The growing Environment and Sustainability list is at the heart of our remit to publish quality scholarship that addresses global social challenges.
This list covers a broad spectrum of issues and focuses on the social justice dimensions of environmental sustainability, including in: climate change; environmental politics; developing sustainable economies; transport and sustainability; and environmentalist thought and ideology.
The new Open Access Global Social Challenges Journal incorporates these themes to facilitate critical thinking across disciplines and fields.
Environment and Sustainability
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This article considers the degree to which achieving equity in Global North–South research partnerships is possible under current UK funding models. While there has been significant discussion with respect to the decolonisation of research, it will be argued that there is some distance between the language of equity articulated currently by UK funding bodies, and the realities of working as a project partner in the Global South. The article draws on the prior and ongoing experiences of a multidisciplinary team of researchers brought together by a UK-funded research project. In the interests of moving towards more equitable systems of knowledge production and dissemination, it explores the power asymmetries that can be inherent in Global North–South research partnerships, and the extent to which issues of coloniality continue to shape aspects of research agenda setting, project framing, impact, academic publishing and the division of labour within partnerships.
The continuing coronavirus pandemic has combined with other global crises to highlight some of the fundamental challenges of inequality that currently face us. They are global both in their current configuration and their historical constitution. Similarly, any solutions to the challenges represented will be global. The continuing relevance of the social sciences will rest on their ability adequately to conceptualise the global processes involved. It is only by acknowledging the significance of the ‘colonial global’ that it will be possible to understand and address the necessarily postcolonial present that is the context for issues of inequality in the present. This article argues for the need to consider our colonial past as the basis for thinking about contemporary configurations of the global. This is followed by an address of the implications of these arguments for how we understand citizenship and belonging in the present. What is needed is a ‘reparatory social science’ committed to undoing the inadequacies that have become lodged in our disciplines and working towards a project of repair and transformation for a world that works for all of us.
This review article posits human migration as one of the most pressing social challenges of our time. We argue that challenges associated with migration and displacement will persist if their governance continues in piecemeal, performative and nationalist fashion, with the privileging of resource investment in national border fortification over addressing the root causes of migration and displacement. Advocating for intersectional and transnational approaches, we review some of the important, interdisciplinary dimensions of migration as a phenomenon that touches on every facet of human life. We then discuss how different groups of people on the move struggle with structural barriers to migration, as they attempt to access and then settle into new communities, and the challenges to inclusion and integration encountered in so-called host societies. Topics of discussion include borders and geographical divides, gender, sexuality, race, class, labour, displacement, rights, access and climate-induced migration.
Despite obstacles, institutional barriers and prejudices, interdisciplinarity is a growing movement within academia. Evolving from the pioneering experiences in broad multidisciplinary ventures since the post–Second World War era, interdisciplinary programmes and research projects are now a worldwide reality in universities. Complex and interconnected challenges of humanity, such as social unrests, economic and ecological crises, political turmoil and global human health emergencies demand integration of efforts and competencies of researchers from a wide range of backgrounds, and the involvement of actors from outside the academia. In recent years, complex challenges fuelling the need for better integration of work in universities and research centres with real demands of societies are further feeding transdisciplinary endeavours. Such movements pose new questions, ranging from institutional arrangements to methodological frameworks, which are far from being solved. This article reflects on the nature and practice of scholarly engagement in this trajectory during the 21st century from vantage points of the Global South. Some insights are based on what we have learnt over our work lives, and some are based on collected information about experiences in India and Brazil. This contribution also raises questions that could potentially concern other countries, especially in the Global South. However, it is not a handbook directly applicable to realities other than Brazil and India. Discussions in academia about pathways to interdisciplinarity should go beyond its legitimisation. The agenda now has to shift towards transdisciplinary co-construction of knowledge, by creating gateways to connect the scientific world to the ‘real world’.
Since the early 2010s, academic and policy debates about the interlinkages between climate and security have expanded and deepened. Climate is now widely acknowledged to magnify security risks especially in conflict or post-conflict contexts. This relationship is viewed as complex, dynamic and indirect, involving a wide range of intermediate variables. However, this discussion – and hence, related policy efforts – have tended to occur at highly aggregate levels of analysis, especially national, regional and global ones. Instead, this paper addresses climate-sensitive peacebuilding at the local level. What does local climate-sensitive peacebuilding look like on the ground? What are the promising areas for research and policy responses in fragile and conflict-affected settings? After offering a broad overview of climate-sensitive peacebuilding, we focus on the case of Afghanistan, drawing on specific examples that were in place prior to the 2021 return to power of the Taliban. We find that the traditional Western approach in the country – top-down, focused on hard security rather than human security and highly state-centric – tends to ignore the impacts of climate change. In addition, the dominant security paradigm overlooks the potential of local peacebuilding initiatives that address adaptation and resilience. We argue that climate-sensitive peacebuilding offers a bottom-up alternative to addressing the intersection of these risks in conflict-affected settings.
