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Well, can you do excellent science without flying?

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Joshua Msika, the James Hutton Institute’s sustainability coordinator, posed the above question of those passing through to the canteen one lunchtime during climate week. He got a mix of yes/no answers and comments in response, and the question certainly stimulated debate that day. The obvious answer is “Yes,” not least because plenty of excellent science was conducted before the invention of the aeroplane in the early twentieth century. But the situation now is rather more complicated, and it’s not as though stopping flying is the only thing you can do to cut your carbon emissions and help reduce the threat from climate change. In this blog post, I look at all the reasons why stopping flying as a scientist is far from a trivial decision for us to make, and raise dietary change as an alternative.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Big data, small places: building a better evidence base

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Analysis of big data is telling us more and more about the world, from the state of our health and the environment to global population trends. It also has potential to generate important insights about small places, informing how our local communities develop and grow. In Scotland, for example, powerful online tools provide data about our population, public services and areas of deprivation. However, according to participants in our recent workshops at the Scottish Rural Parliament, this potential is not being fully realised.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Climate Activism in Academia

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During a recent seminar at the James Hutton Institute, Howard Frumkin - the head of the Wellcome Trust’s ‘Our Planet, Our Health’ initiative - caught my attention when he spoke of the ‘fierce urgency of now’ in describing the consequences of deteriorating planetary health. This phrase was taken from a speech Dr Martin Luther King gave in 1963, which called for ‘immediate, vigorous and positive action’ on civil rights. So, in this post, I ask: how should we academics and institutions working on issues relating to climate, ecological and human health be responding to this urgency?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Too much of a good thing for Aberdeen? Lessons from an agent-based model of commuting.

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Imagine a new policy that allows you to work anywhere at any of the workplaces in your region. Where do you choose to work?

Now, think about everyone else who has the same right to work where they choose. Will you change your answer to the first question?

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Managing babies – lessons for managing the environment?

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I’ve just returned to my research on environmental governance after half a year of maternity leave. Whilst I was away I started to see parallels between my trying to care for a baby, and the challenges of managing our environment and ecosystems. Therefore, in this blog post I’m going to explore if baby care can highlight some key issues for environmental governance!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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How will Brexit affect UK agricultural land values (and why does it matter)?

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The value of agricultural land is critical not just for those intending to buy or sell farmland but to all those involved in the agricultural sector and others holding land as an investment asset. It is therefore surprising that, in and amongst all the other discussions on the future of British agricultural policy, very little has been said on how Brexit will impact UK farmland values. This blog reviews the factors that determine agricultural land values. I argue that an important (but unintended) impact of historic farm support policies is that they distort farmland prices. As such, any change in the nature of UK agricultural policy will impact land prices, resulting in both gainers and losers in the sector.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Coordinating policy instruments that influence biodiversity, soil, and water in Scotland: rationales, needs and challenges

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Image: Fife, Laure Kufuss

‘Doing well, but could do better’ is one way to summarise one of the main messages coming out of an ESCom (Ecosystem Service Community) workshop looking at the coordinated delivery of policy instruments for biodiversity, soil, and water. The workshop was held on 23rd May 2017, in Edinburgh, to discuss the rationale, needs and challenges facing attempts to implement biodiversity policy instruments in coordination with other environmental goals and policies. The workshop provided an opportunity to discuss where and how policy coordination might be needed, to inform future research about the most appropriate ways to achieve such coordination.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Cows eat grass, don’t they?

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As a society we may be losing touch with how our food is produced, but one thing we all know is that milk comes from cows and cows eat grass. But is this the case anymore? And does it matter if this is changing? These are questions I wanted to explore in an event with the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas at the Edinburgh Fringe, organised by the Beltane Public Engagement Network on the 24th August 2017. The idea behind the event is to bring academic research into the public domain and facilitate discussion.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Eggs Benelux

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Fipronil, a compound hitherto unknown outside veterinary circles, is in our food: specifically, eggs and egg-based products. While the degree of health risk this poses is contested (for example, The Food Standards Agency maintains that this is a regulatory issue rather than a threat to public health), one thing generally agreed upon is which nation to blame, namely the Netherlands.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Policy interventions for enhancing natural assets – are they compatible with crofting communities?

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Assynt crofting landscape (image Katrin Prager)

Land ownership and management arrangements across Scotland today are complex and multi-layered. These structures must be taken into account if we seek to influence the management of natural assets to support sustainable land-based industries and vibrant communities. Two key questions are ‘how do we design policies and corresponding delivery mechanisms, and what are appropriate governance structures?’

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post are the views of the author, and not an official position of the institute or funder.

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Printed from /blog on 19/04/19 01:40:22 AM

The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.