A busy two weeks to report on, featuring my first appearances on BBC Farming Today and BBC World News, and an interesting two-days at a Farming Technology Expo organised by Farmers Weekly. As I’ve said before, I measure my success partially by the number of hours I spend outside of the office. Leaving the office to talk to people outside of academia is by far the best way of having an impact on the world. Papers are useful, of course, we all have to continue writing them. Indeed, I’ve got three papers back needing some minor revision so that will take up some of my time in the next couple of weeks amongst more travel (to Sheffield, Stoneleigh Park, Warwick, and the Cotswolds). Far more people listen to the radio or watch the TV than read academic papers though!
It was fun to be on BBC Farming Today with the excellent Charlotte Smith in late October. I spoke to her about the draft Environment Bill, which was going through Parliament before the General Election. It is a hugely important document for the future of conservation in England, particularly since the Brexit Bill made no reference to the environment at all, including climate change, air pollution etc. The political declaration accompanying the draft Brexit Bill does mention these things, but this document does not have legal weight. We spoke about whether the draft Environment Bill would result in tangible gains for the environment in England and whether the proposed environmental watchdog had enough teeth to ensure that actions accompanied pretty words. Listen for yourself (first item, will expire at some point) here:
Following the announcement of the USA’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, I also appeared on BBC World News with Lucy Hockings (briefly before the line went) to talk about the implications for climate policy. I made three arguments: (1) as the USA accounts for 15% of global carbon emissions, the decision makes it so much harder for other countries to limit warming to 1.5 or 2 degrees, particularly since current pledges don’t get anywhere near that, (2) the loss of a major economy could jeopardise the climate financing of developing countries to set them on a cleaner development pathway, (3) there could be a domino effect in which other countries follow the USA out. Obviously China is important as the largest emitter, but other world leaders who are sympathetic to Trump’s climate stance, and are in fact only in the Paris agreement in name and not through actions, might follow America out (Brazil, Australia). It was fun to be on BBC World News, broadcasting to millions of people across the world, including 3 million hotel chains and 150 cruise ships.
My most recent engagement saw me speak on a panel at the highly successful inaugural farming technology conference organised by the Farmers Weekly. I spoke about the future of agricultural technology (opening remarks here) and argued that we should not be seduced by radical game-changing technologies, but instead make the most of what we already have by investing in joined-up innovation systems. The event was fascinating with many companies displaying exciting technology and a range of considered talks/panels exploring development, adoption, and extension issues associated with farming tech. Lots of new contacts made and business cards handed out! I was interviewed about extension and ethics by the Irish Farmers Journal and this podcast should appear shortly (will add link in time). I am so excited for two PhD students to start with me in the New Year who will explore the ethics of agricultural technology and consider responsible agri-tech futures. I can’t wait for the 2020 event and more free breakfast bacon rolls!