Understanding Environmental Issues


Edited by: Susan Buckingham & Mike Turner

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    In memory of

    Brian Plummer 1934–2007

    Much loved colleague and teacher of geography and environmental issues, whose care for students was legendary.

    Notes on Authors

    Susan Buckingham is senior lecturer in Geography and Environmental Issues at Brunel University. She has written and edited a range of books on environmental issues, including ‘Gender and Environment’, and has designed and run modules in environmental issues and in applied geography and environmental issues at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Susan's main research investigates the links between gender and environmental inequalities. She is committed to the practical application of academic knowledge in socially just and relevant ways, and as well as lecturing and researching, she is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 4's ‘Home Planet’ and an active trustee of the Women's Environmental Network.

    Phil Collins is a lecturer in Geology and Geotechnical Engineering at Brunel University, where he is currently course director for ‘Civil Engineering with Sustainability’. His research focuses on environmental change, including the impact of human activities, and he has designed and run undergraduate and postgraduate modules in geomorphology, biogeography, conservation and research methods.

    Adrian Combrinck is an independent GIS and Environmental Consultant, currently based in Uganda. He is also an associate of the Centre for Human Geography at Brunel University. He specialises in applied and participatory GIS and has worked in the NGO, research and government sectors in the UK and South Africa.

    Katherine Donovan is a research student undertaking doctoral studies in the School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Studies at the University of Plymouth on the theme of cultural responses to geophysical risk in Indonesia. Katherine's PhD research explores how indigenous communities around the active volcanic centres of Mt Merapi (Java) and Mt Agung (Bali) respond to emergency events and engage with disaster preparedness. More broadly, she has a strong interest in the educational outreach aspects of hazard mitigation.

    Andrea Revell is an associate lecturer in the Centre for Human Geography at Brunel University currently researching and writing in Bangalore, India. Her main research areas are ecological modernisation theory, sustainable production and consumption and business and sustainability. Andrea is also involved in pedagogical research and has recently researched and published on what makes lectures unmissable.

    Iain Stewart is a lecturer in geology in the School of Earth, Ocean and Environmental Studies at the University of Plymouth. His research interests are specifically in the fields of earthquake and tsunami studies, and broadly in the interdisciplinary realms of geohazards and risk science. In recent years he has become especially interested in societal impacts of abrupt geological change, having in 2003 been appointed co-leader of a 5-year geological research programme on Environmental Catastrophes and Human History. He is increasingly engaged in geosciences communication issues, mainly through his involvement with BBC science in television programmes such as ‘Earth – The Power of the Planet’, ‘Journeys into the Ring of Fire’ and ‘Journeys From The Centre Of The Earth’.

    Iris Turner is an associate of the Centre for Human Geography at Brunel University and has taught Geography, Environmental Pollution Science, Chemistry and Horticulture in various higher education institutions. For nearly thirty years she has taught Soil Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and in 2004 she was awarded the Kew Medal for outstanding services to Kew. Iris's research interests have investigated the role of nitrogen and its various compounds in atmospheric, water and land pollution. She has worked extensively with mature students and has been instrumental in the development and assessment of their prior experiential learning for academic qualifications. Outside academia Iris is a very keen organic vegetable gardener and tries to practise environmental sustainability in her domestic life.

    Mike Turner is an associate of the Centre for Human Geography at Brunel University but has also been a school teacher and teacher educator as well as an academic geographer. He has retained his interest in geographical education through close links with the Institute of Education in the University of London, including membership of various research project teams on the Institute's behalf. His research interests have mainly been in environmental aspects of urban planning, particularly in Mexico City but he has long been concerned with the methodology of teaching technological aspects of geography (including GIS and remote sensing) and has produced distance learning modules in these areas.

    John Woodward is now a senior lecturer in the School of Applied Sciences at Northumbria University, following research and teaching posts at the University of Leeds, Brunel University and the British Antarctic Survey. His research interests are focused on ice/sediment/water interactions at the bed of polar glaciers and ice sheets to assess ice sheet stability. This involves the application of a variety of geophysical techniques including ground-penetrating radar, ground-based and airborne radar and reflection seismics. John lectures on modules in physical geography, including glaciology and climate change.

    Robert Wright is a member of the faculty at the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology. He has published many papers on remote sensing, specialising in infrared radiometry, and serves on several NASA science teams. Robert teaches a graduate/undergraduate level course in remote sensing at the University of Hawaii.

    Preface and Acknowledgements

    The genesis of this book was in modules on environmental issues which the Brunel University geography team taught from 1997 and which the collective authorship broadly reflects. All the contributing authors (with the exception of Katherine Donovan) have taught at Brunel during the past 10 years, and this continuing collaboration is testament to the great atmosphere of collegiality in the department. This encouraged human and physical geographers to work closely together, and through this we have come to understand each other's perspectives on a range of environmental issues, and to learn a great deal more about the issues themselves. The notes on authors included in the book illustrate the range of activities these colleagues have gone on to do – from presenting the hugely successful ‘Earth – The Power of the Planet’, ‘Journeys into the Ring of Fire’ and ‘Journeys from the centre of the Earth’ series on the BBC, which has brought Iain Stewart – and geography – well deserved popular recognition, to working for the British Antarctic Survey (John Woodward), and the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology at the University of Hawaii (Robert Wright). The modules which were the starting point for this book were characterised as much by how they were taught as by what was taught in them. While this characterisation is hard to capture in the writing about environmental issues, we hope we have communicated the importance of both applied, practical learning, and ‘triangulating’ knowledge and recognising the perspectives from which people communicate. Much of the learning took place in groups, and some of these groups took on ‘live’ problem solving with NGOs, as some of the examples in the book illustrate. Many guest lecturers from a wide field have made presentations to students: from leading environmental sceptics, to environmental campaigners, politicians, external technical specialists and the Chair of a Government Commission on safe radioactive waste disposal. This mix of the intellectual and practical, group learning and keynote presentations from leaders in the field has inspired many students to move into jobs and graduate research in the environmental field.

    As the two lead authors on the book, we would like to thank these colleagues for both their own contributions and the valuable feedback they have given us on our own work. We would also like to thank Robert Rojek at Sage for identifying the potential for translating these modules into a textbook in the first place, and for his enthusiasm, moral support and forbearance when the manuscript was delayed. Thanks also for the superb technical help from Sarah-Jayne Boyd and Vanessa Harwood.

    But most of all, we would like to thank 10 cohorts of students who have been a privilege to work with, and from whom we have learnt probably as much as they have from us. This is the next generation who are really going to have to grapple with difficult and complex problems, and who will need sharp political understanding and a sense of social and environmental justice if these problems are going to be resolved effectively and equitably. We would like to dedicate this book to them.

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