BBC World Service interview – don’t forget the coal miners!

For regular readers of this blog, you’ll know that I’m an optimistic academic. The remainder of December is going to be filled with various talks and exciting conferences and all paper writing has finished for the year! 2018 has been great – I set myself a ridiculous target of having 10-15 papers accepted in the year. Looking at my paper wall outside my office, I’ve managed to get 13 papers accepted, with 2 book chapters, one technical report, and some other bits of writing elsewhere! Despite the fact that some of the papers are editorials/letters, it’s still been a very productive year! Definitely time for some time off, however! I should have three papers coming out online this month, so stay tuned for them! One is on Integrated Farm Management, one is on Responsible Innovation of Agri-Tech, and the other one is a pointless response to a non-response (fun blog coming about that experience!).


In other news, I was very excited to do my first media interview this week. I’ve always been rather nervous of such requests in the past, because I write better than I talk (I get super nervous), but I thought I’d say ‘yes’ to a request from the BBC World Service. I’m glad that I did – my tip to all budding academics is to say ‘yes’ to as much as possible, even if you are nervous of the new experience.

The World Service was doing a segment about the COP meeting in Poland and asked me to discuss science communication and how policy is made. Listen for yourself here from 32.30 onwards! Many of the questions related to whether you can mitigate climate change while still having an economy dependent on coal – obviously not and I was quite clear about this in my first answer!

But I am sympathetic to the fact that there are many millions of brave men and women throughout the world who work down coal mines or in other fossil fuel industries. You don’t have to tell me how brave they are working in such difficult conditions – I never met my Grandad because he was killed down a coal mine. These brave skilled miners work hard every day to put bread on the table for their families. Now, that is no excuse for propping up a polluting industry (the world changes after all!), but it should provide environmentalists food for thought. We cannot demand instant closure of mines without thinking of the people who work in them. Transitions to a low-carbon economy must be just and we must remember that these miners have dignity. For many decades, society sent them down dangerous mines and told them that they were providing a great service. Now some overly zealous environmentalists refer to them as villains of the world. This is unfair.

We must think about how we create just and dignified transitions, thinking about how we support, re-skill, and provide short-term welfare for those who might lose out from such transitions. Poorer countries will need more help from the developed nations who caused the problem. People are only going to want to do something about climate change if it makes their lives better, not worse!


Anyway, listen for yourself and let me know what you think!


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