Finally making some connections to other environmentally inclined people


in Daily updates, Oxford, Politics, The environment

Statue in BathAfter the interview for the mood study and our qualitative methods class, I attended a talk delivered as part of the Linacre Lecture Series, as run by the Environmental Change Institute. It was given by John Gummer MP, of whom I had no prior knowledge, but whose presentation I found quite impressive. He managed to convey a great deal of useful information about environmental policymaking in a way that wasn’t obscured through the excessive use of jargon. While some of the solutions he presented may have been a bit over-simplified, his overall tone of optimism and humour was very much appreciated. Especially interesting was his mini-tirade at the end against an environmental perspective founded in what he described as a Puritanical ideal of misery and self-denial.

While the speech was heavily focused on domestic policy – in areas like energy, waste management, and transport – it nevertheless made points that were more broadly applicable. When I asked him afterwards about fisheries – having learned that he is Chairman of the Marine Stewardship Council as well having served as UK Environmental Secretary from 1993-1997 – he expressed both a severe concern and a realistic perspective on the prospect for improvement. Another international matter that came up a number of times during the questions was that of cheap airline flights. He made the strong point that taxing the fuel that makes up 10% of the cost of a £20 ticket isn’t going to change anyone’s behaviour. His long-term idea of a personal carbon allowance, which could be traded or used against things like such flights, was a more inventive answer that you expect to hear at the end of such a speech.

In summary, the speech was effective and humorous. Very well captured was the essential concept that it isn’t enough to make people aware of environmental issues – or even to make them care about them in a general sense. What is necessary is the creation of institutional and legal mechanisms that make it both easy and economically efficient to behave in an environmentally responsible manner and both difficult and expensive to do otherwise. That happens through things like internalizing the full cost of transport or waste production.

Afterwards, I found myself in a cluster of wool-clad Canadians, most of them doing Master’s degrees over at the Environmental Change Institute. That is to say, the degree that I sometimes wish I had chosen to do, particularly after spending whole days reading about elements of large-I large-R International Relations that are only tangentially related to my intended research topic. It was particularly interesting to meet Erin Freeland, from Yellowknife, who is doing a Master’s with the ECI and with whom I’ve agreed to swap notes on the respective programs. A bit more interchange between the Department of Politics and IR and the ECI would serve both quite well, I think.

Now I am off to try and convince a recalcitrant external hard drive (not mine) to exchange data with a computer that has so far proven unwilling to speak to it.

PS. Speaking with Edwina – a D.Phil student in the DPIR and friend and collegemate of Claire’s – and Shohei during the period between qualitative methods and the John Gummer talk was both intriguing and valuable.

PPS. I am buying a bike with my brain scan experiment money. Does anyone know which place in Oxford is best for getting a decent used bike, as well as lights and a helmet (to protect the brain for future scans)?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

B March 2, 2006 at 8:26 pm

Today’s photo:

Documentary value: 4/7
Artistic value: 5/7

Anonymous March 2, 2006 at 9:11 pm

Erm, did you actually look at the website linked here? I don’t think you and the right honourable Member of Parliament see eye to eye on everything:

“Euthanasia, like abortion, is fundamentally wrong. It is also overwhelmingly open to abuse. Euthanasia would further diminish the value of life and create a society where imperfection or relative weaknesses begins to cast doubt on a person’s right to life.”

At least, I hope not.

Tony March 2, 2006 at 9:14 pm

Gummer became kind of notorious at the time of the Mad Cow disease scare, for illustrating his entire confidence in British beef by feeding a burger to his young daughter. Even those who agreed that British beef was safe, thought this was a cruel and unnatural treatment.

R.K. March 3, 2006 at 1:00 am

This is the trouble with politicians – you need to keep track of the entirety of their career before you can praise them for anything. You can deride them, of course, over a single matter.

Ben March 3, 2006 at 10:58 am

Do NOT use the ‘Cycle King’ on Cowley Rd. (The big red and yellow one)

Not sure who I would recommend for 2nd hand though. Tried the police? Apparently they sometimes sell unclaimed recoveries…

Kate March 3, 2006 at 2:35 pm

OUSUhas a webpage dedicated to all things bike which has the names and addresses of some second hand bike sellers. You might also want to see if Wadham (or another college) is doing a bike clear out (loads of people dump their bikes in college at the end of the year as they can’t be bothered to take them home and every so often the college clears them out to make space) where you might be able to get one cheap.

As for accessories, if you can’t find what you want at the shops listed by OUSU there is always Wiggle which I have found to be reliable and cheap.

And there’s always Ebay for both. Quite a few people from Oxford sell their bikes on there so if you didn’t want to pay delivery you could probably find someone near enough to pick it up from.

Milan March 3, 2006 at 3:54 pm

eBay is not well stocked with bikes near Oxford. There are only 14 and they are all either for children of more than 100GBP.

Anonymous March 3, 2006 at 3:59 pm

As a rule of thumb, be prepared to spend 10% of the cost of your bike on a lock. And we would suggest that regardless of the cost of your bike you spend at least £10, as we haven’t seen any sub £10 lock that would stop a thief for more than 30 seconds. Always buy a purpose made cycle lock – unless you spend a lot of money a padlock and chain will not be up to the job.

Anonymous March 5, 2006 at 1:29 pm

you should keep an eye on for bikes – it’s oxford only so you know anything there will be local.

Milan March 5, 2006 at 1:36 pm

I don’t like the look of this page. There is no way to tell whether the bikes here are stolen or not. Also, since there are no photos or descriptions, it’s not very useful.

Anonymous March 6, 2006 at 9:21 am

Yes, the descriptions are quite bad. However, the site has such low traffic that I don’t really think bike thieves would bother with it. In my experience the users tend to be students/alumni…

Just one the check occasionally I think.

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