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Arctic risks and rewards

GuestBlogger25 June 2016

The panel at 'Development in the Arctic: Risks and Rewards'

The panel at ‘Development in the Arctic: Risks and Rewards’

pencil-iconWritten by Dr Ilan Kelman, Reader for Risk, Resilience and Global Health (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction)

The Arctic: The last earthly frontier of adventure, excitement, remoteness, and resources! Or is it? Given that people have lived in the high latitudes for millennia, how remote, isolated, and open-for-business-for-southerners is the Arctic?

The UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction’s Arctic Research programme convened a panel ‘Development in the Arctic: Risks and Rewards’ at UCL on 8 June to discuss these questions.

To an engaged audience of about sixty, three distinguished panellists explored how climate change and technological advances might or might not be opening up the Arctic for exploitation by the world. They examined what we know and do not know about development risks and rewards in the far north.

What realities of Arctic environmental conditions are rarely described? What Arctic social and political circumstances are frequently circumvented? What about the people who live in the region who have rights and interests? The risks and rewards regarding the so-called ‘Arctic Gold Rush’ for resources and development was examined and critiqued.

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Grant Museum Show’n’Tell: Soda Lakes

IrrumAli29 October 2014

Cichlid fish. Image courtesy of  Dean Veall and Antonia Ford

Cichlid fish. Image courtesy of
Dean Veall and Antonia Ford

The Grant Museum of Zoology is just one of UCL’s many interesting and engaging museums, conveniently located almost directly opposite the Quad, and so, perfect for a fly-by lunchtime visit.

The museum hosts plenty of events throughout the year including its exciting Show’n’Tell series. I took the opportunity to go along to an edition and hosted on Wednesday 22 October.

Home to no less than 68,000 fascinating objects, the museum’s collection covers everything from the Tasmanian tiger and Dodo to brain matter and skeletons from species right across the animal kingdom. I heard from a UCL researcher who was asked to showcase just one object from the vast options on offer and tasked with sharing all they know about it to a keen and inquisitive audience.

It was certainly a unique experience to be surrounded by thousands of specimens as the talk took place at the heart of the museum among the many exhibitions. The event began with a short welcome and introduction to the museum, including an overview of its 170-year history, by our host for the hour, Dean Veall (Grant Museum, Learning and Access Officer) who then introduced PhD student Antonia Ford (UCL Genetics, Evolution and Environment).

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Should we experiment with the climate?

OliUsher13 March 2014

The SPICE experiment (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The SPICE experiment
(credit: Wikimedia Commons)

For a lecture which focused largely on Heath Robinson-esque contraptions made of hosepipes and helium balloons, Jack Stilgoe’s public lecture on climate experimentation (11 March) featured surprisingly frequent references to Frankenstein. For one with a question mark in its title, it had surprisingly few answers. Neither of these is a bad thing.

Stilgoe sets the scene with a story about four friends holidaying together by Lake Geneva. The summer’s a total washout, and the friends spend their time writing and talking instead of hiking and walking. But these aren’t just any old friends, and this isn’t any old summer.

It’s 1816, a volcanic eruption in Indonesia has dimmed the sun, and Mary Godwin – soon to be Mary Shelley – has just written what will eventually be published as Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus.

Mary Shelley’s classic story is a widely used parable in sociology of science and technology: the theme of what happens when you create a new technology you can’t (or won’t) control is such a fundamental issue in the field. In the case of climate engineering, Stilgoe says, the parable is particularly apt since the power of the technology is so huge and the questions of how to govern it are so intractable.

So how could we control the climate?

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Greening the recovery: the report of the UCL Green Economy Policy Commission

HenryRummins27 February 2014

gepc1

“We need to recognise the fierce urgency of now,” declared Professor Paul Ekins at the opening of the launch of the UCL Green Economy Policy Commission’s Greening the recovery report, in what appeared to be the beginning of an impassioned rallying cry for a radical overhaul of the UK’s economy.

Instead, Professor Ekins pointed out that this was a soundbite uttered by the Chancellor George Osborne five years ago.

By repeating it, his aim was to sound a note of caution about the likelihood that the recommendations by UCL’s Green Economy Policy Commission – comprising a range of UCL, visiting, and external academics – would be adopted.

This was despite the fact that the panel of experts brought together to discuss the report all broadly agreed that its objective of a greener economy was laudable, even if they didn’t agree on how to get there.

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