RESEARCH PROJECTS

My interest in environmental and social justice issues is manifest in a number of completed and ongoing research projects

Environmental forest activism

Environmental forest activism

Funding source: Leverhulme Trust and self-funded

Time Frame: 2002 – 3 and 2016 – 2017

A short fieldwork based research project in Tasmania, Australia, that examines forest activism. Research was first undertaken in the final months of 2002. This project seeks to compare the similarities, changes and challenges between 2002 and 2016.  The focus of this project would be on understanding (and sharing an understanding) of the motivations, strategies, tactics and framing of forest activism in Tasmania.

It asks four research questions:

  1. What activism is currently taking place to protect forests in Tasmania?
  2. What are the different stages, processes and practices of this activism?
  3. What communication strategies are employed in forest campaigns?
  4. What economic alternatives do environmentalists articulate to current logging practices?

The life of Ice


The life of Ice

Funding source: The Leverhulme Trust Artist in Residence

Time Frame: 2017 (May) – 2018 (February)

3-To-see-the-earth-II-320x320   Naomihart

 

Art work by Naomi Hart

This project will specifically look at the history/link of the coal industry in Sheffield and the Arctic, with particular focus on how carbon and various elements/atoms (hydrogen, oxygen, carbon dioxide) are linked with climate change and cycles in nature. Coal dust is killing the glaciers, by darkening the ice and absorbing more of the sun’s heat as a result. It does this 20 to 50 times more effectively than dust. Also, the persistence of the coal dust is in fact prolonged on the ice by microorganisms released from it by the melting and also blown onto it from soils. Melting ice and melting permafrost release methane , another greenhouse gas alongside carbon dioxide.

Naomi Hart intends to work closely with Professor Hodson and Jenny Pickerill in exploring methane (CH4) and pingo formation, methane bubbles, and how the potential of methane to be released affects and further exacerbates climate change Hart intends to study the human impact on these changes, the impact of the changes on human activity and the process of the scientific research itself. The artist’s research interests are in carbon, CO2, methane, iron and other minerals involved in the cycle of nutrients in glacier and permafrost-melt in the Arctic.

Hart’s work currently focuses on environmental issues as well as a broad theme of ‘migration’. She is a multidisciplinary artist, using drawing, paint, photography, sculpture and installation to communicate. She is currently working with ‘carbon’ as a material and theme: carbon copies, the role of carbon in climate change and the cyclical nature of carbon as an element in life, signifying death and decomposition and its role in creating new life, and chemical processes and change in metals and minerals. She has been researching ice, icebergs and glaciers following a residency in the Arctic last year. Hart has considerable experience of working with scientists and researchers and is keen on art-science collaborations that inspire both fields of research.

Temporalities of eco-communities


Temporalities of eco-communities

Funding source: Self-funded

Time Frame: 2016 (May) – 2018

IMG_8850 IMG_8852 IMG_8851

A short fieldwork based research project that examines the workings of a variety of British eco-communities. Eco-communities includes any collective, environmentally-orientated, residential community. It includes eco-villages, co-housing, low impact developments and eco-neighbourhoods. The focus of this project is on understanding (and sharing an understanding) of how people live in these innovative, experimental, environmental spaces. The project focuses on particular dynamics of these eco-communities, their economics, time, and diversity. It seeks to tell the personal stories of participants and celebrate the diversity of eco-community forms and identify what they love and what they struggle with in community living.

It asks four research questions:

  1. What it is like to live in an eco-community?
  2. What are the different stages, processes and practices of an eco-community?
  3. How is time used, experienced and measured in eco-communities?
  4. What can the rest of society learn from such experimental spaces?

Affordable eco-homes


Affordable eco-homes: low-income environmental solutions

Funding source: Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travelling Fellowship £7,000. [PI]

Time Frame: 2010 (June) – 2015 (November)

Project Website: http://naturalbuild.wordpress.com/

eco-homes1   eco-homes2  eco-homes3

‘Affordable eco-homes’ is a research project on low cost eco-housing. The aim of the project is to improve British approaches and practices to affordable eco-building. It hopes to understand how we can create more opportunities for people to self-build their own eco-homes in rural areas. The project has three objectives:

  1. To identify successful small-scale, community-led, self-built eco-developments targeted at low-income potential residents;
  2. To understand how such developments have overcome problems of planning, local resistance, collective organisation, finance, and using non-conventional materials; and
  3. To identify common successful strategies in creating affordable eco-homes which could be adopted in Britain.

