Pathways to understanding the changing climate: time and place in cultural learning about the environment

Lead Research Organisation: University of Cambridge
Department Name: Archaeology & Anthropology

Abstract

To what extent are people aware of processes of environmental change over time, and how are such changes observed and reflected upon? Do people draw upon a knowledge of past environments in thinking about future environmental scenarios, including those associated with the changing climate? This project will develop innovative methodologies for engaging with the active perception of the environment in particular localities. Mike Hulme, in 'Why We Disagree About Climate Change', has argued that variations in the perception of climate change arise from different cultural outlooks on our natural and social worlds and different levels of exposure to climate risk. This points us towards the pressing need to find ways of eliciting and recording these cultural outlooks, while also leading us to ask: to what extent do people connect their local environmental knowledge with global processes?
In order to relate environmental transformations to the perceptions of processes such as climate change, it is necessary to have a detailed knowledge of how environmental experiences are shaped and narrated. We will gather and build a database of narratives and images exploring and reflecting upon environmental pasts and futures in East Anglia, a region with a long history of landscape flux and, due to its flat and low-lying nature, a particular vulnerability to processes of climate change. Recognising, in keeping with the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, that questions of intergenerational equity are central to our capacity to respond to the challenges of the changing environment, an integral part of our research will be the involvement of schools and schoolchildren. By walking pathways in the Fen landscape and by experiencing places, objects and images children will engage with different narratives and forms of expertise about the environment they are living in (from natural features to spirits and legends of the place). Working with the Greater Fens Museum Partnership, who have extensive experience of community and school outreach, we will organise a series of activity days in which schoolchildren will draw upon the narratives collected for the database, and work with artists, environmental scientists, and museum staff to generate creative responses to their regional environmental history. This will culminate in an exhibition, hosted by the Greater Fens Museum Partnership and curated by the children. These will give a valuable insight into the routes by which children are able to perceive and engage with environmental history, and how this feeds into visions of the future in the context of climate change. Outcomes from the schools projects and the exhibitions will be added to the database.
Climate change is experienced by communities in particular localities, but can only be understood as a global process. For this reason, an important part of our research will be to foster cross-cultural links between schools and grassroots organisations exploring the ways in which different localities can find common ground. Drawing on existing networks in regions where the Division of Social Anthropology has strong working relationships, especially Alaska, Mongolia, and Vietnam (but open to future collaborations elsewhere), we will explore the extent to which methods we are developing in the UK are applicable in these different research contexts and what lessons can be learned. By establishing connections between schools and organisations in the East Anglia with their counterparts elsewhere in the world, we will not only be exploring how communities perceive environmental change in their own locality, but also how they receive and respond to the experience of change elsewhere in the world. In addition to establishing virtual links, we will invite educators and community organisers from these diverse settings to participate in the workshops providing opportunities for interaction and knowledge transfer around issues of environmental change.

Planned Impact

We anticipate that outcomes of the project will be of benefit to policy makers at local and national level. As local authorities in the region have already sought to draw upon narrative memory in the formulation of policy, for example in the development of the Cambridgeshire Surface Water Management Plan, it has been indicated that our planned database of narratives of environmental change will be of particular interest for local government. On a national level, the University's Centre for Science and policy has organised meetings between researchers on the proposed project and Senior Civil Servants in the Department for Communities and Local Government, who have expressed a particular interest in the insight that anthropological research might bring to issues of planning, flood management, and regional adaptation to climate change. The Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs have also expressed interest in our previous Climate Histories network and have sought a meeting to discuss our research. Through maintaining contact with these policy makers and inviting them to become involved in project events (particularly the end-of-project workshop), we hope to maximise the opportunity for the outcomes of the project to have a wider influence.

We have worked closely with scientists who are actively involved in communication with policy makers, and the need for this research emerges from these collaborations: the Climate Histories network from which the current proposal emerges involves two lead authors in the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and the development of our work has also been encouraged by Charles Kennel of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Former Director of the NASA Mission to Planet Earth. Through continuing to work with our contacts through the network, and inviting our scientific colleagues to workshops over the course of the project we are not only confident that we have a route for disseminating the significance of our work for debates in the environmental sciences, but also that we are in a strong position to have the research incorporated in the process of communicating scientific findings to policy makers.

This project will be of particular benefit to schools, with school activity days and a museum exhibition to be curated by schoolchildren an integral part of our research programme. In order to ensure that schools activities reach a wider audience, we will liaise with the local authority to invite teachers from other schools in the area to participate in and observe the activity days; we will also work with a consultant with experience in classroom education to make the documentation of the activity days we are organising available on the WWW, so that the material can be used by teachers in the design of curriculum-relevant lesson plans.

We anticipate that the nature of our work, which will draw on the the rich potential of folklore and local beliefs of place to shape narratives of environmental change, will be of interest to publishers of children's literature. To this end we hope to develop existing links with the publishing industry and to invite children's publishers to our project workshops and to a viewing of the museum exhibition, in the hope that this can lead to the production of new forms of children's literature with benefits for environmental education.

