Category / Research communication

Conversation article: what teachers think of children and young people’s technology use

Dr Sarah Hodge writes for The Conversation about research asking teachers about their experiences of how young people use technology and the effect it has on them…

What teachers think of children and young people’s technology use

nimito/Shutterstock

Sarah Hodge, Bournemouth University

Mobile phones, computers, social media and the internet are part of the daily lives of children and young people, including at school. Concerns over the risks of too much screen time or online activity for children and young people have been tempered by the reality of technology use in education and leisure.

The experience of life during the pandemic, when much schooling and socialising went online, has also changed attitudes to technology use. UK communications regulator Ofcom reported that in 2020 only a minority of children and young people did not go online or have internet access.

Teachers are in a unique position when it comes to assessing how children and young people use technology such as mobile phones and the effect it has on them. They see how children and young people use technology to learn, socialise, and how it affects their relationships with their peers.

Together with colleagues, I carried out in-depth research with eight teachers from different backgrounds, ages, years of professional experience, and type of educational institution from across the UK. We asked the teachers about their experiences of children and young people’s use of technology: how they thought it affected their emotions, behaviour and learning both before and during the pandemic.

The teachers talked about the importance of technology as a tool in the classroom and learning and the opportunities it provides for creativity. As one teacher put it:

It is what the children are used to, and it engages them more – it is a useful tool that can add to our teaching.

Empowered through tech

We also found that teachers were optimistic about the role technology could play in empowering children and young people. One said:

They use social networking sites to learn from one another and to express their beliefs – even children who are quiet in the classroom, they find it easier to express themselves online.

They thought that children and young people could learn to understand and recognise the signs of unhealthy technology use from their own emotions and behaviour when using technology. This included showing empathy and care through noticing how they and others feel. One teacher said children and young people were becoming more compassionate and offering their help to friends who were showing signs of distress through their online posts.

However, some teachers did express concern about how interacting online affected children and young people’s social skills. One teacher said:

They don’t know how to have proper conversations with their friends. They don’t know how to resolve anything because it’s easy to be mean behind a screen and not have to resolve it.

Another questioned how technology use was affecting play. They said:

They don’t know how to play and actually you will see groups of them surrounding a phone.

Teachers also pointed to the problems of disengaging from technology use. One teacher stated:

The parents have ongoing battles trying to pull their children away from screens and the next day they are exhausted, and they find it difficult to get them into school because the children are so tired.

Teachers discussed how they encouraged their pupils to take part in team sports as a way to encourage face-to-face communication and conflict resolution. However, while some online safety and internet use is covered at school, guidance on how to live with technology, be resilient towards challenges and use technology in a balanced could be more explicitly taught.

The PHSE Association – a national body for personal, social, health and economic education – offers guidance on online safety and skills for the curriculum, such as the potential harms of pornography but there is much scope to develop a broader approach to supporting healthy technology use.

Boy looking sad putting phone down
Teachers felt that there should be more discussion of online behaviour in the classroom.
Daisy Daisy/Shutterstock

In class, this could be as simple as working on how to make informed decisions about technology use – such as being more cautious if online activity involves talking with strangers, or recognising if spending time online is a large time commitment. It could include using social media posts as real-world examples to encourage childrenand young people to be informed, critical and resilient towards content they are likely to see and interact with.

Teachers felt that adding online safety to the curriculum would be valuable, as would providing opportunities for children and young people to talk about their experiences and content of technology. One teacher said:

There are predators out there and we do discuss online safety issues with my students, but some stuff should be part of the curriculum as well, and parents should access it too.

The teachers highlighted that they, too, needed support in their knowledge about technology and suggested this should be more incorporated into teacher training. One teacher said:

We need to keep up with the times and if there is something this pandemic taught us, is that not all of us are keeping up… one-off training is not adequate, schools need to invest in continuous professional development activities related to technology.

Children and young people can get significant benefits from technology, but it has risks, too. More attention to how teachers can address this in school can be an invaluable way to help children and young people understand and balance their time online.

The Conversation

Sarah Hodge, Lecturer in Psychology and Cyberpsychology, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Cameroon’s exploding lakes – deadly gas release could lead to another tragedy

Dr Henry Ngenyam Bang writes for The Conversation about the potential dangers associated with crater lakes located in a region of volcanic activity in Cameroon…

Cameroon’s ‘exploding’ lakes: disaster expert warns deadly gas release could cause another tragedy

The waters of Lake Nyos, Cameroon, turn a murky brown following a deadly release of toxic gas.
Photo by Thierry Orban/Sygma via Getty Images

Henry Ngenyam Bang, Bournemouth University

A sudden change on 29 August 2022 in the colour and smell of Lake Kuk, in north-west Cameroon, has caused anxiety and panic among the local residents. Fears are driven by an incident that happened 36 years ago at Lake Nyos, just 10km away.

