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Department of Geography


Risk, Resilience and Environmental Governance reading group

This reading group is no longer running.

The “Risk, Resilience and Environmental Governance” reading group was launched in October 2013 and is co-convened by Dr Amy Donovan and David Christian Rose.

It builds on the previously very successful reading groups convened by Dr Hauke Riesch and Dr Amy Donovan at CRASSH (‘Risk and uncertainty’ reading group) and also by Dr James Palmer in the Department of Geography (‘Travelling Knowledges’ reading group). This new reading group seeks to amalgamate these two audiences and also seeks to cover new ground and welcome new members.

Understanding and managing risk has become integral for environmental governance in a ‘risk society’ (Beck, 1992) and it is vital that environmental scientists and policy-makers alike learn to view risk in a similar way in order to formulate evidence-based policy for the good of the environment. However, it is often the case that policy-makers view risk and uncertainty quite differently from environmental scientists and it is this tension that can hold back evidence-based policy and practice. The reading group seeks to explore this tension through analysing closely journal articles, book chapters, and Government reports, which deal with the idea of risk and environmental governance. ‘Risk’, ‘resilience’, and ‘environmental governance’, are key issues within all disciplines of the environmental sciences. Consequently, the reading will look at a broad range of literature covering a number of disciplines, including conservation, climate change, hazards, and other areas of environmental science. Hence, the reading group is open to a wide audience and it is hoped that a number of academics, researchers, policy-makers, and any person who is involved with a risk-related activity, will feel able to attend across a range of disciplines.

The group will meet in the Seminar Room in the Department of Geography from 1-2pm fortnightly. In Michaelmas Term 2013, meetings will be in weeks 1, 3, 5, and 7 (i.e. fortnightly from 16th October). Readings have been selected for the first three weeks and will usually consist of one or two short pieces, which will hopefully raise a number of interesting questions for discussion. The reading group is quite informal and so those with particular time constraints are welcome to attend for a short time only. Members of the reading group are also invited to suggest readings for the group, which they think may be particularly insightful.

The theme for Michaelmas Term 2013 is ‘framing uncertainty’. How a policy-maker/scientist frames a particular issue is integral to the way in which the issue is then pursued (Rein and Schon, 1993). Hence, if there are differences in framing between scientists and policy-makers at an upstream stage, then there are likely to be even greater differences at a downstream stage of policy-making. This can hold back effective evidence-based policy. Questions addressed this term might include, for example, why do scientists and policy-makers frame uncertainty in different ways? How can this gap be bridged? What can we do as academics to contribute to this debate?

Planned readings

The planned readings are listed below and both Amy and David look forward to meeting all new members of this group this year. All meetings run from 1-2pm on alternate Wednesdays in the seminar room in Geography:

Week 1 (16th October)

O’Brien, K. Responding to environmental change: A new age for human geography? Progress in Human Geography 35, 2011.

Curtis, A. The science of subjectivity. Geology 40, 2012.

Week 2 (30th October)

Government Office for Science. The Blackett Review of High Impact Low Probability Risks 2011 (GO-Science)

Week 3 (13th November)

Lemos, M.C. and Rood, R.B. Climate projections and their impact on policy and practice. WIRES Climate Change 1, 2010.

Pidgeon, N. and Fischhoff, B. The role of social and decision sciences in communicating uncertain climate risks. Nature Climate Change 1, 2011

Week 4 (27th November) – no planned reading, suggestions welcome

No planned reading, suggestions welcome.


Please direct all queries to either Amy (ard31) or David (dcr31).