Publications


10 25 50
 
Title Sensing landscapes: artists and children working together 
Description Our activities with young people encouraged them to interact with their environment and to explore that relationship: walking, talking, listening to stories and writing them, working with artists to create things in the present and working with archaeologists to think about the things that others left behind. They sent letters across the world to share some of their own lives with students living in very different conditions - asking about animals, and gardens, Minecraft and football, and often quite profound questions about friendship and family. And they made time capsules to send other messages forward in time. The artists' work is their own reflection of the creativity and enthusiasm they found whilst working with the primary school students in Wilburton and The Weatheralls School, Soham. Kyle Kirkpatrick's work draws on the children's curiosity about what lies beneath the ground under their feet and their reflections on how Soham has changed over time - and might change in the future. Rachel Wooller's work emerges from children's exploration and construction in the woods at Wilburton and thinking about how humans adapt to the shifting landscape. Through the photographs, taken during the walks which the children led us on, we invite you to take a journey across the landscapes through the children's eyes, and to enjoy the striking contrast of these places - as well as to consider how the fens, the tundra, the steppes and even the mountains offer similar challenges to inhabitants, particularly in the face of extreme environmental processes. 
Type Of Art Artistic/Creative Exhibition 
Year Produced 2016 
Impact The exhibition was feature in local press reports 
URL http://www.cire.group.cam.ac.uk/PathwaysProject/sensinglandscapes
 
Description Initial findings suggest that children in the East Anglia region develop distinct attitudes towards environmental change through play and narrative imagination, and that these attitudes often come into conflict with adult decision making surrounding those spaces. We have also identified key tensions between stakeholders in the East Anglia region (particularly between farmers and conservation bodies) who have significantly different moral frameworks surrounding land use and subsequently have divergent visions for the future of the region. Over the following 2 years of this project, further explored these themes through further research in schools and communities in East Anglia, and we also carried out comparative work with regions elsewhere in the world.
Exploitation Route Our work on children's perceptions of environmental change, in collaboration with students and teachers, can contribute to a better understanding of intergenerational dynamics in the region, and this will feed into policy representations to local government and civil society organisations (we have already been consulted on these issues by the Broads Authority and the Ouse Washes Landscape Partnership). This work in schools also has the potential to aid Key Stage 2 curriculum development in areas relevant to exploration of children's environments.

Where research discovers tensions between different stakeholders in the region, here again we will make representations to government and civil society organisations in order to guide planning decisions.

Finally, the ideas developed through this research have sown seeds of creative inspiration among artists and performers, as evidenced by artistic collaborations with Wysing Arts Centre, and by the development of Steve Waters' play 'In a Vulnerable Place' (funded by the Arts Council), which draws extensively on themes from our research.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
URL http://www.cire.group.cam.ac.uk/PathwaysProject
 
Description The Broads Authority have been sought our input on their future plans, and have been briefed on the findings of our initial work in schools. We will continue to work with the Broads Authority to inform them on issues of intergenerational differences in perceptions of the environment, and on the competing claims of particular stakeholders. We have also developed partnerships in the fenland region (through participation in our Year 1 workshop) that will seek policy briefing in the near future. Schools in the region have drawn on our ideas in their curriculum development, and students and teachers participated in our Year 1 workshop to share ideas on environmental education in dialogue with educators from the Alaska and Mongolia. Creative work emerging from our research includes collaborations with Wysing Arts Centre (the creation of environmental artwork in Barrington, and the involvement of a researcher from our team in the "History Rising" project exhibition), and by the development of Steve Waters' play 'In a Vulnerable Place' (funded by the Arts Council), which draws extensively on themes from our research. On the level of international policy, a researcher from our team has met with the Head of Polar Regions Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to brief them on findings from the cross-cultural elements of our project. Our work with schools has been instrumental in shaping teaching programmes, both here in the UK and abroad in Mongolia, Alaska, Mexico and South Africa. For example, one school has regularised a programme of archaeological investigation of their school grounds to support teaching of its Stone Age topic. We have made teaching resources available through our website which teachers are able to access and download for free.
First Year Of Impact 2013
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services
 
Description Cross-generational understandings of environment and climate change
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Curriculum Workshop: a trans-local meeting place for theory and practice in cultural learning about the environment
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
Impact The impact has taken place in primary schools in different global settings where the impacts of climate change are experiences in different ways. One clear impact was curriculum changes in schools in the UK, Mongolia and Mexico
 
Description Pathways project research for PGCE students
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description AHRC Development Grant
Amount £8,223 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/N007182/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 03/2016 
End 08/2017
 
Description AHRC follow on fund
Amount £98,000 (GBP)
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 02/2017 
End 02/2018
 
Description Childhood cognition and perception of environmental change
Amount £500 (GBP)
Organisation Philomathia Foundation 
Sector Academic/University
Country Canada
Start 06/2014 
End 12/2014
 
Description ESRC Impact Acceleration Account
Amount £22,000 (GBP)
Organisation Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 01/2014 
End 09/2014
 
