Nathan Oxley

Nathan Oxley

Impact, Communications and Engagement Officer

Nathan contributes to the impact, communications and engagement work of the STEPS Centre. He is also a web editor for the Future Agricultures Consortium. He has worked for a specialist communications agency on sustainable development, and as a web editor for a national charity in the UK.

  • Restart Podcast: Adrian Smith on grassroots innovation

    Published on 1 July 2015

    The London-based Restart project, which promotes community repair for electronics, interviewed STEPS researcher Adrian Smith for their latest podcast, ‘Searching for the roots of grassroots innovation’.

    In it, Adrian discusses our historical and comparative project on ‘grassroots innovation’, including the Lucas Plan, the origins of 1980s tech networks in London, and the wider context of community repair and recycling schemes.

    You can listen to the podcast on Restart’s website. If you live in London, you might consider going along to one of their regular community repair events.


    Listen to the podcast on the Restart website

    Further reading

    Grassroots innovation – our STEPS Centre project

    Stories from STEPS – float like a Fab Lab, sting like a Honey Bee (Digital story)

  • Andy Stirling on Nexus methods, knowledge and power

    Published on 29 June 2015

    The way in which knowledge about ‘nexus challenges’ is created and distributed is discussed in a new discussion paper by Andy Stirling, to inform a workshop on ‘Transdisciplinary Methods for developing Nexus Capabilities’ this week.


    The workshop is organised by the ESRC-funded Nexus Network, an initiative which brings together researchers, policy makers, business leaders and civil society to explore connections in food, energy, water and the environment.


  • STEPS Director Ian Scoones wins ESRC Impact Award

    Published on 25 June 2015

    STEPS Director Ian Scoones was a winner of the Outstanding International Impact Award at the ESRC’s 50th anniversary Celebrating Impact Award ceremony, for his work on rural livelihoods in Zimbabwe.

    ESRC Blog: Building impact over time: experiences from Zimbabwe by Ian Scoones

    The awards recognise and reward the successes of ESRC-funded researchers who are achieving outstanding impacts. The prize celebrates exceptional ESRC research and success in collaborative working, partnerships, engagement and knowledge exchange that have led to significant impact.

    This award recognises ongoing contributions to research and debate following the Zimbabwe land reform in 2000. The research by Ian and his Zimbabwean colleagues builds on work in Zimbabwe on land and agrarian change, starting in 1985.

    Professor Scoones commented: “It’s a great honour to receive this award. Impact only emerges through long-term research and engagement, and sustained ESRC funding across a number of projects over many years has been essential for our work”.  (more…)

  • Stories from STEPS: Float like a Fab Lab, sting like a Honey Bee

    Published on 18 June 2015

    The second in a series of digital stories from the STEPS Centre looks at movements and experiences of ‘grassroots innovation’ and ‘inclusive innovation’ around the world, and asks how they might change how people think about making, producing and consuming things.

    Read the story now on Medium: Float like a Fab Lab, sting like a Honey Bee



  • Pope Francis’ environmental encyclical

    Published on

    Today sees the publication of “Laudato Si”, the Pope’s encyclical on the environment. Encyclicals are for Catholics (and there are 1.2 billion of them in the world) but in this one, Pope Francis aims to “address every person who inhabits this planet”. In it, he warns of the impacts of climate change and calls for changes in consumption and production patterns, as well as offering theological reflections on the relationship of humanity to the natural world.

    A draft of the encyclical was leaked on Tuesday, and has given some commentators a chance to sneak in some early analysis – some delving into the theology of the text, others seeking to connect it to a more general and non-denominational spiritual connection with nature.

    I think both readings have something to offer – and other responses are possible too: this is a political text (the Pope is a head of state and diplomat as well as a spiritual leader, and has previously commented on climate change agreements), and should be seen in the context of a long line of attempts to set the tone of debates on morality and ethics within the church, but also beyond it – with mixed results and reactions.

    For me, though, this encyclical is significant and interesting in a number of ways. It articulates a contemporary Catholic position on the relationship of humanity to the rest of creation in the light of ecological challenges we face. That’s a position that is distinctive and different in very radical ways from any number of UN reports, mission statements, corporate responsibility plans, worldwide consultations and so on.


