Summary: Week 8

by jacobbhunter

Bike, Jakarta Indonesia. Picture taken by Jonathan McIntosh, 2004. cc-by-2.0

The purpose of this series of posts is to provide an accessible reminder of the week’s compulsory classes. As such it’s of most interest to current students on one of the environmental master’s courses.

Disclaimer: as I’m writing this week do watch out for clanging errors!

Politics and Society this week started with a question from the World Values Survey, one that has been used by Ronald Inglehart as an indicator of an individual’s ‘post-material values’. This class continued to discuss the post-material value theory in more depth before looking at some other sources of environmental values, such as religion and material concerns.

The Natural Resources class this week was really the logical next step after the Politics and Society class. Both accepted that individuals might hold ‘environmental views’ but not actually act upon them. Hence, to motivate people we need to understand people better, and to bring in ideas from other disciplines, e.g. psychology. At the same time we should look at extra-personal factors – is the environmentally friendly behaviour we want to encourage as easy as possible?

There was a lot more subtlety in this class than I am able to express in a paragraph or two. My favourite idea (though a very small part of the lecture) is that we can ‘be green’ without even needing to be concerned with the issues involved. Necessity, ease or social norms may dictate that we reuse, cycle to work, or grow some of our own food. Like re-using milk bottles in years gone by (does anyone have reliable figures for waste and energy saved through re-use?), or some of the agriculture in Cuba, being more ecologically friendly can be normal and positive.

A Tank at the Buncefield Depot, sixteen months after the explosion. Note the tree is still alive! Photo by Nigel Cox, licence: CC BY-SA 2.0

Environmental Issues continued with the series on issues relevant to our assessment. This week focusing on the 2005 Buncefield oil depot fire. There were a number of rather surreal photographs of petrol vapour from the investigation reports.

In Research Skills and Data Analysis we had a whirlwind tour of various statistical tests in SPSS (it’s all on Moodle!). I know there’s a huge diversity of prior-learning in this class, with some people having recent and fairly deep knowledge, and others having never done any statistics before. Myself I am somewhere in the middle, and having grappled with these things in the past I can only recommended putting some time in now to understand the key concepts. What we’re being asked to do is eminently understandable, but perhaps we could allow some time in our Friday discussion class to run through any shared challenges. Statistical knowledge, applied well, is really, really useful.

Oh… statistics with jokes you say? OK, so this gets a bit deep and biological, but do watch the first two minutes for the humour!