Title Pathways Database 
Description Narratives and images exploring environmental pasts and futures in East Anglia, a region with a long history of landscape flux and, due to its flat and low-lying nature, a particular of climate change. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The database was launched at the end of the project and so there are no access statistics available to date. 
URL http://www.cire.group.cam.ac.uk/PathwaysProject
 
Description European Conference on Educational Research (ECER) Network 30: Environmental and Sustainability Education Research (ESER) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentations about the findings from the Pathways Project have taken place at EERA for 3 years running. These presentations have focused on different aspects of the project but in particular they have addressed a cross-cultural comparison of children's relationships to place and the impact of cross-cultural interchanges on children's understandings of place. Through this medium the findings of the project have been able to reach a network of over 300 members.
Significant outcome/impact: These presentations led to collaborations around the issues of (for example) teaching of global citizenship and the role of changing climates in children's articulations of place where new research and teaching projects are being developed and which current project members are involved with.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015,2016,2017
 
Description Interactive lecture for symposium marking the opening of the History Rising exhibition, Wisbech 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Richard Irvine gave an interactive presentation on the East Anglian fens for artists and museum curators, which led to increased interest in the specific social and environmental history of the region, as evidenced through questions, discussion, and further communication.

Participation has led to increased collaboration and engagement with the Wysing Arts Centre (organisers of the event).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
URL http://www.wysingartscentre.org/archive/wysing_on_tour/history_rising_marjolijn_dijkman_and_jes_fern...
 
Description Learning pathways through changing places 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact This event was an opportunity to bring together our research team with a) staff and pupils from schools in Cambridgeshire and Norfolk; b) civil society organisations (Ouse Washes landscape partnership) Broads Authority; and c) international educators from the USA and Mongolia. There was ample opportunity for the different participants to learn from one another and plan future activities for educational exchange.

As a result of the workshop, we have secured the participation of schools in the UK and internationally, and are now in the process of working with these schools throughout the coming years of the project. We have also secured the support of the civil society organisations in attendance, and gained support for staging exhibitions of work arising from the project from Prickwillow Drainage Museum and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.cire.group.cam.ac.uk/events/learning-pathways-through-changing-places
 
Description Learning your place through your feet: Linking localities through the curriculum 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact This event involved around 15 student teachers from two institutions. It consisted of presentations and discussions around the issues raised in the research and the teaching resources developed as an outcome of the work. The level of engagement with the topics was palpable through the questions that were raised by participants. Teachers talked about how they might be able to integrate the findings of our work into their teaching programmes. We also made copies of our publication (Environmental Education 114 spring 2017: Pathways to Understanding the Changing Climate: work with teachers and students in six countries) available to participants as reference material.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description Meeting with Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser, DEFRA 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Dr Richard Irvine met with Dr Fiona Harrison, Deputy Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. Over the course of an hour's discussion, Dr Irvine shared initial research findings on tensions between stakeholders (especially farmers and conservationists) in the region, and briefed Dr Harrison on differences in how people in the East Anglia region envisage the future given the impacts of climate change. This has led to continued communication between Dr Harrison and our research team.

Dr Harrison, on behalf of DEFRA, has remained in contact with our research team and sought further input on the issues arising in our meeting.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Meeting with Deputy Director for Climate Change, Scottish Government 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact In preparation for COP21, Dr Richard Irvine briefed Jonathan Ireland (Deputy Director for Climate Change, Scottish Government) on attitudes to climate change and climate change adaptation in the UK, compared to those in Mongolia. An hour's discussion has led to future consultation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Meeting with Director of Scientific and Evidence Services, Environment Agency 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Dr Richard Irvine briefed Professor Doug Wilson (Director of Scientific and Evidence Services, Environment Agency) on our findings about community engagement with environmental change in the UK. An hour's discussion has led to future consultation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Meeting with Director of the Thames Vision Project at the Port of London Authority 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Dr Richard Irvine briefed Katherine Riggs (Director of the Thames Vision Project at the Port of London Authority) on community engagement with environmental change and climate risk. An hour's discussion has led to future consultation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Meeting with Head of Climate Risk Team, Foreign and Commonwealth Office 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact In preparation for COP21, Dr Richard Irvine briefed Simon Sharpe (Head of Climate Risk Team, Foreign and Commonwealth Office) briefed Jonathan Ireland Deputy (Director for Climate Change, Scotish Government) on attitudes to climate change and climate change adaptation in the UK, compared to those in Mongolia. An hour's discussion has led to future consultation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Meeting with Head of Polar Regions Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact Dr Barbara Bodenhorn briefed Jane Rumble (Head of Polar Regions Department, Foreign and Commonwealth Office) on the cross-cultural elements of our research and on the need for links between the UK and the Arctic regions in regards to the intergenerational aspects of environmental policy. An hour's energetic discussion has led to future consultation.

Jane Rumble has remained in contact with Dr Bodenhorn to continue discussion of the matters arising.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014