On 21 August 1986, Lake Nyos emitted lethal gases (mainly carbon dioxide) that suffocated 1,746 people and around 8,300 livestock. It wasn’t the first incident like this. Two years earlier, Lake Monoum, about 100km south-west of Lake Nyos, killed 37 people.

Desolation around Lake Nyos on 1 August 1986.
Photo by Eric Bouvet via Getty Images

Research into the cause of the Lake Nyos disaster concluded that carbon dioxide gas – released from the Earth’s mantle – had been accumulating at the bottom of the lake for centuries. A sudden disturbance of the lake’s waters due to a landslide resulted in a sudden release of around 1.24 million tonnes of carbon dioxide gas.

Survivors briefly heard a rumbling sound from Lake Nyos before an invisible gas cloud emerged from its depths. It killed people, animals, insects and birds along its path in the valley before dispersing into the atmosphere where it became harmless.

Both Kuk and Nyos are crater lakes located in a region of volcanic activity known as the Cameroon Volcanic Line. And there are 43 other crater lakes in the region that could contain lethal amounts of gases. Other lakes around the world that pose a similar threat include Lake Kivu at the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Lake Ngozi in Tanzania and Lake Monticchio in Italy.

After Lake Nyos erupted, its water turned a deep red colour and survivors reported the smell of rotten eggs. These are the same characteristics to have recently manifested at Lake Kuk. The change in colour of Lake Nyos was only noticed after the gas burst.

In an official press release, heavy rainfall was linked to the odour and change in colour of Lake Kuk. The tens of thousands of people living around the lake were urged to “remain calm while being vigilant to continuously inform the administration of any other incident noted”.

As a geologist and disaster management expert, I believe that not enough is being done to address and manage the potential danger from crater lakes in the region.

Through my experience and research I’ve identified several key steps that policymakers must take to prevent another tragedy from happening.

Preventing disaster

To start with, it’s important to know which lakes are at risk of “exploding”.

Initial checks in some of the lakes were done more than 30 years ago and not thoroughly – it was just one team and on one occasion. Further investigations and regular monitoring are required.

Currently it’s believed that, of the 43 crater lakes on Cameroon’s Volcanic Line, 13 are deep and large enough to contain lethal quantities of gases. Although 11 are considered to be relatively safe, two (Lakes Enep and Oku) are dangerous.

Map showing the Cameroon Volcanic Line and other hazards in Cameroon.

Research has revealed that the thermal profile (how temperature changes with depth), quantity of dissolved gases, surface area or water volume and depth are key indicators of the potential for crater lakes to store large quantities of dangerous gases.

The factors that lead to the greatest risk include: high quantities of dissolved gases, held under high pressures, at great depths, in lakes with large volumes of water. They are at an even greater risk of explosion when the lakes sit in wide or large craters where there are disturbances.

The two lakes that caused fatalities (Nyos and Monoum) are deep and have thermal profiles that increase with depth. Other lakes are too shallow (less than 40 metres) and have uniform thermal profiles, indicating they do not contain large amounts of gases.

Investigating all the crater lakes in Cameroon would be a logistical challenge. It would require significant funding, a diverse scientific team, technical resources and transportation to the lakes. Since most of the crater lakes are in remote areas with poor communication network (no roads, rail or airports), it would take a couple of years for the work to be completed.

Since Cameroon has many potentially dangerous crater lakes, it is unsatisfactory that 36 years after the Lake Nyos disaster, not much has been done to mitigate the risks in other gas-charged hazardous lakes.

Managing dangerous lakes

Lake Kuk was checked shortly after the 1986 Lake Nyos disaster and found not to contain excess carbon dioxide. Its relatively shallow depth and surface area means the risk of gas being trapped in large quantities is low.

Nevertheless, authorities should have immediately restricted access to Lake Kuk pending a thorough onsite investigation. The official press release urging calm was sent just one day after the incident was reported. It’s not possible that a scientist could have carried out a physical examination of the lake. The release said that rainfall was responsible for the changes, but this will be based on assumptions.

Lake Kuk might be considered safe, but due to the dynamic and active nature of the Cameroon Volcanic Line, there is a possibility that volcanic gases can seep into the lake at any moment.

An onsite scientific investigation would determine with certainty the abnormal behaviour of Lake Kuk. Keeping people away from the lake until a swift and credible investigation had been done would be the most rational decision.

An additional step would be for a carbon dioxide detector to be installed near Lake Kuk and other potentially dangerous crater lakes. This would serve as an early warning system for lethal gas releases.

A carbon dioxide early warning system is designed to detect high concentrations of gases in the atmosphere and to produce a warning sound. Upon hearing the sound, people are expected to run away from the lake and onto higher ground. After the Lake Nyos disaster, carbon dioxide detectors and warning systems were installed near Lakes Nyos and Monoum. Nevertheless, no simulation has been conducted to determine their effectiveness.

