Control room

When ignorance does more than you think

Unstudied conditions are avoided as vigilantly as possible—right now, when it matters—by control room operators of large critical infrastructures mandated to operate reliably and safely systemwide. Having failed to fail because an operator was behaving ignorantly is orthogonal to high reliability management. That said, ignorance has differentiated functions in large socio-technical systems—but in ways not…

Sustainable Energy Policy in Germany: A Case of Natural Gas Lock-in

A new Working Paper from STEPS Summer School alumni seeks to explain why (and how) natural gas has assumed such a dominant role in German energy policy, and at what cost. The authors call upon fellow researchers to challenge the increasing dominance of gas in energy systems worldwide, and to intervene in academic, NGO and…

Unpacking uncertainty in times of climate change

By Shilpi Srivastava, Hans Nicolai Adam and Lyla Mehta Climate change undoubtedly is one of the most significant development challenges of our times. Research over the last few decades has demonstrated clearly the links between anthropogenically induced emissions and climatic changes. Despite these scientific advancements, uncertainties persist at multiple scales; with respect to future societal…

Trees

Uncertain superlatives

Certainty has such a strong place in politics not just because it serves as the preferred foundation/platform from which to choose to act, but also because certainty supports and drives the belief that any such choice to act can be superlative, i.e., serve as the best or superior or optimal course of action. A key…

Uncertain futures and the politics of uncertainty

Since writing The Romantic Economist – Imagination in Economics (2009) I have been fascinated by the link between the human capacity to imagine new futures and the prevalence of uncertainty. Imagination is both the ultimate cause of much of the uncertainty we face and our best tool for coping with it. This month sees the…

A new framework for thinking about technological change

Global development is all about creating change for the better.  One thing is certain: if we want to address the climate breakdown while achieving a high quality of life for all of the Earth’s citizens, it will take a transformation of the way we all live. Technological change will surely be an important part of…

Poster with text: Eradicate Measles

Measles, MMR and vaccines: where do vaccine anxieties come from?

Measles and vaccines are back in the news. The UK has lost its measles-free status, according to Public Health England. The Guardian reports that about 30,000 children are starting primary school next month with no protection against measles, mumps and rubella, while 90,000 have had only the first of the two vaccines necessary for protection….

Butcher in Arusha, Tanzania

Enhancing red meat safety through ‘street-level diplomacy’ in Tanzania

Rising meat consumption in Tanzania – and indeed across low- and middle-income countries – presents new challenges and opportunities for health and development and we have been considering these as part of our social science input into the ZELS-funded ‘Hazards Associated with Zoonotic enteric pathogens in Emerging Livestock’ (HAZEL) meat pathways project, part of the…

Round icon with colours representing the Sustainable Development Goals

HLPF 2019: Why inclusion and power matter for sustainability

On 9-18 July the UN’s High-Level Political Forum meets to discuss progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This meeting takes the theme of “Empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality“. The theme particularly addresses goals around education, growth and employment, inequality, climate change, peace, justice and inclusion, and partnerships. The theme is a crucial…

Medieval painting of an apocalyptic angel playing a trumpet

Catastrophes of biblical proportions: why the apocalypse is back

In a parliamentary debate in London about climate change and ecology on 1 May, the debate turned to scripture to describe the scale of the problem. “We face catastrophes of biblical proportions: droughts, pestilence, famine, floods, wildfires, mass migration, political instability, war and terrorism. Global civilisation as we know it will be gone by the…