Knowledge for a sustainable world

Conor Walsh, Environmental Scientist, NRI |

What constitutes a global crisis? What differentiates it from a national or regional problem? By definition, a pandemic reflects a threat to human health that transcends territorial and jurisdictional boundaries. Ironically, the collective response to COVID-19 serves as a severing of the connections afforded by transit and free movements whilst simultaneously presenting a shared experience for many (and a set of practices that are shared by a substantial amount of people in many countries). Notwithstanding, changes to the quotidian may be vastly different for many people in lower and middle-income countries. Numerous studies have demonstrated the extent to which wealthy consumers are responsible for the larger proportion of global carbon emissions, in particular in relation to emissions due to transport [1].

A message from Professor Andrew Westby, Director of NRI

Dear friends of the Natural Resources Institute,

My colleagues and I at NRI hope that you and your families are well at this difficult time. The Coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic reminds us how we all live in a very interconnected world and the importance of working to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

This year, Bristol played host to the annual Post Graduate Forum of the Royal Entomological Society, an event organised by post-graduate students, for post-graduate students. Designed to give participants a gentle introduction to the world of scientific presentations, the two-day event provides an ideal platform for post-grads to network, share ideas and have some fun. Manuela Carnaghi, a member of the Society and a PhD student at NRI, took on the challenge of organising this year’s symposium and says the experience was a good one.

Personal account by Gillian Summers, NRI Communications Specialist

Green entry card and passport at the ready, I showed the guard my credentials and was waved inside the gates of Buckingham Palace, along with our group and the other winners of the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Further and Higher Education. We’d arrived earlier that cold, grey London morning, happy that it wasn’t yet raining as we took photographs outside the railings of the Palace. In our group were Professor Jane Harrington, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, Professor Andrew Westby, Director of NRI, NRI staff Professor David Hall, Professor Steven Belmain, Dr Frances Hawkes, and I (Gillian Summers), and PhD students Christina Conroy, Christopher Imakando, and Manuela Carnaghi. Inside the Palace, we were joined by the Chancellor of the University of Greenwich, Lord Boateng.

In recognition of NRI’s applied research into pests and their sustainable management, the University of Greenwich has been honoured with a prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize. The formal presentation of the prize took place on the morning of 20th February at Buckingham Palace – the official residence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Granted by the Queen every two years, the Prizes are the highest national honour awarded in UK further and higher education, celebrating the impact of education on public life and human progress.

Linden Kemkaran, Caroline Troy, Gillian Summers

In the UK in 2020, only 30% of University Vice-Chancellors are women. This may seem low, but the figure has doubled in the last 10 years. At the beginning of December last year, the University of Greenwich welcomed new Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jane Harrington, whose own research background includes gender equality in the workplace. Across the higher education (HE) sector in the UK, almost half of academic staff are women, though only a quarter of professors are women.

When we see a vast area of flooded, marshy land, do we ever stop and think about what it’s worth? Probably not, largely because wetland benefits are not directly bought or sold in financial markets so may not be properly identified. However, wetlands are highly complex ecosystems that can provide a huge range of benefits to people, the environment, and the economy. Making these multiple benefits visible has been the challenge of a week-long exhibition by WetlandLIFE, a project led by the University of Greenwich with staff from the School of Humanities and Social Sciences and NRI, together with other academic partners.

There is a place called Ajaligado, in a parish called Ayal, in Alito sub-county, Kole District, in northern Uganda. On the day of our visit, about 25 members of the ‘Alito Cassava Growers’ Association’, met under the trees beside their cassava fields and next to their processing station, to talk to us about their experiences. There were fifteen men and nine women.

What is social mobility and why does it matter? Social mobility refers to the extent to which a person’s social or economic situation changes, and can incorporate income, educational attainment, occupation or health. Should the socioeconomic status of one’s parents determine where an individual ends up in life? What does it take, in different countries, for a person from a working-class, impoverished or minority background family to make it into the best educational institutions and top occupations in society?

In west Africa where cassava is a staple food, much of the crop is processed into gari (roasted granules) at small-scale levels, mostly by women in their homes or in women’s processing groups. When water is added to gari it’s like an instant food, it can be mixed into a dough from which many food items can be made. Before it becomes an ‘instant’ food, however, cassava must be processed, a laborious task done by hand by many people in the region. As a result, a significant amount of cassava is lost due to the current lack of rapid processing facilities available to smallholders in rural areas.