Conflict and Cheetahs

by Claudia Carter

The news of endangered species, extinctions and near extinctions seems hardly to bat many eyelids or feature in news channels.  Unless it is a species which seems to strike a chord or has some sort of direct meaning.  And here, the cheetah features.

Cheetah Outreach Trust_photo by Thierry Plaud

Cheetahs are known for their speed. Photo: Thierry Plaud, Cheetah Outreach

For me, living in England, and not a great fan of caged animals / zoos, thinking about cheetahs was triggered about a year ago when I received an email from Rosie Wilkes who works at the West Midland Safari Park and in her spare time helps raise awareness and support for Cheetah Outreach.  Not teaching biology or environmental conservation as such I thought what on earth does this have to do with my modules, amongst it ‘Complexity, Conflict and Resolution’ for the MSc Environmental Sustainability which focuses on environmental governance and conflict resolution.  As it turned out, much more than I had anticipated. [Read more…]


Runway economics or plane stupid?

by Claudia Carter

How much airport expansion is good for society? (Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Runway,_Heathrow_airport.jpg?uselang=en-gb)

How much air traffic expansion is good for society? (Source: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File: The_Runway,_Heathrow_airport.jpg?uselang=en-gb)

 

Development debates often tend to juxtapose environmental concerns with the need for economic growth and job creation. The decision by Parliament today to support the expansion of Heathrow Airport with a third runway, is a good case in point.  An expansion, no doubt, will create more jobs in construction and transport industry, and is likely to result in all sorts of knock-on retail and service-related economic benefits (also a very good job and research opportunities for our building surveying, quantity surveying and engineering students).  There is also of course a long list of environmental and social impacts that are rather unattractive, such as a significant increase in air pollution (from airplanes and increases in associated road traffic) and noise pollution and vibration for those living near the airport, as many prominent politicians and (environmental and resident) lobby groups have highlighted.

Who wins? Who loses? We may be able to quickly identify obvious winners – such as construction firms; air travel companies and supply chain; business and private air travellers – and losers, for example those experiencing the noise and vibration; tax payers who prefer green investment; further deterioration of land, water and air-encompassing ecosystems.  What is rarely talked about in such balance sheets, however, are the indirect but heavy prices paid by society overall.  [Read more…]


Spielberg, Dystopia and … Birmingham

by David Adams and Wil Vincent

Birmingham Street used in Spielberg'd forthcoming film

Spielberg in Birmingham. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/28978795090

Some people will have picked-up on Steven Spielberg’s recent visit to Birmingham.  The director of E.T., Jaws, Schindler’s List, Jurassic Park and current hit The BFG was shooting footage for his dystopian sci-fi thriller, Ready Player One – the film adaptation of the award-winning novel by Ernest Cline.  Set in 2044 with many people living in bleak stacks of homes piled on top of each other; this forms a rather grim urban backdrop.  Photographs of the Birmingham filming locations posted on Twitter, for example, show graffiti-covered walls, streets covered with litter and smashed cars.[i]  The film is scheduled for release in 2018.

Pollution, over-crowding, man-made and natural disasters, and controlling forces of surveillance, all feature [Read more…]


Green water, gold medals and, er, infrastructure!

by David Adams

Swimmer sitting on jumping board and looking  at green water body

Peering into to the green depths. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/midnightcomm/688063200

The Olympic Games in Rio are in full flight and the gold medal rush continues. Much talk in recent days, though, has focused on how the diving pool has turned from a sparkly azure blue colour at the beginning of the Games to something with a peculiarly green and murky tinge.  Various explanations have been put forward to explain what has happened, though it is still not entirely clear why.[i]  Divers have been assured that the water is safe, and the competition continued, but the event has stirred some deep-rooted fears regarding water quality.

Concerns about water extend beyond the Olympics.  In Beijing, for example, the city is experiencing dramatic subsidence because of the extraction of groundwater; [Read more…]


The missing E and C

by Claudia Carter

Recent political changes have made one thing clear, when it comes to discussions regarding the Environment and Climate change, the talk is weak and the walk in tiny steps, confused or on a retracting path. The Brexit vote waved goodbye to EC membership – for some plausible concerns but largely a fog of nebulous ‘facts’, figures and fairy-tales. But the lack of informed debate, transparency and ‘good news’ continues. The last few weeks have been a political spectacle and a series of short-lived headlines, reporting (or not) one incisive event after another. In terms of decision-making, some interesting and worrying characteristics keep occurring. While change is unavoidable it is not necessarily always for the better as a mixture of new and older changes, in my view, signal.