The Directorate of Civil Protection is the designated agency responsible for coordinating disaster risk management in Cameroon. The agency should liaise with other stakeholders in the government and private sector to ensure the safety of Cameroon’s dangerous lakes. If the authorities are not proactive, the Lake Nyos disaster scenario may repeat where thousands of people and livestock are suddenly killed.The Conversation

Henry Ngenyam Bang, Disaster Management Scholar, Researcher and Educator, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Call for abstracts | The 14th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference

The 14th Postgraduate Research Conference Call for Abstracts Image

The 14th Annual Postgraduate Research Conference 2022 will take place on Wednesday 30 November, 09:00 – 17:00 and the call for abstracts is now open.


The conference is a great opportunity for postgraduate researchers to showcase and promote their research to the BU community whether they have just started or are approaching the end of their journey at BU.

Attending the conference is a great opportunity to engage and network with the postgraduate research community and find out more about the exciting and fascinating research that is happening across BU.

Abstracts are invited from postgraduate researchers to take part in the live research exhibition or to present via oral or poster presentation.

For full details on how to apply please visit the Doctoral College Conference Brightspace.

Closing date 09:00 Monday 24 October 2022.

Registration to attend will open in November, all members of BU are welcome!

For any questions, please email pgconference@bournemouth.ac.uk and a member of the Doctoral College conference team will get back to you.

Conversation article: Online reviews are broken – here’s how to fix them

Professor Vasilis Katos writes for The Conversation about the abuse of online review systems and potential solutions…

Online reviews are broken – here’s how to fix them

Online reviews are not always what they might seem.
Thapana_Studio via Shutterstock

Vasilis Katos, Bournemouth University

It’s a crime story fit for the digital era. It was recently reported that a number of restaurants in New York had been targeted by internet scammers threatening to leave unfavourable “one-star” reviews unless they received gift certificates. The same threats were made to eateries in Chicago and San Francisco and it appears that a vegan restaurant received as many as eight one-star reviews in the space of a week before being approached for money.

It’s surprising this sort of thing hasn’t emerged before. An over-reliance on the “wisdom of the crowd”, whereby many people measure things by the approval of the rest of the community, leaves us vulnerable to this kind of fraud.

It’s all about numbers. Products and companies are measured online by the number of stars they get on a five-star scale, influencers are measured by numbers of followers, posts are measured by the numbers of likes or retweets. The satirical Kardashian index provides a quantitative measure for academics by comparing citations of their research papers with their number of Twitter followers.

But why are these systems considered to be of value and why do we consult them almost blindly? In an age of information overload, feedback and reputation systems enable fast decision-making, providing us with the sense (or illusion) that we are in control as the decision taken is perceived to be informed.

Another idea at play here is the “attention economy paradigm”. Under this way of thinking, human attention is a scarce commodity and – as with all resources that are limited on this planet – it is of high value.

Businesses compete for a high as possible place on the first page of Google’s search results in order to capture this attention. And user feedback is one of the many parameters that influence the search engine’s secret ranking algorithms.

The notable success and acceptance of such reputation systems is grounded in the idea of the wisdom of the crowd comes in. If a sufficiently large sample of the population is asked to estimate something, the average of these estimations is expected to be very close to the actual value. This is because any personal bias becomes insignificant when a considerable amount of opinions is collected.

But all systems that come along with successful business models are open to abuse and can attract opportunistic and malicious actors, to an extent that organised criminal groups may form and systematically exploit such systems. For example, business opportunities that emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic were instantly matched by an assortment of criminal activities including shopping scams, disinformation, illegal streaming and even child sexual exploitation.

Fake reviews

There are several reasons and motivations for fake reviews. Business competitors may try to flood a business target with negative reviews in order to harm their competitor. Others may attempt, by creating fake profiles or “bribing” customers with free or discounted products, to engineer positive reviews and misrepresent the quality of their products.

Conceptual picture showing person with a tablet with numerous review words jumping out.
Everyone has an opinion, but some people have a vested interest.
kheira benkada via Shutterstock

But extortion via threats of negative review is particularly insidious. A surge of negative reviews on a business’s Google profile not only affects its search engine ranking, but significantly influences the potential customers’ purchase decisions.

Although these practices are reported to have been streamlined from organised groups in India, variations of this have also been observed from other countries. Amazon recently sued 10,000 Facebook group administrators exceeding 43,000 members who allegedly solicit fake (positive) reviews in exchange for free products.

What can be done?

The abuse of online feedback and reputation systems has grown to epidemic proportion. Countering it will require the coordination of everyone involved.

Google and other feedback and reputation service providers need to invest more resources into the prevention, detection and removal of fake reviews. Machine learning technologies have made impressive leaps in recent years and could help in weeding out fake content.

