After attaining a BSC in Ecology, an MSc in Nature Conservation, and a Ph.D. in Geography, I concentrated the first years of my career in undertaking extensive fieldwork and research within Brazil, Italy and Vietnam, heading the development of decision support systems for environmental management. I am currently involved in research within Brazil and Guyana exploring the use of visual communication tools and holistic frameworks for supporting the grassroots capture and dissemination of community owned solutions.
I aim to engage with environmental and social justice issues not only as a teacher and researcher, but also as part of a family, a local community member and an activist. By growing vegetables on two allotments, having hens in our back garden and using local and/or Fairtrade/organic companies, we have managed to boycott large supermarket chains for the last 10 years. I have also boycotted flying for leisure purposes for the last seven years.
At a local level, I am part of the Transition Town movement, and in particular, spearheading the establishment of community groups to promote self-reliance, adaptability and resilience.
I am a supporter of CND, Friends of the Earth, Tradecraft, Avaaz.org, FairShares, the New Economics Foundation, the UK Green Party, Triodos Bank, myc4.com and Amnesty International.
I promote, facilitate and design systems for social justice and ecological sustainability. Major recent projects include:
- the production and presentation of courses in systems thinking and practice and environmental management.
- helping indigenous communities in South America identify, record and disseminate their own solutions to emerging challenges. See http://projectcobra.org/
The main focus of my research at the moment is collaboration in a €1.9 million EU project called COBRA (September 2011 to August 2014):http://projectcobra.org/.
The COBRA project is investigating the impact of new funding sources aimed at addressing emerging challenges, such as climate change, on indigenous communities in the Guiana Shield region of South America (incorporating the northern watershed of the Amazon Basin, and the Atlantic watersheds of Columbia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana). These indigenous communities are often the most marginalised sectors of society. The project is also investigating how civil society organisations are able to work with indigenous communities in order to respond more effectively to these new funding opportunities. The lessons learnt from the project will be used to build capacity in a wide range of indigenous communities and influence how policy is developed and delivered in the region and other parts of the world.
I am happy to support original and interdisciplinary Ph.D. level researchers working around the theme of social justice and ecological sustainability but who have had difficulties in obtaining supervisory support elsewhere. I currently have three part-time and two full-time Ph.D. students:
- Cheryl Byrne, who has managed to complete her MSc in Environmental Decision-Making with the OU while running a farm and supporting her father through his battle with dementia. Her research is currently focusing on promoting socially and ecologically viable support systems for people suffering from dementia;
- Iku Masunari, who also completed her MSc in Environmental Decision-Making with the OU, is about to embark on an investigation on how puppet theatre could be promoted as a novel approach for education for sustainability (in contrast to the current dominant approach which is heavily reliant on the sciences).
- Neill Hogarth, who completed his degree with the OU, and took my course in systems thinking and practice. He is currently exploring the design process for providing wireless Internet connectivity within isolated indigenous communities of the North Rupununi, Guyana.
- Geraud de Ville, initially a colleague on http://projectcobra.org/, but now dedicating his efforts to researching indigenous rights and cyber activism within South America.
- Ian-James Clanton is working with indigenous communities of Nicaragua to investigate their use of 'living architecture' in order to create sustainable urban environments.