Some publications from this project:

Eco-homes: People, place and politics. Pickerill, J. 2016Zed Books, London

Cold comfort? Reconceiving the practices of bathing in British self-build eco-homesAnnals of the Association of American Geographers. Pickerill, J,  2015

Bodies, building and bricks: Women architects and builders in eight eco-communities in Argentina, Britain, Spain, Thailand and USAGender, Place and Culture. Pickerill, J, 2015

The buildings of Ecovillages: Exploring the processes and practices of eco-housingRachel Carson Center Perspectives, 8, 99-110, Pickerill, J. 2012

Information about each of the case studies is available by clicking on the appropriate link below:

  1. Straw bale Waddington council house, Lincolnshire, Britain
  2. Lammas, Wales
  3. Green Hills, Scotland
  4. Brighton Earthship, East Sussex, Britain
  5. Tinkers Bubble, Somerset, Britain
  6. Landmatters, Devon, Britain
  7. La ecoaldea del Minchal, Motril, Spain
  8. El valle de Sensaciones, Yator, Spain
  9. Panya Project, Chiang Mai, Thailand
  10. Pun Pun, Chiang Mai, Thailand
  11. Amy’s Earth House, Mae Hong Son, Thailand
  12. Straw bale house, Yacanto, Cordoba, Argentina
  13. Casa Tierra, San Luis, Argentina
  14. Aldea Velatropa, Buenos Aires. Argentina
  15. Los Angeles Eco Village, California, USA
  16. Lama Foundation, New Mexico, USA
  17. Thom Wheeler’s, New Mexico, USA
  18. Ampersand Learning Center, New Mexico, USA
  19. Biotecture Earthships, New Mexico, USA
  20. Crestone, Colorado, USA
  21. Kailash Eco-village, Oregon, USA
  22. Peninsula Park Commons, Oregon, USA
  23. Dignity Village, Oregon, USA
  24. ReBuild Center, Oregon, USA
  25. City Repair Project, Oregon, USA
  26. Columbia Eco-village, Oregon, USA

Housing Ourselves


Housing Ourselves

Funding source: University of Leicester Human Geography Research Fund

Time Frame: 2012 – 2014

Two Housing Ourselves Information sheets (January 2015) were produced from this project: (1) Building Community: Learning from community self-build housing failures and successes and (2) Finding a site: Make sure you are ready.

HousingOurselves_FactSheets 1 comp   HousingOurselves_FactSheets 2 comp

This project’s overarching aim is to critically evaluate the processes of initiating and developing community driven ecohousing projects. Its secondary aim is to theoretically develop understandings of the implications of community selfprovision, using housing as an empirical focus. In doing so it explicitly (i) questions whether community and collective projects have greater social and economic benefits than stand alone builds, (ii) explores the early stages of group development where many failures occur, rather than exploring finalised ‘successful’ projects as most existing research has done. It will achieve these by working closely with 20 British case studies, and with both our co-investigator organisation (Hockerton Housing Project) and support group (Ecology Building Society) in developing and testing the toolkit. Thus this project has both high research value and direct impact with user groups. In terms of research, this project intends to (i) critically explore the consequences of supporting and advocating self-provision, (ii) examine the forms of community being supported in these projects and what exclusions/ inclusions are practised, (iii) understand the implications of following an autonomous (often anarchist) anti-state approach to housing, (iv) interrogate what eco-technologies are embraced or rejected, and how community choice shapes eco-architectural development, and (v) explore if such alternative forms of housing contribute to broader changes in society through replication. The practical outcome of the research is to make the process of initiating and developing sustainable housing projects easier (for local authorities, communities and their supporters), therefore making this housing option more accessible.

To achieve this research, this project seeks to answer the following four research questions:

RQ1: Why do community housing groups fail, struggle, and succeed, in the early stages of development?

We will explore the processes through which community housing groups progress, analyse historical examples (such as the work by Walter Segal), ask participants involved at different stages what they struggled with, and contact successful groups to gain their reflections on why their project worked.

RQ2: What current support is available for community eco-housing?

This requires an audit across a broad variety of media to outline what support, and in what format, is currently available. We will contact support groups, polcy makers, and work with our co-investigator organisation to collect existing knowledge and information together.