Tighter rules governing the selection of reviewers enabling their participation under specific conditions. We’ve seen this with verified buyer schemes that aim to provide assurances that the reviewer has had a genuine experience with the business.

The presentation of the feedback and particularly the star scoring system could also have more contextual information, say through additional colour coding to communicate the sentiment mined out of the textual comments. In this case, highly emotional comments based on less factual or useful information could have a different colour from those trying to be impartial and objective.

Businesses also need to embrace the system for reporting problem reviews and use it responsibly. They should not report negative feedback if it is genuine, as this affects the relationship with the feedback platform, which will understandably be more distrustful to the business.

And consumers should be more alert and educated about this rather than following these rankings religiously. There are many telltale signs of a fake review, including simply checking the language to see if they are generic. It’s also instructive to check whether the reviewer produces a lot of negative reviews across many and seemingly unconnected products in a short time.

We, the crowd should be active participants by being always fair with our purchase experiences and acknowledge and support business when they exceed our expectations – but also provide candid negative reviews and recommendations for improvement. Only then the wisdom of the crowd will truly serve us.The Conversation

Vasilis Katos, Professor of Cybersecurity, Head of BU-CERT, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: Lord of the Rings – a cheat’s guide to Middle Earth before you watch the new show

Ahead of new TV show, The Rings of Power, Dr Laura Crossley writes for The Conversation about the universe created by J.R.R Tolkien…

Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power – a cheat’s guide to Middle-earth before you watch the new show

Laura Crossley, Bournemouth University

For a newcomer to the wonderful world of Middle-earth, the universe created by the British author and academic J.R.R. Tolkien can seem as large and unwieldy as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (currently in Phase Four with more still to come). And, there is a new addition as Amazon’s Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power (rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it?) hits screens.

The series comes eight years after the concluding film of The Hobbit and 19 years after the last Lord of the Rings film. So if you want to watch the series and keep up with inevitable social media debates, here is a guide to this sprawling world to initiate newcomers to Tolkien’s Middle-earth.

A quick catch-up

The Hobbit (1937) and
The Lord of the Rings trilogy (published between July 1954 and October 1955) were Tolkien’s most successful and famous novels.

The Hobbit follows the adventures of the eponymous creature (short of stature, hairy feet), Bilbo Baggins, on a quest with a party of dwarves to reclaim lost treasure. Along the way, he finds a ring that gives him the power of invisibility.


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The Lord of the Rings picks up the story many years later as Bilbo’s ring is revealed to be the One Ring, forged by the evil dark lord Sauron as a source of power. Bilbo’s nephew Frodo embarks on a dangerous journey to destroy the ring and save Middle-earth. He is aided by his gardener Sam Gamgee as well as representatives of the other chief races of Middle-earth: two further hobbits, the dwarf Gimli, elf Legolas and two human men, Boromir and Aragorn.

Tolkien served during the first world war and his experiences on the battle-field shape the numerous conflicts depicted in the stories as well as the various forms of heroism that are displayed. In Tolkien’s world, moral courage is just as important, if not more so, than physical prowess for the enduring heroes of Middle-earth.

The close bonds between serving soldiers also inform the interpersonal relationships that are central to The Lord of the Rings – it is evident in the devotion between the hobbits Frodo and Sam and the enemies-to-friends narrative of Gimli and Legolas.

What is Middle-earth?

Middle-earth is the fictional setting for Tolkien’s invented mythology, which made its debut in The Hobbit. However, the term Middle-earth was not used in that book – that came later with The Lord of the Rings.

Tolkien was a professor of English literature and an expert in language, especially in written and oral histories. His mythology for Middle-earth is filled with poems, songs and oral history traditions that help to build the world of different cultures and races (hobbits, elves, dwarves, men) that inhabit his universe. Norse mythology, Anglo-Saxon epic poems, fairy tales and the Finnish mythic poem the Kalevala are all influences on the stories, characters and languages found in Tolkien’s work.

Although The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit are the best known stories, they’re not the complete history of Middle-earth. The Silmarillion (1977), which was published after Tolkien’s death and edited by his son Christopher and the fantasy writer Guy Gavriel Kay, outlines the thousands of years of history of Middle-earth.

The book charts the creation of Arda, where the continent of Middle-earth is located, and covers the First and Second Ages of the world (The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings take place in the Third Age). Arda starts as a flat disc and evolves into something more recognisably planet-like over the course of cataclysmic events during repeated battles between forces of good and evil. Further events and characters that shape Arda and Middle-earth feature in Unfinished Tales (1980).

However, as Amazon has only acquired the rights for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, none of the stories from either Unfinished Tales or The Silmarillion will feature in the new series. The extensive appendices to The Lord of the Rings are the source of the material for the new show.

Familiar names

Set in the Second Age of Middle-earth, The Rings of Power takes place thousands of years before either The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings so there will be few recognisable characters. Sauron, who appeared in The Lord of the Rings as a flaming red eye, is still the big bad.