  • Why isn’t global renewable energy investment growing faster?

    Published on 11 June 2015

    Guest blog by Stephen Spratt, Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies

    Last Friday I was a discussant at a fascinating seminar given at SPRU by Marianna Mazzucato and Gregor Semieniuk, where we heard details of new research on global renewable energy investment. Despite some shortcomings, the best current source of data is Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF), which Mariana and Gregor have had access to for the last year. At a price of course…

    Their first task has been to map who is doing what and where, and we saw some interesting preliminary results on this. The central role that continues to be played by public development banks in different parts of the world is little known, for example. While an important step in its own right, this research will lay the foundation for detailed work to understand which types of financial institution invest in which aspects of renewable energy projects, and under what conditions.

    Given that I work on accelerating equitable ‘green transformations’ at IDS, this is important stuff. Those who share these concerns should follow the progress of Mariana and Gregor’s research closely.

    In the interim, what do we already know? Well, global investment rose 17% in 2014 to $270 billion, a welcome reversal of the falls of the last two years. Despite this, it remains far short of what is needed. At current rates, renewables would be just 20% of the global energy mix by 2030. To be compatible with the 2 degree global warming target, it needs to be double current levels now, and three times this by 2025.

    This sounds a lot (and is) but we need to keep in perspective. Whatever else it may be, the problem is not a lack of money. Globally, investable capital is about $140,000 billion – we need to invest less than half of one percent of this each year in ‘green’ energy.

    It is not just the amount of money, but its form that matters. (more…)

  • Knowledge is power: towards Low Carbon Energy in Africa

    Published on 10 June 2015


    The G7 have promised to phase out fossil fuel emissions by the end of the century. Though a long-term target, it’s the first time a proper date has been set for a decarbonised economy for this group of industrialised nations. It will affect the tone of the negotiations at the UN climate talks in Paris in December.

    The announcement closely coincides with a big report from Kofi Annan’s Africa Progress Panel: Power, People, Planet: Seizing Africa’s Energy and Climate Opportunities (pdf). The report connects Africa’s energy and climate priorities to the ‘global deal’ (and therefore the upcoming Paris talks), as well as highlighting some of the distinctive opportunities and challenges faced by African countries. ‘Leapfrogging’ into new technologies without the need to go through a high-carbon phase, and tackling the inequality and inefficiencies of current centralised energy delivery, are two important areas. This goes beyond just applying new technology, to thinking about the social, political and knowledge questions underpinning the energy system. (more…)

  • Waste(d) laws in India

    Published on 18 May 2015

    by Ashish Chaturvedi
    Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies

    Last year, I wrote about the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan (Clean India Mission), launched on the anniversary of Gandhi’s birthday. As part of this endeavour, and due to the limited impact of existing regulations, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has taken the bold step of amending four different regulations on waste management in one go, and carrying out consultations across the country to seek stakeholders’ feedback.

    I recently took part in an informal meeting in Delhi with waste management experts from an environmental NGO, a bilateral agency and the largest environmental research organisation in India. We had decided to meet in order to think through the implications of the draft Rules, and realised quite quickly that we would need a number of such meetings to be able to fully understand the implications and also provide any meaningful feedback. We decided to provide detailed feedback to the Ministry but our discussion broadly covered the following issues.

    Little attention to detail and a multitude of errors in proposed waste management regulation

    First, we found that there is limited attention to detail in the draft Rules. Each section also contains multiple errors. Further, certain sections of the Rules read more like guidelines while others leave the door open for multiple interpretations. There are overlapping definitions and the roles and responsibilities of key actors have not been defined.

    No overarching framework for waste and secondary resource management

    Second, we also agreed that there is no overarching framework provided on waste/secondary resource management. Although the focus of the Swachh Bharat Mission is on Cleaning India, the focus of waste management in the twenty-first century cannot be only on end-of-pipeline solutions. Most waste is a resource and should be treated as such. The historical opportunity provided by the simultaneous revision of these four waste management rules should be grabbed with both hands and an overall framework for waste/secondary resource management should be developed.

