Words by Beth Pratt, News Print Editor

The University of Sussex will be hosting online events to “draw a wider awareness to the climate change debate” as part of The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) of Social Science next month. 

This year, the longstanding national festival will take place simultaneously with COP26 – the UN Climate Change Conference. Therefore, the focus of the festival will be surrounding the environment.

The annual celebration of the social sciences aims to promote awareness of UK social science research to new audiences. Several University of Sussex social scientists will be holding online and in-person events to discuss important environmental ideas.

This comes after Sussex University outlined last summer plans to achieve a net zero carbon footprint within 15 years. The Sustainable Sussex strategy has been co-created by students, staff and stakeholders to overhaul the university’s heating, transport and supply chains to become one of the world’s most sustainable universities.

This year the festival will be held from the 1st – 30th November 2021 and will cover topics such as carbon footprint, environmental activism, biological and cultural diversity as well as the social and economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Two events will feature a number of prominent academics whose research is having tangible effects on environmental discourse, playing into key reports and policy decisions.

Hosted by Dr Sonja Ayeb-Karlsson and Professor Dominic Kniveton from the School of Global Studies, Beyond Finance – Climate (Im)Mobility and Wellbeing will aim to shift the focus away from the climate crisis as an economic crisis to explore the human-side of climate impacts.

Looking at how research shapes and informs international and national policy on climate change, the conversation will explore the intersection of climate change, wellbeing and health, and (im)mobility, displacement and migration from research with communities experiencing both slow onset and shock events.

Towards a Fossil Fuel Treaty, hosted by Peter Newell, Professor of International Relations and Andrew Simms, author, activist and co-director of the New Weather Institute and co-founder of the Rapid Transition Alliance, will examine the continuing role of fossil fuels. It will use research and the experience of the hosts that has fed into national government policy and contributed to the basis of a letter signed by 100 Novel Laureates – including the Dalai Lama.

The Carbon Footprint of What You Eat will take place from 6pm – 7:30pm on Monday 1st November. The online event will focus on the role of food in climate change and the actions that consumers can take to reduce their impact. It will aim to demystify the role of food and food production in climate change so that consumers are armed with the knowledge necessary to make informed decisions when shopping for food.

Another online event, Creating a Generation of Environmental Activists, will look at the role that psychology can play in helping to train the campaigners of tomorrow. The 90-minute talk, taking place on Wednesday 10th November between 4pm – 5:30pm, will look at how to encourage individual behaviour change, such as reducing flying and meat consumption; how groups can work together to create wider change in society and the place of humans in nature and the benefit of green spaces.

Not all events are online. There will be a number of in-person events designed to engage the local population. Objects That Matter is an exhibition and creative workshop of ‘objects’ connecting children’s sustainability concerns across Global South-North.

Taking place on Saturday 6 November from 11am-12pm at Jubilee Library, it will ask parents and children to come and create their own objects, using different art materials, to show what things they believe are important in their local environments.  

The session will also include an exhibition of objects chosen and exchanged by children and young people in India (West Bengal), Ecuador (lowland Chocó) and the UK (Brighton). It will also include a short film about why these objects say something about their environments.

Another event that can be accessed in person (and online) is Sacha Taki (Songs of the Forest). Taking place at O N C A Barge at Brighton Marina from 7 – 8pm on 11th November, the short documentary will focus on the irrevocable links between biological and cultural diversity in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

The exhibition will underline the important part soundscapes play to the lives of those who call the Amazon rainforest home – a critical point of contact for communication between humans and all other beings in the forest.

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