RQ3: What type of support, and in what form, could reduce failure and increase success?

We will ask what support is needed, conduct training with participatory facilitator experts to explore different forms of communication and visioning exercises, design a toolkit, validate and test it.

RQ4: What are the implications of support for, and reliance upon, community self-provision?

We will ask what broader intellectual can be learnt from understanding community self-provision. We will consider selfprovision as a solution to state withdrawal using housing as an example, while also being attuned to the implications of its success

Greening the Economy

Greening the Economy: Environmental groups’ alternative economic solutions in Australia and Britain

research-pro3

Funding source : British Academy £7,423. [PI]

Timeframe : 2010 (Feb) – 2012 (Feb)

It is finally being acknowledged that environmental problems cannot be solved without tackling economic issues, and environmental groups have begun to engage more explicitly in designing economic alternatives. Using an analysis of two environmental organisations’ (Friends of the Earth UK and The Wilderness Society, Australia) policies and practices, this project critically examines environmental groups’ approaches to taking responsibility for, and offering solutions to, the economic consequences of an environmental protection agenda.

It asks four research questions:

  1. How is the economy conceived by environmental groups?
  2. What interventions into economic issues do environmental groups espouse?
  3. What do these interventions mean in practice across diverse places and populations?
  4. How do these policies and practices relate to, and reflect, the organisational form, value and ideas of environmental groups?

This project seeks to understand how the economy is considered by environmental groups, what economic interventions are advocated, and what these interventions mean in practice. This will be ascertained through a detailed analysis of campaign material, in-depth interviews with campaigners, local activists and those affected by the campaigns, and site visits to on-going environmental campaign targets in London and the Kimberley, Western Australia.

Sustainability transitions


Sustainability transitions: rethinking everyday practices, identities and livelihoods

research-pro5Funding source : Economic and Social Research Council Seminar Series £17,570 [Co-I]

Time frame : 2011 (Feb) – 2013 (Feb)

In the last decade a new research community has begun to emerge around the notion of broad societal transitions to sustainable patterns of production and consumption. In the Netherlands especially, a new steering tool called Transition Management has been developed which aims to facilitate practitioners through a process of initiating and steering sustainability transitions (Geels 2005; Geels and Schot 2007). This can be seen as part of a broader development in the research and policy community that is exploring the contours of a new science of sustainability and innovation programmes that are oriented towards societal challenges (Foxon et al 2008; Shove and Walker 2007; Smith and Stirling 2010).

In this seminar series we will aim to explore transitions from explicitly social, political and economic perspectives. We will explore and critique theories of transition from the specific perspective of the social; aiming to build bridges to relevant social theory and social science disciplines. The series will also explore the interrelationships between theory and practice and how they inform and shape one another. Seminars 1-4 focus on stimulating interdisciplinary academic dialogue – addressing themes of capacities for transition (at various scales); the practices of earlier social movements that provide a historical precedent for contemporary transitions; how social identities may change through the process of sustainability transitions; and the everyday politics of transition as enacted by social movements and other political actors. In contrast, Seminar 5 has been designed to have a practitioner and policy focus with academic input, will utilise Open Space technologies to enable participants to set the agenda for the day, and will be hosted in a non-academic environment at the Centre for Alternative Technology.

Adaptations to Rural Communities Living with Climate Change


Adaptations to Rural Communities Living with Climate Change

research-pro4

Funding source : Rural Economy and Land Use £159,962 [Co-I]
Timeframe : 2011 (Jan) -2013 (Jan)

The research seeks to explore how rural communities may be impacted by social and environmental changes associated with climate change. In particular it assesses the degree to which three drivers of rural transition – governmental policies for climate change mitigation and adaptation (CCMA), alternative/counter-cultural visions and practices, and environmental changes associated with climate change – might present quite contrasting futures for rural communities, and how rural communities might variously engage with, adapt to and drive forward particular futures. This is done through a programme of work that seeks to foster creative knowledge exchange and learning between governmental policy makers, alternative environmentalists, academic researchers and rural residential communities.

