Event Report: UCU #climate conference, #Manchester

So, “The Role of Education Institutions in tackling climate change”, a one day free (as a starving (cough, cough) PhD student, currently my favourite word) UK conference here in unseasonably sunny Manchester.

Started on time, with some Spartism which we could have been spared. Then Professor Julia King (Vice Chancellor of Aston University, also on the Climate Change Committee) and Dr Ken Thompson, Principal of Forth Valley College, talked about what they are doing around both their campuses (campi?) and their curricula. Interesting stuff (BREAM excellent buildings don’t come cheap. “Carbon Week” can be a struggle, especially for the Engineering Types, oil and gas still dominate.
They were asked good questions and gave some good answers (fwiw, I don’t think my Scope 3 question was answered very well, but tbf it is a mildly tricky one.)
Next up, Dr Carly McLachlan of Manchester Tyndall gave an engaging and frank talk about the opportunities and difficulties for academics working in the field of climate. She referenced the TED talk of her colleague Alice Bows-Larkin, and the public engagement activities of Prof Kevin Anderson. [see for example his Jan 2016 video on Paris, honesty and hope]  I had come to heckle, but the talk was so good I had not even the thinnest pretext. There was good stuff on the (Manchester?) Tyndall’s internal attempts to become aware of the pressures on (early career) academics to jet around the world in order to Make A Name For Themselves. Sitting alongside FOMO, that can lead to ‘hypocrite’ behaviour.
Professor Kate Rigby, newly appointed at Bath Spa Unviersity as Professor of Environmental Humanities, finished the morning session with a bravura trip through the role of Humanities in helping us helpless hairless apes get our “thinking kit” (two millimetres of neurons – I mean, really) around the dilemmas that our opposable thumbs and hubris have created. Things to look up (for After The Thesis)

Inevitably there were “questions” that were merely thinly-disguised (or butt naked) advertisements and rants. Yawn. These were dealt with well.
I left after lunch, because this bloody thesis is not writing itself, and even if it were, life is too short for Ministers, shadow or otherwise.
Perhaps some people who stayed and who are avid readers of MCFly might like to comment on the “Climate change and Finance” session and the plenary on “The Green Economy the role of education.”

Good side

  • Free lunch
  • Seeing really good chairing (take a bow Michael MacNeil, National Head of Bargaining and Negotiations of the UCU)
  • Seeing good presentations (see above)
  • Following the Rogers Protocol – (“Knowing when to walk away (and knowing when to run)

What was missing?

  • Any sense of actually helping people to create connections/ relationships. It’s a national conference, so yes, you can’t start at 9am, but you could start at 10.30 instead of 11, and that buys you an extra 15 minutes for lunch (30 mins is simply not enough). The idea that people will stick around after 3.30 on a Friday afternoon if they have come from further afield than, say, Levenshulme, is, um, optimistic. Also, no “turn to the person behind you/introduce yourself to someone you don’t know”, so people may well have clumped with those they knew, or gone lonely.
  • A sense of the history of previous (failed!) efforts at climate awareness- Why, given that climate change has been “on the agenda” since 1988, are we so backward? What have we been doing wrong?
  • We were basically seen as empty receptacles to be filled with knowledge. Information deficit model par excellence

About manchesterclimatemonthly

Was print format from 2012 to 13. Now web only. All things climate and resilience in (Greater) Manchester.
This entry was posted in academia, Event reports, Unsolicited advice. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Event Report: UCU #climate conference, #Manchester

  1. Kate Gilmartin says:

    Many thanks for the synopsis and the additional links to further reading. As ever, usefully informative and helpfully frank,

    Enjoy the (unseasonable) sunshine. Perhaps there should be a word/abbreviation in the urban dictionary that denotes the guilt felt when enjoying unseasonable weather….?


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