As part of Cambridge University Green Week, I participated in a panel discussion organised by the Homerton College Environment Society, in partnership with student-led charity SolidariTee (support them if you can!). With Alexander Betts, Chantalle Byron, and Karla Zambrano, we introduced the audience to some of the key analytical, legal, and political considerations to take into account when talking about the relationship between climate change and migration.
Updates on talks and publications. I also periodically write reviews of books and films, interview people I’m interested in talking to, or write short essays and commentaries about issues that capture my attention.
I wrote a short, two-part piece on climate migration for the Global Human Movement Review, the Cambridge Centre for the Study of Global Human Movement blog. The first piece focuses on some of the misconceptions most commonly perpetuated in media and policy narratives. I emphasise that (1) migration is a multi-causal process that cannot be explained by climate change alone; and that (2) human mobilities take many different forms, not all of which are permanent and linear. I also issue a much needed reminder that (3) most migrants do not cross international borders.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, colleagues in the Cambridge Geography Department got together to write a Remote Fieldwork booklet aimed at undergraduate geographers faced with the prospect of researching and writing their final-year dissertations from their desks only. I contributed a short piece on how to integrate corpus linguistic techniques to critical discourse analysis. While it offers some good introductory advice and further reading, it is a little short on the technical details.
On the 19th of March 2021, I participated in a panel on “Mobility Justice? Entangled Im/Mobilities in Climate and Environmental Change”, as part of the Entangled Im/Mobilities Conference 2021: Perspectives from the Humanities and Social Sciences, hosted by the Research Platform Mobile Cultures and Societies at the University of Vienna. I presented an overview of an upcoming paper, currently under review for a special issue on environmental mobilities in the Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, on “(Mis-)Representing Climate Mobilities: Lessons from Documentary Filmmaking”.
On the 16th of November 2020, I participated in a doctoral workshop organised by the Cité de la Solidarité Internationale (CSI), a research and policy platform based in Annemasse, France. The objective of this meeting, held before an online audience, was to incite dialogue between PhD candidates and practicioners, exploring potential research applications of our theses.
There recently seems to have been a renewed rise in dramatic, alarming narratives about impending mass climate migrations. Concerned about the potentially negative impacts of these reports and the news stories that uncritically relay them, I published a short piece in The Conversation with colleagues Carol Farbotko (University of the Sunshine Coast, Australia), Christiane Froelich (German Institute for Global and Area Studies) and Ingrid Boas (Wageningen University).
Some uninformed idiot recently suggested in a Forbes Op-Ed that libraries are not worth Americans’ tax dollars and should be replaced instead with Amazon bookstores. The second part of the argument is so outlandish that I won’t even bother addressing it here, but the first sadly merits some attention. Thankfully, the backlash against the op-ed was immediate and crushing, leading to the publications retraction by the magazine – a sign that all is not yet lost in this world. Plenty of counter-articles have summarised the many levels on which the initial assertion was wrong, but I would like to draw attention to Ex Libris, a documentary on the New York Public Library that neatly summarises it all by introducing us to the third largest and most visited library system in the world (55 million items and 18 million visitors).
Southern China, in early 1997. A serial killer is murdering women and dumping them in the muddy grassland of an industrial area. The bodies pile up, to the bafflement of local police. From the side-lines, a security guard for a nearby steel factory called Yu Guowei (Duan Yihong), offers to assist the under-staffed police in the case. Incorruptible and efficient at his job, Yu is a model worker, rewarded with an “employee of the year” award, to which his reaction is to reiterate his commitment to keep on improving, to keep making security better. But the award is only for show, and Yu is soon cast aside along with the majority of workers soon after, as the state-owned company shuts down. It is at this point that his desire to catch the culprit, at first seemingly driven by an innocent eagerness to serve, turns into blind obsession.
Grains of sand falling can be counted one by one. If you look close enough, that is, and train your mind to slow the passage of time. When Chronos finally yields: there is an instant of pure beauty. You feel invincible, unstoppable, immortal. You are these things. Then everything stops.
Abandoned places hold a strange power of attraction. Think of the village of Pripyat, frozen in time in the Chernobyl exclusion zone, or the Parisian catacombs, with their extensive network of damp galleries, secret rooms, ossuaries, sculpture and graffiti. People of all kinds are drawn to them, despite the evident dangers, from radiation overdose to claustrophobic panic. In allowing us to to run among the debris of civilisation, to hide