IGDC Director Professor Jean Grugel speaks at YESI 5-year anniversary event
The YESI 5-year Anniversary Event took place on October 8th, and IGDC Director Professor Jean Grugel took part in the closing panel discussion ‘Challenges and opportunities in the Anthropocene’.
The one-day event was attended by staff and students from the University, as well as members of the public from York. The afternoon sessions showcased YESI’s research in three research areas: sustainable food, ecosystem resilience, and urban living. Professor Sue Hartley, YESI Director, introduced the research themes and spoke about the interdisciplinary nature of YESI’s work, its focus on questions of sustainability and the challenges that the current state of the natural environment – highlighted by the IPCC report published that same day – present.
The final panel provided a chance to reflect on some of the main challenges of the Anthropocene, understood as the planetary epoch marked by the imprint that humans have created on the Earth’s ecosystems and geology. The panel was chaired by Tom Whipple, Science Editor for The Times, and speakers included: Gaia Vince, journalist and author of ‘Adventures in the Anthropocene’; Claire Nouvian, Founder and Board Chair of BLOOM Association; Professor Chris Thomas, Department of Biology; Professor Thomas Krauss, Department of Physics; and Dr Mark Jenner, Department of History.
Professor Grugel started the discussion by pointing out three issues that need to be addressed in thinking about the Anthropocene. The first is the need for a better understanding of the political and scientific challenges surrounding climate change. ‘We need to think about the power of ideas’, said Professor Grugel, since, as the IPCC report shows, the challenges are not only scientific, but also in terms of how to design and implement policies that address these issues.
The second point is to raise questions about the notion of development, its conceptualisation, and how to understand resistance to some of the changes necessary to address climate change. Professor Grugel pointed out that while the idea that development can be equated with industrialisation has ‘come and gone’, this model has also brought increases in consumption and several benefits across the world, which can help explain why changing behaviour has been difficult to achieve.
Finally, Professor Grugel pointed out that ‘geopolitics matter’, and that it is time to incorporate voices from the Global South into the conversation. In order that the ideas of the Global South are reflected in international agreements, it is important to engage in conversation with these regions of the world. This is key in order for these international agreements to work and provide efficient responses to the dilemmas faced from climate change.
The audience was thoroughly engaged in this debate, and asked insightful questions about the role of education in changing attitudes towards climate change, as well as the ways in which policy-makers can be involved in these issues. Gaia Vice pointed out that we have to stop assuming that politicians do not listen, and that it is important to understand the complexities and nuances of the decision-making process, and generate research to address these issues.
YESI Director Sue Hartley closed the day of debate and engaging conversations by cutting YESI’s birthday cake. Congratulations again to the whole team at YESI!