The creator of the corrupting rings of power and of the infamous One Ring that controls the others, Sauron may not be front-and-centre as an antagonist but his actions and desire for control of Middle-earth will drive much of the action.

The other two familiar names are the elves Galadriel and Elrond, here much younger than they appeared in the films. Galadriel is established as a warrior – which is true to her history as Tolkien wrote it – and there is a lot of scope in the series to see how she develops into the wise ruler of the elven realm Lothlorien.

Elrond Half-elven, the ruler of the enclave of Rivendell, is shown as more optimistic than in The Lord of the Rings and with closer links to the human kingdom of Númenor, whose rulers are descended from his twin brother, Elros.

As the brothers were half-elven, they could choose which of their kindred they would identify as. Elros lived as a mortal and eventually aged and died. Elrond chose to live as an immortal elf and the emotional toll of those decisions will be explored in his story arc.

Fans might be concerned that Tolkien might have disliked some of the liberties taken with his works. While his estate is known to be protective (and litigious) over the original works, Tolkien stated that he wanted other hands to add to his universe. In light of that, he would probably have been delighted to see his creation still so beloved and still expanding.The Conversation

Laura Crossley, Programme Leader and Senior Lecturer in Film, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Online training opportunity: Writing for The Conversation

Would you like to build a media profile and take your research to a global audience?

Find out more about writing for The Conversation and have the chance to pitch your article ideas to one of their editors in an online training session on Thursday 15 September.

The Conversation is a news analysis and opinion website with content written by academics working with professional journalists.

The training session will run by one of The Conversation’s Editors and will take place from 2pm – 3pm over Zoom.

It is open to all BU academics and PhD candidates who are interested in finding out more about working with The Conversation.

Learn how to consider the news potential of your expertise, make your writing accessible and engaging to a diverse range of audiences, and pitch your ideas.

The session will be followed by a limited number of one-to-one slots from 3pm – 4pm where you can chat with the editor about working with The Conversation and share your research and article ideas.

Slots are 15 minutes and will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. To request a slot, please email newsdesk@bournemouth.ac.uk

Why write for The Conversation?

The Conversation is a great way to share research and informed comment on topical issues. Academics work with editors to write pieces, which can then be republished via a creative commons license.

Since we first partnered with The Conversation, articles by BU authors have had over 8.5 million reads and been republished by the likes of The i, Metro, and the Washington Post.

Book your place via Eventbrite.

IMSET publishes position paper on long-term sustainability

Fabio Silva of the Institute for the Modelling of Socio-Environmental Transitions, together with a group of co-authors from 32 other institutions, has led the publication of a landmark position paper in the journal Sustainability entitled Developing Transdisciplinary Approaches to Sustainability Challenges: The Need to Model Socio-Environmental Systems in the Longue Durée.

Stemming from a transdisciplinary workshop held online during 2020, the paper argues that current crises – in land use, biodiversity, novel pathogens, water management – can only be fully understood by doing research over timescales that greatly exceed the lifespan of any individual human. This so-called longue durée is the key to fully understanding the full extent of socio-environmental processes and their implications.

 

The spatial and temporal scales of key social and environmental processes of interest

 

As well as identifying key processes and challenges, IMSET and colleagues set out how key issues may be addressed by fully integrating humans into environmental modelling and planning. By including ancient human activity and future outcomes in our mission statement, we aim to provide a manifesto for developing an integrated approach towards socio-ecological systems in the long term.

Silva, Fabio, Fiona Coward, Kimberley Davies, Sarah Elliott, Emma Jenkins, Adrian C. Newton, Philip Riris, Marc Vander Linden, Jennifer Bates, Elena Cantarello, Daniel A. Contreras, Stefani A. Crabtree, Enrico R. Crema, Mary Edwards, Tatiana Filatova, Ben Fitzhugh, Hannah Fluck, Jacob Freeman, Kees Klein Goldewijk, Marta Krzyzanska, Daniel Lawrence, Helen Mackay, Marco Madella, Shira Yoshi Maezumi, Rob Marchant, Sophie Monsarrat, Kathleen D. Morrison, Ryan Rabett, Patrick Roberts, Mehdi Saqalli, Rick Stafford, Jens-Christian Svenning, Nicki J. Whithouse, and Alice Williams. 2022. “Developing Transdisciplinary Approaches to Sustainability Challenges: The Need to Model Socio-Environmental Systems in the Longue Durée Sustainability 14: 10234. DOI: 10.3390/su14161023

 

 

Could you help the Health Research Authority improve the research ethics review?

Remember – support is on offer at BU if you are thinking of introducing your research ideas into the NHS or social care – email the Clinical Research mailbox, and take a look at the Clinical Governance section of the website.