In this paper I argue that the new coronavirus pandemic has brought to light some of the contradictions and paradoxes of our time, namely the contrast between human fragility and the technological hubris linked to the fourth industrial revolution (artificial intelligence); and the contrast between the TINA ideology (there is no alternative) and the sudden and extreme changes in our everyday life caused by the virus, thus suggesting that there are indeed alternatives. I then analyse the main metaphors that have been used in public discourse concerning our relations with the virus: the virus as an enemy; the virus as a messenger; the virus as pedagogue. I prefer the last one and explain why, and in what sense the virus is our contemporary.
The United Nations Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) has thrust food systems transformation onto the main stage of international discourse in 2021. As recognised by UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, food systems are at the heart of delivering on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals for people, planet and prosperity. There has been a growing recognition that the global food systems, as currently constructed, are flawed due to the high levels of food and nutrition insecurity, food losses and waste, rising levels of inequalities, health-related challenges, and high levels of environmental degradation arising from unsustainable production systems. This article provides reflections from my own experience as Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit. It articulates the key drivers behind the conceptual shift towards systems thinking to addressing the world’s food challenges. The article discusses some of the challenges faced by the global food systems and highlights why a paradigm shift from the traditional narrow focus on production and self-sufficiency to a more holistic and integrated approach is urgently required. The article provides an African perspective to the food systems discourse, highlighting some of the priority actions identified by African stakeholders and articulated in the Africa Common Position to the UNFSS, which sets out Africa’s opportunity to turn adversity into opportunity through food systems transformation. The paper outlines some highlights of the Summit, with a view to emphasising the key transformative pathways and crucial next steps that are required at country and regional levels.
I began to allude to the importance of accessibility in facilitating new patterns of care in the previous chapter, and the goal of this chapter is to consider in depth how urban design can mobilize notions of access to influence care needs, relations and practices. However, I begin the discussion with a quandary since two of the major goals of accessibility as constructed in the context of urban design theory have an uneasy relationship with the ideas of care and from the ethics of care which I have presented thus far. The first of these goals is personal autonomy. The accessibility of built form is often seen to shape the autonomy that people such as those with a mobility or sensory impairment have in looking after themselves and choosing how and where to live. The second goal is universality. The goal of accessible urban design, such as within the context of ‘universal design’ discourses, is seen to be the creation of city forms and places that are navigable by all, satisfying principles of inclusivity and equity (see, for example, Steinfeld and Maisel, 2012).
As outlined in the introductory chapter, care is a word that has evolved substantially over time, gathering different meanings and associations. These subtly vary depending on whether care is used as noun, a verb or an adjective. Adding complexity, care can denote a disposition, as in ‘caring about’ something, someone or an issue. But care also denotes a wider set of activities, as in ‘caring for’ a person, collective or thing in a practical sense (Noddings, 1984; Fine, 2006). Both meanings of care can of course be, and often are, interlinked within single uses of the word. In the early days of writing this chapter, I was reading to my young son The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (1971). It is a story of a tree species being exploited almost to extinction, with those involved in deriving economic benefit from it failing to comprehend its crucial importance for the health of a biodiverse ecosystem. Finally, at the end, once that ecosystem has been all but destroyed and the economy is on its knees too, a little boy who learns the story from former industrialist the Once-Ler and is given the last remaining seeds of the tree is motivated to plant them and take care of the emerging seedlings. The recovery of the landscape will depend, the Once-Ler tells him, melancholy with hindsight, on people like him caring ‘a whole awful lot,’ with the word care denoting both a disposition of deep concern about the damaged state of the world and the vast labour of care that would be required to make it a better place again. In an age when children across the world, inspired by Greta Thunberg, are taking on these sorts of labours of care for the environment for the sake of their own and their children’s futures, the story is no longer prophetic as it would have been in the early 1970s but rather reads as a commentary on the state of contemporary action against climate change.
Urban design has often been depicted by urban scholars as the antithesis of care as characterized in Chapter 1. Though urban forms and places are hugely varied, they have often been depicted as poorly attuned to the needs and capabilities of inhabitants. Such criticism can be detected, for example, in literature linking urban form to health outcomes, such as the extensive research exploring the relationship between urban sprawl and socio-medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease (see, for example, Frumkin, 2002). It can be found in studies of the atmospheric qualities of urban form such as noise from streets, poor air quality and light pollution that have been connected to issues of physical health but also identified as stressors affecting mental health and wellbeing (see, for example, Tuan, 1974; Park and Evans, 2016). It can be found in the growing literature connecting urban design with the availability of such vital resources as water, including research on the impacts of public space design on the depletion or replenishment of the groundwater aquifers that healthy and resilient ecosystems depend on (for example, Lerner, 1990; Pickett et al, 2013). It can also be seen in critical assessments of the generic nature of much urban form and building leading to a sense of placelessness and social exclusions of diverse kinds. Generic design has often been seen to reflect universalizing conceptions and/or imaginary norms of human behaviour, anatomy and ability, and as ‘disabling’ (Hall and Imrie, 1999) to those who fail to adhere to them, who may include people with specific health conditions, mobility issues, learning difficulties or sensory impairments (see, for example, Burton and Mitchell, 2006).