Attention is drawn to different rural futures presented by the three drivers of transition and the degree to which they are currently failing to engage with each other. The project seeks to facilitate engagements between experts on the environmental impacts of climate change, governmental climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, and alternative low-impact developments through the establishment of a steering committee including representatives from each discursive community. The interactions of steering group members will be examined by the research team, who will also draw on steering group discussions, their own knowledge and reviews of existing studies, in order to develop rural climate change mitigation and adaptation scenarios.

These scenarios will then be employed in an interdisciplinary examination of three rural communities that are differentially positioned with respect to the three drivers of rural transition being examined, with visual representations of potential futures being created and then presented to and discussed with residents in these communities. The degree of engagement, resistance and transformation of the scenarios will be examined by the research team, who will also present their findings on community responses to the expert steering committee.

Ecohouse


Ecohouse

This was less a research project and more a personal project, but it has triggered further research work. We built an eco-house in Leicestershire, it was  completed in 2008. It is designed to minimise its impact on the environment and make the most of renewable energy sources. By facing south it benefits from passive solar design. Large windows to the south allow sun to heat the house but thick dense walls prevent heat loss. Heavy-weight in its design the house has a high thermal mass so that it should not require any additional heating, thus it is a zero-heat house. Overall, the whole house is designed to significantly reduce energy use in its construction and daily living.

Some articles about the house:

Two women, an ecobuild and a full time job. 2008. Permaculture Magazine, 58, 15-18

Two’s company. 2008. Build It Magazine

A Simple Eco-house … A C-Change home. 2008. Ecology Building Society Newsletter

A self-build ecohouse (a good technical summary) 2008. Green Building magazine: Building for a Future, Winter 2008, 18, 3, 62-66

Autonomous Geographies


Autonomous Geographies: Activism and everyday life

Funding source : Economic and Social Research Council with Dr Paul Chatterton (Leeds), £120,977. [Co-PI]

Timeframe : 2005 (Oct) – 2008 (June)

Project website : www.autonomousgeographies.org

autonomous-geographies3 autonomous-geographies1 autonomous-geographies2

The focus of this 2 year project (jointly managed between the University of Leeds and Leicester) was what we call ‘autonomous geographies’ – spaces where there is a questioning of laws and social norms, and a desire to create non-capitalist, collective forms of politics, identity and citizenship. We looked at how activists make and remake these types of spaces in their everyday lives in cities by asking four main questions: what are the core ideas, beliefs and visions expressed by autonomous groups and projects? How are such ideas translated into action? What kinds of spaces for participation and identity do these ideas and actions create? What does it mean to live in interstitial (in-between) and overlapping spaces? The research employed a participatory action research approach, undertaking participatory observation and interview work.

autonomous-geographies4  autonomous-geographies5  autonomous-geographies6

I lead the case study theme: Living Autonomously, and worked with Lammas (www.lammas.org.uk), a Low Impact Settlement Project at Pont y Gafel farm in South West Wales. I also conducted interviews with people at Hockerton Housing Project, Hill Holt Wood, Brighton Earthship, Project X, and Steward Woodland Community.

Key outputs from this project include:

Chatterton, P and Pickerill, J. 2010. In, against and beyond capitalism. The messy spaces, practices and identities of everyday activism in the UK. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Volume 35, Issue 4, pages 475–490

The Autonomous Geographies Collective. 2010. Beyond Scholar activism: Making Strategic Interventions Inside and Outside the Neoliberal University. ACME, 9, 2, http://www.acme-journal.org/Volume9-2.html

Pickerill, J and Maxey, L (eds.). 2009. Low Impact Development: The future in our hands.

Pickerill, J and Chatterton, P. 2006. Notes towards autonomous geographies: creation, resistance and self management as survival tactics Progress in Human Geography, Vol.30, No.6: 1-17

Pickerill, J and Maxey, L. 2007. ‘The Lammas Low Impact Housing Development’ Sustainability : The practical journal for green building, renewable energy and sustainable communities, 1, 18-19.

Maxey, L, and Pickerill, J. 2007. ‘Lammas: Land and Liberty’ The Land, 3, 35-36.

