different sets of ‘facts’ to back up our arguments, with the ‘facts’ depending on our side of the political spectrum. The internet has in large part facilitated this fracturing. One can spend 10 minutes on Google to find support for anything that they believe. For example, Youtube videos link to increasingly conspiratorial videos , pushing us farther apart. This loss to our collective conversation is damaging in most arenas, even in the classroom or lecture halls. When a collection of outright lies masquerading as facts meets science, it causes problems. When a student population has firmly-held beliefs in concepts that are simply not true, as a facet of their personal values or beliefs, this presents a difficult and unique challenge for an instructor. I was a visiting assistant professor in a conservative area, deal

Courts can play a pivotal role in combating climate change

Calin Tatu/ The international community has widely acknowledged the  severe threats  posed by the impacts of climate change to a series of  human rights , including the rights to life, health, and an adequate standard of living. But a stark gap has emerged between this acknowledgement in global climate policy – evidenced by a non-binding clause in the preamble of the  Paris Agreement  – and their actions to meet promised targets. How can we hold governments accountable to their human rights duties? A Dutch case recently upheld by the appeals court might hold the answer. In June 2015,  The Hague District Court  and a group of 886 concerned citizens, united by the environmental interest group Urgenda Foundation, made history. This, the first successful climate change case brought on human rights and civil law grounds, saw the Dutch government ordered to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 25% on 1990 levels by the year 2020. Three years on –

What Al Gore taught me about effective climate change communication

Solutions to the climate crisis are within reach, but in order to capture them, we must take urgent action today across every level of society .   ~ Al Gore.   Al Gore has always been a hero of mine. I distinctly remember watching ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ for the first time and the profound impact that it had on my view of the world. I personally believe that what Al Gore has done for the awareness of climate change is up there with the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. to the civil rights movement and Nelson Mandela to the abolition of apartheid. In fact, I have pictures of all three in my bedroom (sad, I know…). Often, they will cast judgemental looks from the side of the room and mutter under their breath that I haven’t made enough of a contribution to humankind today! I find that having such tough critics of my moral compass omnipresent often gives me a little more impetus to do something positive and temporarily clear my conscience. After dragging my family along t