Nathan Oxley

Nathan Oxley

Communications and Impact Manager

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.

  • Spectacular cynicism: Seeing Indonesia’s fire and haze from the margins

    Published on 24 November 2015

    Guest post by Zachary Anderson, University of Toronto

    Recently Indonesia was hit by massive forest fires, which were largely ignored by the Western media, despite their severe scale and impact. I feel moved to respond to George Monbiot’s recent opinion piece in the Guardian about the disaster, as well as comments on social media asking in astonishment why no one (in North America and Europe) has heard about it.

    Forest fire

    Other commentators have called these fires ‘the biggest man-made environmental disaster of the 21st century’, and the Indonesian Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency (BMKG) has referred to the fires and haze as a ‘crime against humanity of extraordinary proportions’. The smoke and haze can be seen from outer space, so why is this issue so hard to see outside of Southeast Asia – even as the world prepares to discuss carbon emissions at the COP21 conference in Paris?


  • Why are some people so keen to link climate change and terrorism?

    Published on 17 November 2015


    Friday’s murderous attacks in Paris came just over two weeks before the start of the COP21 conference on climate change. A crisis meeting was held on Saturday morning to determine whether the event should go ahead, with a swift resolution to continue, under heightened security.

    Christiana Figueres, the UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary, tweeted “Of course #COP21 proceeds as planned. Even more so now. #COP21 = respecting our differences & same time acting together collaboratively.”

    If the aim of ISIS is to spread chaos, the most effective reaction may be to show the best of international efforts to work together. COPs may be messy, difficult, even often disappointing, but they represent the desire for nations to work together to improve human wellbeing.

    But another, perhaps stronger, story is also in the air: the desire to connect climate and conflict.


  • Sharing the Open Source Seed Initiative at STEPS América Latina

    Published on 12 November 2015

    by Claire Luby, Open Source Seed Initiative (OSSI)

    Claire Luby presented her work at the STEPS América Latina launch event in November 2015, as part of a panel on ‘horizontal innovations towards sustainability’. In this blogpost, Claire reflects on the impacts of property regimes on plant diversity, and what OSSI is doing to promote a sharing ethic among farmers, plant breeders and scientists.


    In recent years, the exchange of plant diversity among plant breeders and the ability of farmers to save seed have been rapidly eroded by the extension of various forms of intellectual property rights.

    As I explained at the STEPS América Latina launch, what is at stake is access to the plant genetic material that will be needed to breed crop varieties capable of supporting a resilient agricultural system.


  • Call for proposals: SPRU 50th Anniversary Conference

    Published on 11 November 2015

    As part of the Science Policy Research Unit’s 50th anniversary in 2016, it will be hosting a major conference from 7-9 September 2016 at the University of Sussex. The conference will also be complemented by a full programme of activities to celebrate 50 years of SPRU.

    Over three days, based on the overarching theme of ‘Transforming Innovation’, SPRU will bring together leading thinkers from business, academia and civil society to explore the future of innovation policy. You can view the call for proposals on the SPRU website.

    SPRU jointly hosts the STEPS Centre in the UK, along with the Institute of Development Studies, which also celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2016.

  • Call for papers: 2016 Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS) colloquium

    Published on 10 November 2015

    A call for papers has been issued for the international colloquium on Global governance/politics, climate justice & agrarian/social justice: linkages and challenges on 4-5 February 2016 in The Hague, Netherlands. Among the speakers will be STEPS Centre director Ian Scoones.

    The colloquium is organised by the Initiatives in Critical Agrarian Studies (ICAS), a community of like-minded scholars, development practitioners and activists from different parts of the world who are working on agrarian issues.

    You can download the call for papers from the ISS website. The deadline is 20 December 2015.

  • Opening up science and development in Latin America

    Published on 8 November 2015

    STEPS América Latina is the latest regional hub of the Pathways to Sustainability global consortium to be launched. The launch event, which took place on 5-6 November in Buenos Aires, brought together diverse perspectives on how pathways to sustainability can be identified, analysed and nurtured.


    The first day brought together two highly connected topics: ‘inclusive innovation’ and ‘open science’. The Uruguayan academic Judith Sutz is one of those advocating for more inclusion of vulnerable groups in research and policy.