Anti-War Internet Activism


Internet Activism: Anti-war movements in the Information Age

Funding source: Economic and Social Research Council with Professor Frank Webster (City), £134,222. [Co-I]

Timeframe: 2006 (Jan) – 2007 (Dec)

Project website: www.antiwarresearch.info

Internet-Activism1Internet-Activism3 Internet-Activism2

This project aimed to characterise and account for the distinguishing features of anti-war movements in Britain while showing particular concern for their use and adoption of new media/ICTs. It examined processes of informal political participation in often transitory and heterogeneous mobilisation round contentious issues. Of which the anti-war movements are a major – if understudied – instance. Using recent coalitions mobilised against wars, four foci were explored: representation, organisation, mobilisation and coalition building. Representation concerns how social movements present themselves internally and externally; organisation involves questions of management of affairs; mobilisation is about the conditions of activity amongst the social movements; and coalition building is about how alliances are created and maintained. This project was funded by the ESRC and ran from January 2006 until December 2007.

Writings from this project include:

Pickerill, J. 2009. Symbolic production, representation, and contested identities: Anti-war activism online. Information, Communication and Society, 12, 7, 969-993

Gillan, K, Pickerill, J and Webster, F. 2008. Anti-War Activism: New Media and Protest. Palgrave McMillan [available in paperback from 2011]

Gillan, K, Pickerill, J and Webster, F. 2008. The Information Environment of War. Sociology Compass, 2, 6, 1833-1847

Pickerill, J and Webster, F. 2006. The Anti-War/Peace Movement in Britain and the conditions of Information War International Relations, Vol.20, No.4: 407-423

Finding common ground


Finding common ground: Environmental justice and the interrelationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous groups in Australia

Funding source: British Academy £4,986. [PI]

Timeframe: 2005 (June – Dec)

Finding1 Finding2Finding3

This project examined the relationships between conservationists and indigenous activists by exploring:

  1. Concepts of environment: by exploring the different values and meanings given to ‘the environment’ and in particular the concept of ‘wilderness’ by environmental and indigenous activists.
  2. Spaces of dialogue: to begin to delineate how spaces of dialogue are created, sustained and threatened. Do these spaces have to be neutral to both groups?
  3. Working practices: how do activists’ practices encompass, exclude or are shaped by indigenous engagement? how are productive working practices generated? Is there a mutual sense of ownership over these processes? Have there been successful outcomes? How has this success been defined?

Key outputs from this project include:

Pickerill, J. 2009. Finding common ground? Spaces of dialogue and the negotiation of Indigenous interests in environmental campaigns in Australia, Geoforum 40, 1, 66-79

Pickerill, J. 2008. From wilderness to WildCountry: the power of language in environmental campaigns in Australia, Environmental Politics, vol.17, no.1: 95-104

Environmentalists’ internet activism in Australia


Environmentalists’ internet activism in Australia

Funding source: The Leverhulme Trust Overseas Studentship, £34,267 (including fieldwork expenses). [PI]

Timeframe: 2001 (Mar) – 2003 (Mar)

Environmentalists1This project explored the ideals, practices and contestations of Indymedia collectives in Australia. Indymedia has been an opportunity to put into practice the ideals and principles of many of those involved in the broad and multifaceted alter-globalisation movements. It has embraced open publishing enabling any user to contribute their own content and discussion to a website immediately, with only minimal moderation.

Key outputs from this project include:

Pickerill, J. 2007. ‘Autonomy on-line’: Indymedia and practices of alter-globalisation, Environment and Planning A, vol.39Pickerill, J. 2006.Parliamentary Affairs, Vol.59, No.2: 266-282Pickerill, J. 2004. ‘Rethinking political participation: Experiments in internet activism in Australia and Britain’ in R.Gibson, A.Roemmele and S.Ward, Electronic Democracy: Mobilisation, Organisation and Participation via new ICTs. Routledge, London.

Cyberprotest 


Cyberprotest: Environmental activism online in Britain

Funding source: Economic and Social Research Council scholarship

Cyberprotest1In the late 1990′s I explored the use of the internet by environmental groups and campaigns across the UK using seven case studies (Centre for Alternative Technology, Friends of the Earth UK, Green Student Network, McSpotlight, the Mobile Office, Save Westwood Lyminge Forest campaign and SchNEWS). Using social movement concepts the research examined how environmental activists negotiated the tensions within techno-environmentalism and overcame problems of access and the pressure of oligarchy. It explored how activists dealt with the perceived threats from surveillance and counterstrategy and finally considered whether through the use of such technology new forms of environmental politics were developing. The results of this research project have been published in a book – Cyberprotest: Environmental activism online, a book chapter and several articles.