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Why the west is defaulting on climate change action

Melissa Bradshaw25 February 2016

Climate change is an urgent challenge of global citizenship, was the message at the heart of Jonathon Porritt’s UCL Global Citizenship lecture on 22 February. Speaking from decades of experience working in sustainability, Porritt showed that the world is precariously balanced between commitment to and denial of global citizenship.

Jonathon Porritt, CBE giving the UCL annual Global Citizenship lecture. Photographer: Kirsten Holst

Porritt is Founder Director of Forum for the Future and acts as an advisor to many bodies, as well as to individuals including Prince Charles, and he is a Visiting Professor at the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity. He celebrated the Paris Agreement, the conclusion of the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, as “one of the most astonishing agreements ever signed”. With 195 countries committed to limiting global warming to below 2°C, the agreement is a great source of hope and optimism. (more…)

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

Thomas Hughes1 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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2015 UCL Lancet Lecture with Amina J. Mohammed

ucyow3c16 November 2015

pencil-iconWritten by Hannah Sender, Project and Communications Officer, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

Amina J. Mohammed addresses audience members

Amina J. Mohammed addresses audience members

Last Thursday I listened to the annual UCL Lancet Lecture with Amina J. Mohammed, Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon on post-2015 development planning and recently sworn in Environment Minister in the Nigerian government.

I had planned to finish an article about her address to UCL staff and students the next day, Friday 13 November. I didn’t, and I returned to the article on Sunday 15 November. Between the time I began to write about Amina’s lecture and the time I restarted, at least 129 people were killed in a series of attacks in and on Paris. The day before, 43 people were killed in a suburb in Beirut. ISIS has claimed responsibility for both attacks.

Why bring this up? What does terrorism have to do with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – the subject of last Thursday’s lecture? What does the aftermath of those attacks have to do with the goals? From what I had learned while listening to Amina, the recently announced set of 17 goals and 169 associated targets have everything to do with Paris, Beirut and their aftermaths.

What the SDGs are designed to respond to, Amina told her audience, is the complexity of the world as an interconnected place. There are several ways the SDG agenda will do so: by encouraging inter-country cooperation and sharing of responsibilities, inter-scalar debates and interventions at the local, national and international levels, and interdisciplinary thinking unshackled by silos.

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Making Greater London the first National Park City

ucyow3c5 March 2015

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 Written by Hannah Sender, Research Assistant, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

Last week, the UCL Institute for Global Prosperity teamed up with the campaigners behind the Greater London National Park* to drive a debate on London’s green spaces and green infrastructure at a conference in the Southbank Centre.

The Reimagine London conference saw academics, practitioners and politicians come together to argue their case for what a new National Park City could achieve for the natural and cultural heritage of London.

What is a National Park City?

London's Battersea Park

London’s Battersea Park (credit: Tim on Flickr)

The idea of making London the first National Park City has gathered momentum since it was first conceived by National Geographic explorer and geography teacher Daniel Raven-Ellison last year. Daniel’s vision features London as a biodiverse landscape boasting enough substantial natural resources and cultural capital to be worthy of a new title: a National Park City.

Daniel proposes that, since we already have the natural capital, Londoners could take the principles of National Parks – to “conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the area” and “promote opportunities for the understanding and enjoyment of the special qualities of the park by the public’ – and apply them to their city.

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