I have just landed at CCRI from my other life as an Environmental Science student at UWE. And I must say it’s quite the shift from ecological theory and chemistry labs to qualitative data and policy papers. So, why the sudden change?
Well, for a while now I have had an interest the lives of farmers and different farming techniques, which developed from my time spent living and working on organic farms after college. I was fascinated by how our food is grown and how so much of the world’s ecosystems are managed. Then, several years ago as part of a permaculture course, I had a lecture from Jyoti Fernandes of the Land-Workers Alliance. This further revealed to me the interplay between farmers, politics, the environment and economics. Since that time, the notion of limiting my learning to one specific discipline seemed ludicrous. However, I had to start somewhere, so I decided to start with the science. This was based on the notion that science trumps politics; when it comes down to it, the natural processes of the physical world will play out irrespective of what humans want or believe. I have learned so much in the past two years; not just the facts and figures, but a whole new way of thinking, of approaching everything with a degree of scepticism, and of questioning the legitimacy behind even my strongest ideals. But there is always more to learn.
From my experience of Environmental Science as a discipline, it is a bit too narrow for me. There is little focus on the complex working of human society (also known as the “anthroposphere”, the human element of the earth system, considered too unpredictable to incorporate into IPCC climate models). There is even less acknowledgement of the real lives of real people who are getting pounded on all sides by both societal and natural processes. A lecturer once said to me, “I’m a scientist. I don’t care about people, I care about the truth.” This bothered me. I am not for a second trying to devalue importance of highly specialised empirical research, but I do care about people, and this to me was a powerful reminder of how easy it is to lose sight of the bigger picture. If I was going to pursue my real passion – that is, people, farmers, communities, and practical grassroots solutions – I would need to expand my horizons.
So, this is how I ended up at CCRI. I saw it as an opportunity to branch out, to extend my academic experience to social sciences by looking at the complex behaviours and attitudes of people in rural communities. I am just two weeks in and still not entirely sure what to expect from the coming year, but I am hoping to come out with a better understanding of the relationship between academic research and real world, practical solutions. No doubt I am in for many new challenges and I can’t wait to get stuck in!