  1. BBC website

Blog 34 illustration BBC website interfaceLet’s start with something seemingly quite banal, such as the revamp of the BBC website just over a year ago.  The dedicated Environment section, which was useful and informative, disappeared [Read more…]


Shake the foundations: resilience and planning for infrastructure

by David Adams

Blog 33 Resilience sign_smallerThere is a growing literature on resilient environments; indeed, the term resilience has been hotly debated, discussed, and in some instances, roundly dismissed.  It lies outside of the reach of this blog to unpick the various threads of these arguments in any detail.  However, I will limit the focus to one area of resilience, which is embodied in the ‘100 Resilient Cities’ initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, with the expressed ambition of ‘helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century’.[i]  Such an approach is perhaps representative of broader concerns regarding the need to incorporate resilience thinking into planning, engineering and design-based initiatives that ensure the urban fabric can withstand, and positively respond to, a whole range of anthropogenic and ‘natural’ threats – earthquakes, fires, flood, and so on.[ii]  These recent ambitions chime with broader historical arguments regarding the paradoxical nature of cities.   [Read more…]


Pokémon Go – Possibilities and problems for augmented reality and the environment

Pokémon Go in action. Source: https://pixabay.com/en/pokemon-pokemon-go-pocket-monster-1543353/ (last accessed 3 August 2016)

Pokémon Go in action. Source: https://pixabay.com/en/pokemon-pokemon-go-pocket-monster-1543353/ (last accessed 3 August 2016)

by David Adams

There is currently a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for the recently released Pokémon Go.  It has been a great hit in many parts of the world: players walk around seeking out hidden monsters overlaid on the world around them, whilst tracking down real-life locations ‘tagged’ as stops in the game.  It is estimated that the game has been downloaded 15 million times since its release at the beginning of July.[i]  Gaming technology, as many would attest, has rich potential for a variety of disciplines and professions, and this recent example has been heralded by some as being something that encourages people, especially youngsters, to engage with the built and natural environment in new and exciting ways.[ii]  But the recent experience of Pokémon Go also raises some provocative questions about how individuals relate to their real-world environments.  [Read more…]


I sit and watch as tears goes by …

by David Adams

Keith Richards by Nico7Martin

A forthcoming documentary draws on Keith Richards’ experiences of growing up in wartime and post-Second World War Britain. Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nico7martin/8805498640

An hour-long documentary, directed by the film-maker Julien Temple, is shining light on Keith Richards’ formative years growing up in post-war Britain. According to recent media accounts, the Rolling Stones stalwart, a native of Dartford, Kent, will star in the film Keith Richards – The Origin of the Species, directed by Julien Temple, which will be at the centre of the BBC’s My Generation season exploring the importance of popular music in the mid-to-late-twentieth century. The film draws on Richards’ recollections of how he evaded being killed by a bomb in the Second World War, when it is reported that his cot was showered with bricks and mortar. The documentary also explores Richards’ attitude to the various physical and societal changes of the 1950s and 1960s: “There was a feeling in the late Fifties and Sixties that there was a change coming […] I certainly felt […] it’s time to push the limits”. [Read more…]


Development in Birmingham’s Green Belt has just been approved

IMG_1410_Birmingham greenbelt to be used for 6000 new homes_small

In this audio blog, Alister Scott critically explores the implications for the West Midlands and Green Belt in an assessment of the recent Birmingham Local Plan approval by the Inspector which gave the green light for building 6000 homes in the Green Belt.

Alister Scott on Green Belt ruling in Birmingham and its wider implications_22 April 2016


Studying Architectural Technology at BCU has been the best decision I have made

by Sagal Rooble

AT_BSBE_Blog29Recently graduating from Birmingham City University I have been exposed to the Architecture/Construction working environment right away. It’s been already four months since starting work and wow time has flown by so quickly before my eyes. I am happier than ever with the progress that I have been making for the past few months. This has been a great learning curve for me transitioning from a student to a professional in the construction industry. I couldn’t have asked for a better company to start with right after graduating. The transition from being a student to a training professional in the Architecture/Construction industry has been a real eye opener. [Read more…]