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Lunch Hour Lectures: Why glaciers don’t like the smell of frying bacon

ThomasHughes1 February 2016

This Lunch Hour Lecture by Professor Henrietta Moore (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) looked at humans’ ability to give things in nature; plants, animals, even mountains and rivers, a consciousness and assign intentions to them. Can this help us to build a better relationship with nature and build a prosperous future?

English Wikipedia, original upload 14 January 2005 by Ben W Bell

The Athabasca Glacier on the Columbia Icefield

Professor Moore opened by talking about a modern art project that was just a neon sign of a telephone number. When the number was called and it connected, the caller could hear the live sounds from a glacier.

So we can hear the glacier, but can it hear us? Many people in the past have certainly believed so. Tribes living on glaciers in Canada believed that the glaciers were social spaces and would react to being disrespected, and that the glaciers particularly disliked the smell of frying bacon. People interpreted the will of the glacier though its “surges” where the glacier would expand or shrink.

During the Little Ice Age, from the 16th to the 19th centuries, the glaciers moved so far into France that the local people assumed that they had angered it. They ran to it with swords to drive it away and brought a bishop to bless it.

Many societies around the world continue to venerate forests, rivers and mountains and believe that nature must be compensated if angered or damaged. Ecuador and Bolivia have enshrined these rights in their constitutions. Can this help us form a moral framework to protect nature?

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Social Research on Off-Grid Solar conference

GuestBlogger23 December 2015

pencil-icon Written by Iwona Bisaga (PhD student at UCL Urban Sustainability and Resilience)

Off-grid solar

Image: SolarAid

The Social Research on Off-Grid Solar (SROGS) conference took place at UCL on 9 and 10 December. It was jointly organised by Declan Murray (School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh) and I.

This two-day event saw speakers and attendees from a diverse range of disciplines get together to discuss a variety of themes around off-grid solar solutions for energy access in Sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and Latin America. Presenters included academics, PhD students, private sector representatives, policy makers, practitioners, physicists and engineers, which provided a solid overview of the sector and the challenges it is (and has been) facing since it came to prominence in the 1990s.

The series of presentations and breakout group discussions focused on existing business models and technology designs, linking them to the user experience and the ways in which users and customers are included in (or excluded from) those processes, and how that could be changed to better reflect their needs and aspirations throughout the whole value chain: from product design to after-sales services and dealing with solar waste.

Socio-economic impacts and what they mean for the users, including women and marginalised communities as particularly vulnerable groups, were given a lot of attention, though it quickly became clear that there still remains a lot to be done in order to fully understand what actual impacts off-grid solar has on users, and how exactly it is utilised within households.

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Thinking beyond sectors for sustainable development: How to make sustainable development happen

GuestBlogger8 July 2015

pencil-icon Written by Lucien Georgeson (UCL Geography)

We have to break out of the silos; it’s clear that the success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will depend on effective cross-sectoral governance and institutions. That is the powerful conclusion of a new book, Thinking Beyond Sectors for Sustainable Development, launched on Wednesday by UCL Grand Challenges and the London International Development Centre (LIDC).

Thinking Beyond Sectors examines the 17 Sustainable Development Goals and analyses the complex interactions between them. The main concept (see diagram below) is that the goals exist at three levels: ‘Well-being’, ‘Infrastructure’ and ‘Environment’, and we must understand the complex interactions between and within all levels. Now that the SDGs and their targets are more or less decided, the big issue for the coming year is the challenge of designing institutions and governance structures to actually implement the SDGs.

The ‘Levels’ of the Thinking Beyond Sectors approach

The ‘Levels’ of the Thinking Beyond Sectors approach

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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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