Environment and Sustainability

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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Debate on the need for more fairness in academic research collaborations between actors in Africa (or the ‘Global South’, broadly) and counterparts in the Global North has intensified in recent years, while practice-oriented frameworks and efforts to foster more equitable partnerships have proliferated. Important approaches to recognise and undo asymmetries in concrete collaboration arrangements – division of labour, decision making, access to rewards, capacity building – have been identified.

In this provocation we draw on African and other postcolonial, decolonial and feminist scholarship, as well as systems thinking and global science data to argue that such ‘equitable partnerships’ efforts at best sidestep the urgent need for a much more profound rebalancing of the positioning of Africa and ‘Global North’ in the worldwide science and research ecosystem as a whole. We consider why such wider rebalancing is an imperative for both Africa and the global community, propose that research collaborations must be understood as a key entry point for advancing such a systemic shift, and suggest a necessary transformative collaboration mode to this end. We conclude by positing an urgent need to think and act beyond ‘equitable’ partnerships and highlight where responsibilities for action must lie.

Open access

This article contributes to debates on international collaborations by examining contradictions between the decolonial turn and the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund which imposed Global North leadership on Global South partners. Through the lenses of compromise and complicity, the article explores how collaborators strive to work together equitably within the constraints of a UK government Official Development Assistance funding scheme. Drawing on focus group discussions with members of a research team, the article traces, first, their engagement with political and institutional constraints and, second, their articulation of collaborative compromise and productive complicity. The article foregrounds the generative potential of complicity as a productive concept that can help partners to navigate the challenges of interdependence and partnership entailed in North–South, South–South, cross-sector and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Open access

To achieve the dual goals of minimising global pollution and meeting diverse demands for environmental justice, energy transitions need to involve not only a shift to renewable energy sources but also the safe decommissioning of older energy infrastructures and management of their toxic legacies. While the global scale of the decommissioning challenge is yet to be accurately quantified, the climate impacts are significant: each year, more than an estimated 29 million abandoned oil and gas wells around the world emit 2.5 million tons of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In the US alone, at least 14 million people live within a mile of an abandoned oil or gas well, creating pollution that is concentrated among low-income areas and communities of colour. The costs involved in decommissioning projects are significant, raising urgent questions about responsibility and whether companies who have profited from the sale of extracted resources will be held liable for clean-up, remediation and management costs. Recognising these political goals and policy challenges, this article invites further research, scrutiny and debate on what would constitute the successful and safe decommissioning of sites affected by fossil fuel operations – with a particular focus on accountability, environmental inequality, the temporality of energy transitions, and strategies for phasing out or phasing down fossil fuel extraction.

Open access

In spring 2021, during the COVID-19 pandemic, research projects funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) were subjected to budget cuts. The cuts were the result of UK government’s decision to reduce its Official Development Assistance (ODA), which had devastating effects for humanitarian, development and research work. This article draws on focus group discussions with project teams working on three large GCRF-funded projects to explore the effects of these cuts. The article documents how the cuts curtailed project aspirations and impact, had a negative toll on the mental health of researchers, and imperilled the trusting relationships upon which international research collaborations are built. The article argues that the cuts expose the shallow commitments to research ethics and equitable partnerships of powerful actors in the UK research ecosystem, including research councils and government. In ‘doing harm’ via these cuts, the article explores the failure of research governance structures and the continued coloniality underpinning the UK’s approach to researching ‘global challenges’.

Open access

This study examines how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) can be leveraged to facilitate strategic change towards sustainability involving multiple stakeholders in a pluralistic city environment. By drawing on an exemplary case study of the localisation of the SDGs in Bristol, a medium-sized UK city, we show how the goals can operate as a boundary object. In particular, we identify a pattern in which the discursive localisation of the SDGs moved from problematisation and visioning through strategising and structuring towards embedding and performing. In addition, we elaborate on the three tensions that the SDGs help participants to understand and use productively, that is, across scale, time and different ways of valuing. Our study contributes to research on strategic change in pluralistic settings, such as cities, by offering a nuanced account of the discursive use of the SDGs by organisations involved in a city’s sustainable development. Furthermore, by proposing a framework based on the specific tensions that play an important role in the discursive localisation, our study advances research on the role of city strategising and practice more generally.