Conversation article: How centuries of self-isolation turned Japan into one of the most sustainable societies on Earth

Dr Hiroko Oe writes for The Conversation about Japan’s Edo period and how it led to the development of sustainable lifestyle practices…

How centuries of self-isolation turned Japan into one of the most sustainable societies on Earth

‘Lower Meguro (Shimo Meguro)’, artist: Katsushika Hokusai, c1830–32.
The Met Museum

Hiroko Oe, Bournemouth University

At the start of the 1600s, Japan’s rulers feared that Christianity – which had recently been introduced to the southern parts of the country by European missionaries – would spread. In response, they effectively sealed the islands off from the outside world in 1603, with Japanese people not allowed to leave and very few foreigners allowed in. This became known as Japan’s Edo period, and the borders remained closed for almost three centuries until 1868.

This allowed the country’s unique culture, customs and ways of life to flourish in isolation, much of which was recorded in art forms that remain alive today such as haiku poetry or kabuki theatre. It also meant that Japanese people, living under a system of heavy trade restrictions, had to rely totally on the materials already present within the country which created a thriving economy of reuse and recycling). In fact, Japan was self-sufficient in resources, energy and food and sustained a population of up to 30 million, all without the use of fossil fuels or chemical fertilisers.

The people of the Edo period lived according to what is now known as the “slow life”, a sustainable set of lifestyle practices based around wasting as little as possible. Even light didn’t go to waste – daily activities started at sunrise and ended at sunset.

Clothes were mended and reused many times until they ended up as tattered rags. Human ashes and excrement were reused as fertiliser, leading to a thriving business for traders who went door to door collecting these precious substances to sell on to farmers. We could call this an early circular economy.

Painting of people washing in a river
Washing in a river – Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849)
katsushikahokusai.org

Another characteristic of the slow life was its use of seasonal time, meaning that ways of measuring time shifted along with the seasons. In pre-modern China and Japan, the 12 zodiac signs (known in Japanese as juni-shiki) were used to divide the day into 12 sections of about two hours each. The length of these sections varied depending on changing sunrise and sunset times.

During the Edo period, a similar system was used to divide the time between sunrise and sunset into six parts. As a result, an “hour” differed hugely depending on whether it was measured during summer, winter, night or day. The idea of regulating life by unchanging time units like minutes and seconds simply didn’t exist.

Instead, Edo people – who wouldn’t have owned clocks – judged time by the sound of bells installed in castles and temples. Allowing the natural world to dictate life in this way gave rise to a sensitivity to the seasons and their abundant natural riches, helping to develop an environmentally friendly set of cultural values.

Working with nature

From the mid-Edo period onwards, rural industries – including cotton cloth and oil production, silkworm farming, paper-making and sake and miso paste production – began to flourish. People held seasonal festivals with a rich and diverse range of local foods, wishing for fertility during cherry blossom season and commemorating the harvests of the autumn.

This unique, eco-friendly social system came about partly due to necessity, but also due to the profound cultural experience of living in close harmony with nature. This needs to be recaptured in the modern age in order to achieve a more sustainable culture – and there are some modern-day activities that can help.

For instance zazen, or “sitting meditation”, is a practice from Buddhism that can help people carve out a space of peace and quiet to experience the sensations of nature. These days, a number of urban temples offer zazen sessions.

Lady meditates in forest
You don’t need water to go forest bathing.
Palatinate Stock / shutterstock

The second example is “forest bathing”, a term coined by the director general of Japan’s forestry agency in 1982. There are many different styles of forest bathing, but the most popular form involves spending screen-free time immersed in the peace of a forest environment. Activities like these can help develop an appreciation for the rhythms of nature that can in turn lead us towards a more sustainable lifestyle – one which residents of Edo Japan might appreciate.

In an age when the need for more sustainable lifestyles has become a global issue, we should respect the wisdom of the Edo people who lived with time as it changed with the seasons, who cherished materials and used the wisdom of reuse as a matter of course, and who realised a recycling-oriented lifestyle for many years. Learning from their way of life could provide us with effective guidelines for the future.The Conversation

Hiroko Oe, Principal Academic, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Conversation article: The environment is the silent casualty in the Cameroon Anglophone crisis

Dr Henry Ngenyam Bang writes for The Conversation about his research into the environmental consequences of the Anglophone crisis in Cameroon…

The environment is the silent casualty in the Cameroon Anglophone crisis

Women displaced from rural villages in the Anglophone region gather to wash clothes in a stream.
Photo by Giles Clarke/UNOCHA via Getty Images

Dr Henry Ngenyam Bang, Bournemouth University

Most analysis of Cameroon’s Anglophone crisis has been skewed towards the socioeconomic, cultural and political ramifications of the conflict.

But, based on my work on natural, environmental hazards and disaster management in Cameroon over the past two decades, I would argue that the environment in the Anglophone region is a silent casualty of the conflict. And it has largely been ignored.

