SUSTAINABILITY AND THE ENVIRONMENT
I n so many sectors , and for so many reasons , people around the world are crying out for change . For the first time in human history , the internet and social media have created the means to have global conversations . Concern about how we are treating our planet and the impact this has on wellbeing is one of the hottest topics . The near-universal dissatisfaction reflects a shared wish to better nurture humanity in ways that also give the Earth ’ s biosphere a chance to cleanse and heal .
Internationally , this zeitgeist is captured by the United Nations ( UN ) Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs ). This worldwide call to action is driving reforms across social , economic , industrial , labour and ecological spheres relative to a common set of values . The hub around which these concerns revolve is action on climate change and ending poverty .
To help maintain momentum for an aspiration first articulated by 178 signatory countries in 1992 , the world meets again from 1 – 12 November in Glasgow , Scotland , which is co-hosting with Italy the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties ( COP26 ).
Despite past efforts to catalyse innovation , systemic change has proved elusive . In 2021 , the conversation at COP26 will move on from the science of climate change and segue to its impacts and the roadblocks to consensus and action , especially with regards to the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change .
Researchers from the University of Portsmouth are studying how the world can achieve scienceevidenced action , innovation and social change . Among them are Dr Cressida Bowyer , Dr Louis Netter and Dr Erika Hughes . Their expertise could prove vital in finding a way forward .
Creative change-makers While challenges confront developed and developing countries alike , some of the world ’ s poorer communities are leading the way in grassroots action . However , for them , pollution is a challenge with broader ramifications than just greenhouse gas emissions .
In Kenya , for example , residents of the Mukuru settlement in Nairobi rely on neighbouring industry for their livelihoods , but they refuse to be passive victims of its pollution and industrial waste .
Through partnerships with Dr Cressida Bowyer and a network of African and European researchers , the settlement is confronting pollution challenges in all its local manifestations .
A big part of the initiative ’ s success is the participation of local artists , such as Mukuru Kings , and rappers Rafat and Suby , who are embedding awareness and calls to action as part of cultural life in Mukuru , including the Hood2Hood festival . This project has also provided the means to produce music videos .
A powerful ( and extremely catchy ) example of this work is Mazingira , a music video about the importance of a clean environment filmed within Mukuru .
“ Successfully meeting climate change action is often indistinguishable from meeting seemingly unrelated crises , like air , land and water pollution from plastics dumped in the global south ,” Dr Bowyer says .
“ Getting at these problems is not readily achievable with a top-down approach and that ’ s where a different way to understand the problem and engage with it becomes essential .”
Dr Bowyer ’ s expertise lies in enabling precisely this kind of science-evidenced change . She works as a Senior Research Fellow for Revolution Plastics within Portsmouth ’ s Faculty of Science and Health and Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries . It is a bridging role she comes to naturally , having an atypical background as both a cancer researcher and , before that , a member of the provocative chart-topping group The KLF in the 1990s .
Her focus , alongside colleague Dr Louis Netter , is on developing engagement methods in which art is the language for community-based participatory action research . It has proven a useful expertise to include in humanitarian development projects internationally . Without it , researchers have found
PHOTO : JULIUS WAINAINA PHOTO : DENNIS WECHE
Participatory mapping for STEPP at Mukuru Youth Initiative .
( Far right ) Mukuru , informal settlement in Nairobi .
ISSUE 03 / 2021