Open access

This chapter traces breath in mothers’ stories about bushfires and the COVID-19 pandemic to contribute to a theorization of breath and breathing as feminist politics (Ahmed, 2010; Górska, 2018; Irigaray, 2004). Drawing on feminist new materialist thought that recognizes breath as intra-active phenomena (Barad, 2007; Górska, 2016), we configure breath as a mode reflection and attention to the material politics of living through crisis. We argue that breath is a material force that shapes lived experiences by materializing mother subjectivities that indicate inequalities around who bears responsibility for protecting children in crises. When the agency of the material world is acknowledged, smoky and virus-filled air eludes human control, leaving mothers to experience what one participant characterized as ‘mum-guilt’ over their ‘failure’ to prevent children’s exposure to the effects of smoke and COVID-19. A new materialist orientation to breath disrupts notions of human exceptionalism that scaffold notions of women having sole or primary control over the health and wellbeing of their (un)born children. Instead, women are recast as an inextricable part of a complex web of material relations where responsibility is materially distributed and not individually held. At a theoretical level at least, this conceptualization releases participants from ‘mum-guilt’ by recasting this responsibility to the world.

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What is it like to have a baby in climate crisis?

Engaging a range of concepts, including the Pyrocene, breath, care and embodiment, the authors explore how climate crisis is changing experiences of having children. They also raise questions about how gender and sexuality are shaped by histories of human engagements with fire. The book is underpinned by an interview-based project undertaken in 2020-2021 in South Eastern Australia. The research explored the experiences of pregnant women and their partners, pre- and post-birth, during the catastrophic bushfire season of 2019-2020 and the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic. It is also informed by interviews with experts on bushfire smoke and/or reproduction, including clinicians, architects and air quality scientists. Making an original contribution to social theory, the authors draw together ideas from feminist technoscience studies and queer theory about reproduction and kin into debates on contemporary planetary crises. They explore the diverse relations between climate crisis, kinship and reproduction; embodiment and breathing; biosensing and air quality; and Pyro-reproductive futures. The book has a distinctly Australian flavour, but is nonetheless global in its themes. The arguments apply in many ways to other climate-related disasters, such as floods and wildfires in other parts of the world.

Restricted access

What is it like to have a baby in climate crisis?

Engaging a range of concepts, including the Pyrocene, breath, care and embodiment, the authors explore how climate crisis is changing experiences of having children. They also raise questions about how gender and sexuality are shaped by histories of human engagements with fire. The book is underpinned by an interview-based project undertaken in 2020-2021 in South Eastern Australia. The research explored the experiences of pregnant women and their partners, pre- and post-birth, during the catastrophic bushfire season of 2019-2020 and the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic. It is also informed by interviews with experts on bushfire smoke and/or reproduction, including clinicians, architects and air quality scientists. Making an original contribution to social theory, the authors draw together ideas from feminist technoscience studies and queer theory about reproduction and kin into debates on contemporary planetary crises. They explore the diverse relations between climate crisis, kinship and reproduction; embodiment and breathing; biosensing and air quality; and Pyro-reproductive futures. The book has a distinctly Australian flavour, but is nonetheless global in its themes. The arguments apply in many ways to other climate-related disasters, such as floods and wildfires in other parts of the world.

Restricted access

What is it like to have a baby in climate crisis?

Engaging a range of concepts, including the Pyrocene, breath, care and embodiment, the authors explore how climate crisis is changing experiences of having children. They also raise questions about how gender and sexuality are shaped by histories of human engagements with fire. The book is underpinned by an interview-based project undertaken in 2020-2021 in South Eastern Australia. The research explored the experiences of pregnant women and their partners, pre- and post-birth, during the catastrophic bushfire season of 2019-2020 and the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic. It is also informed by interviews with experts on bushfire smoke and/or reproduction, including clinicians, architects and air quality scientists. Making an original contribution to social theory, the authors draw together ideas from feminist technoscience studies and queer theory about reproduction and kin into debates on contemporary planetary crises. They explore the diverse relations between climate crisis, kinship and reproduction; embodiment and breathing; biosensing and air quality; and Pyro-reproductive futures. The book has a distinctly Australian flavour, but is nonetheless global in its themes. The arguments apply in many ways to other climate-related disasters, such as floods and wildfires in other parts of the world.

Restricted access

What is it like to have a baby in climate crisis?

Engaging a range of concepts, including the Pyrocene, breath, care and embodiment, the authors explore how climate crisis is changing experiences of having children. They also raise questions about how gender and sexuality are shaped by histories of human engagements with fire. The book is underpinned by an interview-based project undertaken in 2020-2021 in South Eastern Australia. The research explored the experiences of pregnant women and their partners, pre- and post-birth, during the catastrophic bushfire season of 2019-2020 and the subsequent COVID-19 pandemic. It is also informed by interviews with experts on bushfire smoke and/or reproduction, including clinicians, architects and air quality scientists. Making an original contribution to social theory, the authors draw together ideas from feminist technoscience studies and queer theory about reproduction and kin into debates on contemporary planetary crises. They explore the diverse relations between climate crisis, kinship and reproduction; embodiment and breathing; biosensing and air quality; and Pyro-reproductive futures. The book has a distinctly Australian flavour, but is nonetheless global in its themes. The arguments apply in many ways to other climate-related disasters, such as floods and wildfires in other parts of the world.

Restricted access