Our recently published research on the crisis showed that over 900,000 people had been internally displaced. Eighty percent of the inhabitants of villages that were conflict hot spots had fled into adjacent forests. The research investigated the consequences of the Cameroon Anglophone crisis and determined it to be an acute complex emergency.

These developments are leaving huge environmental footprints and causing serious damage. This will get worse if the armed conflict escalates into a “complex disaster emergency”.

I have identified six environmental consequences of the Cameroon Anglophone crisis. These range from failures in environmental governance to increases in deforestation, unmet measures in Cameroon’s climate action plan, poor municipal waste management, the effects of scorched earth tactics and the impact of improvised explosive devices.

There is a need to address these environmental oversights and build them into resolving the crisis. This would prevent the environmental legacies of the armed conflict from haunting the region’s population after the crisis has ended.

The fallout for the environment

One of the effects of the fighting since 2016 was that it brought conservation activities to a halt in the country’s biodiversity hot spots in the Anglophone regions. Cameroon has around 14 national parks, 18 wildlife reserves, 12 forest reserves and three wildlife sanctuaries hosting rare and threatened species.

Before the crisis, many of these protected areas were still in a pristine condition because Cameroon had less tourism than other regions of Africa.

But the crisis has stalled several environmental projects.

For example, violence forced environmentalists and NGOS operating in the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary in Lebialem to flee. The Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary is home to the critically endangered Cross River gorillas and other endangered wildlife like the African chimpanzee and elephant.

These gorillas are also under increased threat from militias such as the “Red Dragons” which have set up camps within the sanctuary (see Figure 1).

Likewise, efforts to protect the Mount Cameroon National Park, which hosts endangered primates, have been hampered. This poses a threat to the Nigerian-Cameroon chimpanzee, which already faces extinction.

A map
Figure 1: Landscape of the Lebialem Highlands hosting the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary.
GSAC (2022)

Insecurity in areas hosting wildlife has led to a rise in uncontrolled illegal hunting. Poaching of endangered chimpanzees (see Figure 2) and elephants increased in the Tofala Hill Wildlife Sanctuary and the Takamanda and Korup National Parks after state rangers and eco-guards fled.

An ape sitting on a tree.
Figure 2: Endangered ape species in Cameroon’s protected reserves.
Photo by Julie Langford courtesy of the Limbe Wildlife Centre.

The rise in the number of internally displaced people has had a number of consequences.

Deforestation has risen as relocated communities have cut down trees to provide shelter and firewood.

They are also putting pressure on access to water. Toilet facilitates are inadequate in areas hosting large numbers of people. Drilling of wells, sometimes in unhygienic surroundings, and defecation in streams are also responsible for the poor water quality in the region.

The southwest region has recently experienced a cholera epidemic.

Thirdly, measures in Cameroon’s climate action plan have been halted by the crisis. The measures include providing fertilisers and improved seeds to farmers; installing renewable energy in rural areas; and restoring mangrove forests along the Limbe coast.

Fourthly, the crisis has worsened the problem of municipal waste management.

Separatists have threatened to burn the garbage collection company, HYSACAM. Some of its workers have been attacked. This has affected the collection of municipal waste in Bamenda and Buea, capitals of the Anglophone northwest and southwest regions.

Fifth, military forces are using scorched earth tactics that could create serious environmental harm. The military has destroyed houses, crops and livestock in several villages perceived to be strongholds of militia groups.

Likewise, militias have destroyed property owned by the state and that of civilians suspected to be colluding with security forces.

Satellite images from February and March 2021 confirm the destruction of multiple villages in the northwest region.

Lastly, the use of improvised explosive devices by militia groups against Cameroon’s military vehicles has been increasing and getting more sophisticated.

Explosive remnants and munitions can make the land uninhabitable, severely harm wildlife, and contaminate the soil and watercourses. Clearance of devices can also cause localised pollution, soil degradation and negative land use consequences.

A destroyed military vehicle.
Figure 5: Military vehicle destroyed by IED.
Photo courtesy of SBBC (2022).

Next steps

Contingency plans being put in place by the Cameroon government for a potential complex disaster emergency should consider the environmental aspects of the conflict.

First it’s necessary to empirically diagnose the environmental ramifications and how they can be resolved.

When seeking political solutions to the crisis, stakeholders should also incorporate measures to mitigate the environmental consequences.The Conversation

Dr Henry Ngenyam Bang, Disaster Management Scholar, Researcher and Educator, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation article: UK abortion laws are more precarious than they seem – replacing the Human Rights Act could unsettle them further

BU Lecturers in Law Jamie Fletcher and Karolina Szopa write for The Conversation about the legal status of abortion in the UK, following the overturning of Roe v Wade in the US…

UK abortion laws are more precarious than they seem – replacing the Human Rights Act could unsettle them further

zjtmath / Shutterstock

Jamie Fletcher, Bournemouth University and Karolina Szopa, Bournemouth University

The state of abortion laws in the US has many in the UK wondering about reproductive rights in their own country. While abortion is largely accessible in the UK, its legal status is more precarious than many understand. Whichever government is in power next, it has the ability to either solidify abortion access or put it further into jeopardy. With this in mind, the next prime minister should reconsider plans to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 with the proposed bill of rights.

