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Rural energy access: A global challenge

Energy affects all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) A statement made at the beginning of a rural energy access session at the Global Challenges Symposium on 12 April 2018.  To give some context for those who aren't aware, the SDGs are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity (see UNDP). As the goals are interconnected – tackling affordable and clean energy will mean also tackling the issues associated with the other goals.
During the session led by Dr Sam Williamson, held in Bristol and co-organised by the University of Bristol's Cabot Institute for the Environment, four issues were discussed with Nepal as a case study:
How does a lack of energy access impact rural lives?How can technology enable access to modern sustainable energy?What are the key economic and policy interventions to ensure successful rural energy access projects?What is the social impact of having access to energy in rural communi…
Recent posts

Dadaism in Disaster Risk Reduction: Reflections against method

Reflections and introductions: A volta The volta is a poetic device, closely but not solely, associated with the Shakespearean sonnet, used to enact a dramatic change in thought or emotion. Concomitant with this theme is that March is a month with symbolic links to change and new life. The Romans famously preferred to initiate the most significant socio-political manoeuvres of the empire during the first month of their calendar, mensis Martius. A month that marked the oncoming of spring, the weakening of winter’s grip on the land and a time for new life.
The need for change Having very recently attended the March UKADR conference, organised by the Cabot Institute here in Bristol, I did so with some hope and anticipation. Hope and anticipation for displays and discussions that conscientiously touched upon this volta, this need for change in how we study the dynamics of natural hazards. The conference itself was very agreeable, it had great sandwiches, with much stimulating discussion …

CAP should be replaced by a sustainable land-use policy

Whatever your thoughts about Brexit, one thing most agree on is that it offers an opportunity to rethink how we in the UK look after our agricultural land.  The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has long been a source of resentment. It accounts for 40% of the EU budget yet has systematically failed to address, in some cases even exacerbated, the biggest concerns in European agriculture. Unlike most transnational sectoral market correction schemes, even much of the general public are aware of its shortcomings.

CAP is formed of 2 pillars. Pillar 1, which accounts for the 70% money spent, is simply a payment for land owned. The more land you own, the more money you get. This promotes large-scale mono-cropping, and acts as a rigid barrier to entry for young would-be farmers. Pillar 2 makes up the rest of CAP’s budget and consists of agri-environment schemes. Whilst well intentioned, Pillar 2 promotes an agricultural divide, where some land is responsibly stewarded while other land is inte…

Evacuating a nuclear disaster area is (usually) a waste of time and money, says study

More than 110,000 people were moved from their homes following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan in March 2011. Another 50,000 left of their own will, and 85,000 had still not returned four-and-a-half years later.

While this might seem like an obvious way of keeping people safe, my colleagues and I have just completed research that shows this kind of mass evacuation is unnecessary, and can even do more harm than good. We calculated that the Fukushima evacuation extended the population’s average life expectancy by less than three months.

To do this, we had to estimate how such a nuclear meltdown could affect the average remaining life expectancy of a population from the date of the event. The radiation would cause some people to get cancer and so die younger than they otherwise would have (other health effects are very unlikely because the radiation exposure is so limited). This brings down the average life expectancy of the whole group.

But the average radiation cancer victim …

Watermelon work

Did you eat any melon over Christmas? Or a strawberry? Have you seen a watermelon since the summer, maybe cut up in pieces in a boxed-up plastic ready-to-eat fruit salad? If so, that will help you relate to the dilemma for Spanish farmers and the workers they employ that I wrote about in an article called Misconceiving ‘seasons’ in global food systems, the case of the EU Seasonal Workers Directive published in the European Law Journal [1].

In this journal article, I essentially analyse a law, a European Law, but one that now governs the conditions under which seasonal workers from outside the EU can come to Europe to work in agriculture (and other ‘seasonal’ sectors) [2]. It also outlines their rights while they are here, making it both labour law and migration law [3]. This is brought together in an attempt to meet the needs across Europe for workers that pick the counter-seasonal crops such as strawberries, raspberries, melons and watermelons, as well as those summer vegetable crop…

Localising the Sustainable Development Goals for Bristol

In 2015 the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were ratified by 193 of the UN member nations. These goals set ambitious targets to address worldwide issues of sustainable development, such as social inequality, responsible and inclusive economic development and environmental protection. They were created for everyone, everywhere and have been described as ‘the closest thing the world has to a strategy’.

Who will be responsible for ensuring we achieve these goals and how will they be achieved?
In the realm of international agreements, national governments have traditionally been responsible for local implementation. But a combination of profound global demographic shifts and a sense that national governments are increasingly incapable of tackling complex global challenges due to domestic political wrangling has given rise to a global movement to place cities at the heart of efforts to tackle both local and global challenges.  This movement, which is coalescing around a constel…

Informal power in the city: where does change come from?

An event in December shared the findings of a new collaboration between the University of Bristol and Bristol Pound into the use of informality and how informal approaches at a city level can extend influence, support innovation and ultimately inform policy.

“So, what is informal power? An academic term is ‘informal governance’ and it’s the unseen and undocumented activity that contributes to city and policy change. It might be a conversation in the street, meeting a colleague or friend for coffee, or a networking event where ideas are discussed and developed. To an extent therefore it’s about who you know and who you feel comfortable discussing a new project or approach with, drawing on shared values and aims.

Over the course of this year, Sarah Ayres and myself at the University of Bristol have been working with Ciaran Mundy and colleagues at Bristol Pound to see how our academic understanding could be translated into the way that a city-wide social enterprise could play a part in c…