Category / Research communication

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.

RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS NEEDED FOR MRI STUDY

Have you ever wanted a picture of your brain?

We are looking for participants to take part in our MRI study,

examining memory and inhibition across adulthood.

We would like to hear from people between the ages of 20-35 or over the age of 60 years.

You would be asked to complete two tasks in the brain scanner.

REWARD: £20 Amazon Voucher

For more information please contact: mconstantinou@bournemouth.ac.uk

Vitae Conference – Career Development of Researchers

On 29th June, Vitae are visiting BU and running a series of events in one day to promote the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

It’s an exciting day, with sessions including:

  • An introduction to the Concordat, why it matters, and what BU is doing to engage with the agenda
  • Training for researchers on the value of professional development and how to maximise your performance
  • Training for managers of researchers on the role of professional development
  • An informal discussion about where a PhD and a post-doc position can take you career wise (spoiler alert, it’s not just a traditional academic pathway!) and networking.

The Eventbrite sign-up page can be found here – https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/vitae-conference-2022-tickets-348638736847

It’s a great opportunity for many colleagues, and we hope too a moment to consider the all round amazingness of research and to take some time to celebrate life as a researcher!

We look forward to seeing you there!  

Trusted Research – information now live

Within the Research Environment pages on the BU website, there is now a section on the Trusted Research agenda.

The Trusted Research Agenda is a government initiative to secure the integrity of the system of international research collaboration and innovation.

Please visit the page to find out more, including key details and guidance.

Vitae Conference – Career Development of Researchers

On 29th June, Vitae are visiting BU and running a series of events in one day to promote the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers.

It’s an exciting day, with sessions including:

  • An introduction to the Concordat, why it matters, and what BU is doing to engage with the agenda
  • Training for researchers on the value of professional development and how to maximise your performance
  • Training for managers of researchers on the role of professional development
  • An informal discussion about where a PhD and a post-doc position can take you career wise (spoiler alert, it’s not just a traditional academic pathway!) and networking.

The Eventbrite sign-up page can be found herehttps://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/vitae-conference-2022-tickets-348638736847

It’s a great opportunity for many colleagues, and we hope too a moment to consider the all round amazingness of research and to take some time to celebrate life as a researcher!

We look forward to seeing you there!