In June 2022, Justice Secretary Dominic Raab introduced the bill of rights bill, which, if passed, will repeal and replace the Human Rights Act. When asked about inserting a right to abortion in the bill of rights, Raab said this wasn’t necessary, claiming that abortion is “settled in UK law”. Without the Human Rights Act, however, abortion in the UK is far from settled.

This is because no law created by parliament is ever truly settled. This is a principle of the British constitution known as parliamentary sovereignty. Parliament is free to pass laws on any issue without being limited by an existing law created by a previous parliament, or any court. This differs from the US, where courts can strike down laws if they conflict with the constitution.

Applied to abortion, this means parliament can legislate any new abortion laws it desires. No court of law or authority could prevent parliament from arriving at a new legal position that would restrict or prohibit abortion access.

The legal status of abortion access in the UK, through the Abortion Act 1967, is more precarious than common understanding. Having an abortion is still a criminal act. A 19th-century law, which remains in place, states that any woman who intends to cause her own miscarriage commits a criminal offence that can result in life imprisonment.

The Abortion Act merely creates a limited exception when two doctors agree that the abortion is necessary and approve the procedure within 24 weeks of conception. At least two women in England and Wales are currently being prosecuted for illegally procuring abortions.

Separate legislation, passed in 2019, removes criminality for abortion in Northern Ireland. Still, due to the principle of parliamentary sovereignty, this legislation lacks any degree of permanency. The right to access abortion in Northern Ireland remains as fragile as in the rest of the UK.

The law granting a right to abortion access in Northern Ireland is re-voted on every year in the House of Commons. Votes in 2020, 2021 and 2022 show that around 25% of MPs are consistently opposed to abortion rights. If political winds change in the future, this percentage might increase and bring forward the true extent of this fragility.

Abortion and the Human Rights Act

Raab’s claim that abortion law is settled might have been based on European human rights law, which applies in the UK through the Human Rights Act. However, this would be incorrect – European human rights law, so far, has offered only minimal protection to abortion access. The right to private and family life enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) protects personal autonomy and bodily integrity.

Because the issue of abortion raises difficult moral questions over when life begins, the European Court of Human Rights has left it to each country to determine its own laws on abortion. This approach has been applied to other issues including same-sex marriage. Baroness Hale, during her time on the supreme court, remarked that the European court has given countries an “unusual” amount of leeway to determine their abortion laws.

The European court has made it clear that where a pregnancy would directly endanger a pregnant person’s life, their safety must take priority over the life of the foetus. Nonetheless, the court has yet to intervene in countries with restrictive abortion laws, such as Malta, Liechtenstein or Poland.

Domestic law and the power of the courts

Domestic human rights law, on the other hand, offers some support to Raab’s claim of abortion being settled. In a 2018 ruling, the UK supreme court held that domestic laws restricting access to abortions in cases of rape, incest or fatal foetal abnormality would be interpreted as being incompatible with the ECHR right to private and family life.

This interpretation of the right to privacy effectively limited Parliament’s ability to pass more restrictive abortion laws. But it was only possible due to the Human Rights Act, which grants UK judges interpretive powers when it comes to human rights law.

Dominic Raab mid-speech in front of a UK flag and an EU flag
Justice Secretary Dominic Raab is spearheading the plan to replace the Human Rights Act.
Alexandros Michailidis / Shutterstock

The new bill of rights purports to enhance UK courts’ ability to make judgments like the one described above, by declaring that European Court of Human Rights case law will no longer be “part of domestic law”.

But what it actually does is restrict the courts’ powers when it comes to the European Convention on Human Rights. The bill only permits the creation or expansion of new rights when domestic courts view it as being “beyond reasonable doubt” that the European Court will change its previous decided position on the issue.

There is presently not enough evidence to suggest “beyond reasonable doubt” that the European court will change its current legal framework on abortion. This would mean that under the bill of rights, a future UK supreme court would be prevented from reading Article 8 as requiring access to abortion in certain cases, as it did in 2018. Domestic courts would no longer be able to protect access to abortion in the UK and would return the issue almost entirely to parliament and political winds.

While there might be some support for the claim that abortion is sufficiently protected in law, this will be greatly undermined if the Human Rights Act is repealed. The next prime minister could commit to including a provision within the Bill of Rights specifically aimed at protecting abortion rights – or even better, reverse course entirely and keep the Human Rights Act in place.The Conversation

Jamie Fletcher, Lecturer in Law, Bournemouth University and Karolina Szopa, Lecturer in Law, Bournemouth University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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