    However, thinking about waste is a resource does not mean that waste management will necessarily pay for itself. This is a fundamental mistake in most policy discussions on waste management in India.

    To convert waste into a resource, investments has to be made. Some waste, such as paper or ferrous metals, requires less investment while others, like electronics, would require more investment. Some waste cannot be converted into a resource, for example, non-recyclable packaging like crisp bags, and is a burden on society. While drawing up policy frameworks, the government and those who support it in drafting such regulations need to be mindful of these realities and plan for each of these different waste streams.

    Waste management is not only an environmental management problem – it requires adequate infrastructure and investment.

    Infrastructure and investments should be consistent with current practices

    Third, such infrastructure and investments need to be consistent with the extant practices of waste management in some of the largest cities in the country. Most of the waste in India, especially its recyclable fractions, is managed by the informal sector. Various studies have shown that the informal sector saves a substantial amount of resources for the urban local bodies.

    While all the Rules (other than the one on E-waste) on the Ministry’s website do mention waste pickers, they pay little attention to their roles and responsibilities. Also, in spite of several failed experiences with waste to energy and large centralised contracts, the Rules do not give clear direction on prioritising decentralised solutions.

    The role of manufacturers in generating non-recyclable packaging

    Fourth, another glaring omission, especially from the Municipal Solid Waste Rules, is the role of manufacturers whose products lead to the generation of non-recyclable packaging and domestic hazardous waste.

    Globally, the best practice is to make producers responsible for the end-of-life management of waste resulting from the products they make (PDF). Maybe the Indian Government is shying away from using Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) after the miserable failure in compliance to Rules that have mentioned EPR in the past (for instance the E-waste Rules).

    Improving the Rules – (missed) opportunity for more holistic approach

    I came out of the meeting convinced that our suggestions might improve the various Rules. However, I am unsure whether these improved Rules would lead to changes on the ground.

    Although I am excited by the focus on Clean India, I am not sure if sticking to traditions like revision of Waste Management Rules will solve the waste management problem that confronts large Indian cities.

    By continuously tinkering with waste management rules, the government is implicitly acknowledging its key role in solving the waste management problem. It seems to be saying that if we have the ‘perfect’ Rules, the waste management problem would be solved. Or a milder interpretation would be that a ‘perfect’ set of Rules will create an enabling environment for waste management. Due to the contested nature of policy processes, any emerging Rule would be far from perfect. Any change in the Rules is likely to create winners and losers. However, focusing on waste management merely as an environment policy issue is unlikely to have substantial impact on waste management.

    I believe the administration has missed a big opportunity by not engaging with the issue in a much more holistic manner for example, also addressing employment generation and material recovery potential of waste/resource management. This could be initiated by facilitating a dialogue on appropriate infrastructure and capacities involving the relevant actors and interest-based coalitions who can drive the transition to a resource efficient and clean India.

    The research within the Green Transformations cluster at IDS is focusing on identifying such actors and coalitions in India and beyond.

    This article first appeared on the Institute of Development Studies website.

    Further reading

    Waste not, want not – a STEPS digital story exploring the connected lives of India’s urban waste pickers

  • Watch: Mike Hulme on climate science, values and disagreements

    Published on

    At our 2015 STEPS lecture, Mike Hulme spoke on continuing disagreements on climate change, and his thinking on how they could be addressed in ways that take account of diverse cultures, perceptions and goals.

    You can watch Mike’s lecture and view his slides via the links below. This lecture is part of the 2015 STEPS Centre Summer School. (more…)

  • Stories from STEPS: Waste not, want not

    Published on 6 May 2015

    The first of a new series of digital stories from the STEPS Centre looks at the working lives of India’s waste pickers, and reveals the hidden connections within the life and politics of the city.

    Read the story now on Medium: Waste not, want not


    The story picks up themes from our ‘Pathways to environmental health in transitional spaces’ project, which looked at ways to rethink sustainable urban waste management in India. A policy brief from the project was launched at an event in Delhi on 5 May 2015.