    Sutz pointed to the idea of ‘undone science’ put forward by David Hess. Roughly speaking, it means ignored or neglected research agendas which are identified by non-academic groups, for example poor communities.

    As the location of most knowledge production in Latin America, universities have a key role in listening to these non-expert voices. They should help to ensure that innovation policies have inclusion of disadvantaged groups as a measure of their success.


  • Making new worlds together

    Published on 30 October 2015

    How could we end up in this world nobody ever wanted? This question, posed by Justyna Swat from POC21 during her talk at Monday’s event on makerspaces and sustainability, has no short answer. It also implies a further question: if you could shape the world you wanted, what would it look like?

    Shared workshops – makerspaces, hackspaces and FabLabs – are one way to do just that in a limited way, within particular places, and with particular people, materials and skills.


    These might take many forms. Of those represented at the meeting, POC21 was a temporary camp on the grounds of a castle outside Paris; MAKLab operates on a relatively large scale with several sites in Scotland; Amersfoort FabLab was set up with very little money and became part of an international network; and so on. All had different experiences and insights to share.


  • The Anthropocene, control and responsibility: a reply to Andy Stirling

    Published on 29 October 2015

    By Johan Rockström (Director, Stockholm Resilience Centre). This post is a slightly edited version of an email response and follows a blogpost by Andy Stirling on the Anthropocene, and Laura Pereira’s comments on Prof Stirling’s post.

    I tend to place myself in between the two of you, Andy and Laura. The Anthropocene is nothing more than a label for the observed fact that humans are now the dominant force of change on the planet. For good or for bad, you may have different epistemological, ethical and power reflections “pinned” to it, but to me it means little, as this is simple observation.

    This means that I tend to agree with Laura, that the Anthropocene is not primarily associated with control, but with responsibility.

    (Geo-engineering and ecomodernism originate as naïve escape routes from responsibility, not due to the existence of a label such as the Anthropocene, but rather as part of the natural normal distribution of extreme views on dealing with environmental problems – which has plagued the debate since way before the Anthropocene was born – as by the way, the notion of climate justice which also clearly comes to the fore, when thinking of sharing the remaining carbon/ecological space in the Anthropocene.

    The Anthropocene is thus, merely, the “summary” label that we have entered the globalized phase of human impacts on the environment. Most people understand this, irrespective of culture, power, geography, or walk of life. For example, see the SDG ‘chapeau’ text underwritten by all world leaders: no word of the Anthropocene, but clear a recognition that the world now poses Earth scale threats).

    I therefore think we should be careful in loading the Anthropocene with too much perceptional weight.


  • Reflections on “Time to Rei(g)n Back the Anthropocene”

    Published on 27 October 2015

    By Victor Galaz, Stockholm Resilience Centre. This post was first published on the Resilience Science blog and is reposted here with kind permission of the author.

    This is a short reflection to Andy Stirling’s recent post “Time to Rei(g)n Back the Anthropocene?” about the Anthropocene, “planetary boundaries” and politics.

    First of all, I would like to thank Andy Stirling for getting this discussion started with a very thought provoking post. I would also like to point out that the opinions raised here are my own, and should in no way be viewed as an “official” Stockholm Resilience Centre reply: there are simply too many different perspectives of the issues raised in the blogpost at SRC, which means that I possibly can’t make them all justice in a quick reflection. So I write this in hope that others will join the discussion.

    I agree with you that this indeed is an important discussion. What I still don’t understand however (and this is what I see as the key argument in the blog piece), is how the Anthropocene concept lays “the foundation for planetary geoengineering”, “planetary management”, or how it contributes to an “authoritarian control agenda”. This issue has been raised before (by Melissa Leach here, and Robyn Eckersley here), but I simply don’t buy into the argument. Allow me to elaborate briefly.


  • Making and Sustainability

    Published on 23 October 2015

    At an event at the Machines Room in London on 26 October, we discussed the roles that maker communities and the places where they interact can play in sustainable development.

    The event was entitled “How can makerspaces, fablabs and hackerspaces help cultivate sustainable developments?”

    Community-based workshops like hackerspaces, fablabs and makerspaces, equipped with design, prototyping and fabrication tools have spread rapidly in recent years. Interest in the social, economic and environmental possibilities of these spaces has grown too.

    header (more…)