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Crop of ‘Annihilation — Spanish’ by vanderfrog | cc by 2.0 | https://flic.kr/p/o9Rwmx

In this essay, Amber Huff and Nathan Oxley reflect on questions that have emerged through Natures, the STEPS Centre’s theme throughout 2020.

Dear Reader,

I hope that this essay finds you well in these turbulent times.

When we last reached out in this format nearly one year ago, at the beginning of 2020, it was with a reflection on stories about Nature — or rather, Natures. …


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Grêve du climat — Climate strike, by Gustave Deghilage on Flickr (cc-by-nc-nd 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/SsiAos

by Nathan Oxley and Sophie Marsden, Institute of Development Studies

The UN Climate Summit next week in New York will once again convene governments to discuss the intimidating challenge of how to coordinate action around climate change. Around the world, a series of strikes are planned to show the depth of support — led by young people, but involving those of all ages — for radical transformation. It’s a useful moment to reflect on the different strategies that we have for understanding and acting on climate change.

While climate has grabbed the headlines in a big way in 2019, it’s linked to a whole host of other challenges and changes: in development, politics, ecologies and economies. …


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The Second Trumpet, from the Cloisters Apocalypse (1330)

by Nathan Oxley, ESRC STEPS Centre

In a parliamentary debate in London about climate change and ecology on 1 May, the debate turned to scripture to describe the scale of the problem. “We face catastrophes of biblical proportions: droughts, pestilence, famine, floods, wildfires, mass migration, political instability, war and terrorism. Global civilisation as we know it will be gone by the end of the century unless we act.”

The biblical language is no accident. The growing discussion of global climate and ecology in terms of an emergency goes hand in hand with a flourishing of religious expressions of grief and reflection that respond to worries over an uncertain future. Stefan Skrimshire, reporting on the Extinction Rebellion protests in London, points out that religious participation in protest is nothing new, but the way climate change is now discussed raises feelings of ‘existential’ anxiety and, with it, a new search for meaning. …


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Original image: 1961, Designer Janusz Stanny, Brain Puzzles (cc by 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/9AvLZY

by Andy Stirling, Adrian Ely and Fiona Marshall

This is one in a series of four blog posts exploring ideas and case studies on ‘transformations’, drawing on research carried out in 2017 and looking forward to the STEPS Centre’s work in 2018. For background and links to the other posts, read the introduction.

There is no shortage of big problems in the world. Food, water, climate, energy, biodiversity, disease and war all provoke demands for ‘transformation’. But tackling all this is not just about solving ‘grand challenges’ with big solutions. …


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Purple and Pink Table Top Christmas Trees at Michaels Art Supply, by Lynn Friedman on Flickr (cc by-nc-nd 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/dCLcfM

Right, it’s Christmas, and it’s nearly 2018. But why? About two millenia later, the first Christmas defines the date for many of us. It’s not often that an event makes people mark time in such a radical way: history (for a large part of humanity, though by no means all), after the fact, is divided into two sections — BC and AD. We may take the date for granted, but this kind of division between past and future is a big deal, and it matters right now how we deal with it.

People make lines in the sand: pre and post. That is pre-that; this is post-this. Post-9/11; pre-internet; post-colonial; pre-Roman; post-industrial. Epoch making puts chapters into history. They can be tiny too. 2017 is dead, long live 2018. Epoch-makers — be they men and women, or machines — are held up as agents, not just of change, but of transformation. Everyone is implicated, and there is no going back. …


How a research programme with capacity-building at its heart is helping efforts to shed light on livestock disease and antimicrobial resistance in the world’s fastest-growing pig producing country.

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Myanmar’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory

In a laboratory in steamy corner of a compound in the northern outskirts of Yangon, the workload for a team of technicians and microbiologists has more than doubled over the past year. But while the number of biological samples processed in this lab has multiplied, the time taken to undertake the work has eased — and the results obtained are now many times more accurate.

Until recently, the ageing and limited facilities at Myanmar’s Livestock Breeding and Veterinary Department (LBVD) Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory meant that the capacity for testing livestock samples from farms and abattoirs for signs of disease was limited and time-consuming. Staff worked hard to deliver a good service, but with limited facilities it was an uphill struggle. …


This impact story, one of a series from the ESRC STEPS Centre, shows how we engaged in processes around the Sustainable Development Goals.

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A roadside display in New Delhi, India, listing the Sustainable Development Goals. Photo: ESRC STEPS Centre

In 2015, a new set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals were formally adopted by members of the United Nations. They followed on from the previous set of 8 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

There are some key differences this time around. Sustainability is now central, and the goals apply explicitly to all countries, not just ‘developing’ ones. …


This impact story, one of a series from the ESRC STEPS Centre, shows how our research revealed new insights about science, technology and innovation. From the ‘New Manifesto’ to work on ‘grassroots’ innovation, STEPS researchers have opened up conversations around the world, exploring how citizens can be better involved in shaping the kinds of technologies, innovations and science that can contribute to more sustainable futures.

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Roundtable in Sri Lanka on 31 March 2010, part of the project ‘Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto’.

Science, technology and innovation can be crucial to creating prosperity and wellbeing, but there are big assumptions about how they do it. One is that investing in innovation and technology is bound to speed countries towards economic growth as part of a process of modernisation, with benefits trickling down to the poor. …


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Discussion at a T-Lab in South Africa on the food system. All photos: GRAID / Laura Pereira

In this blog post, Laura Pereira explains the idea of a ‘Transformation Lab’ (T-lab). T-labs are being used in our Pathways Network project in 6 countries to try to enable socio-ecological transformations. In the post, Laura uses an example of a completed T-lab from the GRAID research project in South Africa.

For a short summary of T-labs, view a slideshow prepared by Laura and Per Olsson of the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

As part of our GRAID research project, the food team at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST) convened two T-labs (Transformation Labs) designed to interrogate and strengthen an alternative food system in the Western Cape, South Africa. …


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Arduino, an open source electronics platform. Photo: fotero on Flickr (cc by-nc 2.0) https://flic.kr/p/efM34w

by Patrick van Zwanenberg, Mariano Fressoli, Valeria Arza and Adrian Smith

Around the world, people are changing how things are made and how knowledge is produced, by involving more people, opening up data, and sharing skills and insights with these activities across communities, countries or continents.

Experimentation with radically open and collaborative ways of producing knowledge and material artefacts can be found everywhere — from the free/libre and open-source software movement to citizen science initiatives, and from community-based fabrication labs and makerspaces to the production of open-source scientific hardware. …

About

STEPS Centre

An ESRC Centre exploring how sustainability relates to politics, development, science & technology. Hosted at IDS + SPRU, Sussex University. steps-centre.org

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