Biography

Since the early 1970s, I have sought through my research and teaching to promote the development of a strand of cultural geography relevant to planning and environmental policy-making. I joined the geography department of University College London in 1975 and was awarded a personal Chair in 1998. I moved to the School of Environmental Sciences, UEA in 2006, becoming Head of School in 2007. I retired from the University in summer 2010. 

At UCL, I developed research to explore the production, circulation and consumption of environmental discourses. Through a number of theoretically informed, empirical studies funded by ESRC, I was able to demonstrate the importance of a sense of place and contact with nature in people’s everyday lives, and to explore how those embodied experiences resonated with different kinds of expert and lay knowledge circulating through the mass media and other forms of popular culture. A major component of my research has been to demonstrate the value of qualitative research methodologies in capturing the range of cultural meanings and shared values people attribute to nature. I pioneered small group research in geography (and beyond) in the mid 1980s and continued to deploy in-depth discussion groups in a variety of contexts over the next two decades, using many of the facilitation techniques in innovative, participatory decision processes including exploring public acceptability of different options, and how the UK’s legacy radioactive waste should be stored. 

During the 1990s, I led research which questioned the assumption made by environmental economists and policy-analysts that all classes of environmental values could be monetised and included in standard cost-benefit analyses. Since moving to UEA, I have re-engaged with this work through membership of the expert group of the UK’s National Ecosystem Assessment team, and as a co-ordinating lead author working with colleagues to establish an approach to cultural ecosystem services which is able to address the importance of shared social values for nature and the environment. Benefitting from the School of Environmental Science’s excellence in interdisciplinary research and teaching, I have been able to extend my research interests in sustainable consumption and pro-environmental behaviour change into funded research exploring relations between domestic energy consumption practices and climate change. Working in a large, multi-disciplinary consortium funded by EPSRC and E.ON to model transition pathways to a low carbon economy, we have just completed one of the first detailed ethnographic study of what happens in households who accept a real-time energy display and smart meter into their lives. 

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