Does the delusion of ‘climate control’ do more harm than good to climate disruption?

This is the second in a series of four blog posts on the climate by STEPS co-director Andy Stirling, under the heading: ‘Controlling a stable planetary climate – or caring for a complex changing Earth?’ In the first post of this series of four, I asked why it should be – in a world spoilt…

Person with full-body protective clothing walks behind a fence

Pandemics: why a new science is needed

What do bubonic plague, Lyme disease, Ebola, Marburg disease, Nipah, sleeping sickness, Lassa fever, avian influenza, Western equine encephalitis, SARS and COVID-19 have in common? All are zoonotic diseases, ones that have jumped from animals to humans. Not all have turned into pandemics – where a disease spreads across multiple countries – but some certainly…

pastoralism and uncertainty course heading

Online course: Pastoralism and Uncertainty

A new online course introduces key debates and concepts about pastoralism, and explores the varying ways that pastoralists respond to uncertainty around the world. Based on the work of PASTRES, a research programme linked to the STEPS Centre, the course is aimed at students, practitioners and policy-makers. It is divided into 13 parts with a…

Comic: ‘These Days…’ Covid, crisis and beyond

In our Natures theme for 2020, we are collaborating with the artist Tim Zocco. In the comic ‘These Days…’, a glimpse of a future age shaped by traumatic events, Zocco reflects on crisis, the difficulties of predicting radical change and thinking about what is to come. It’s the first in a series of creative responses…

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Food in the time of Covid-19: how can local action and national coordination work together?

As we approach the end of week 7 of the UK government’s Covid-19 social distancing measures, we have been witnessing a combination of remarkable efforts to sustain the country through this challenging time.  Workers from the National Health Service (supplemented by volunteer responders) and other ‘key workers’ are applauded across the country on a weekly…

Five lessons from past global influenza outbreaks for COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic is a rare event in its scale and spread. But in responding to it, people have been looking at lessons from other outbreaks of infectious disease. What are the patterns in the ways that governments and people respond, and why have some widely-known lessons been ignored again and again? One source of…

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Modernity Without its Clothes: the pandemic crisis shines a light on futilities of control

With so many self-appointed pundits (like me!) currently locked down with their laptops, the present rush of commentary on how to pivot the coronavirus crisis is hardly surprising. Beyond the general news and commentary, scores of articles are exploding across the media, diagnosing what this global catastrophe means, and prescribing how it can be turned…

1970s illustration of two heads facing each other with cut out section showing cogs

Post-normal pandemics: Why COVID-19 requires a new approach to science

Guest post by David Waltner-Toews1, Annibale Biggeri2, Bruna De Marchi3, Silvio Funtowicz3, Mario Giampietro4,5, Martin O’Connor6,7, Jerome R. Ravetz8, Andrea Saltelli3,9 and Jeroen P. van der Sluijs3,10 READ THIS ARTICLE IN SPANISH: See alternative translations published by Democracia Sur and our partners Bioleft. In addressing pandemics, science has never seemed more needed and useful, while…

UK press conference

Science, uncertainty and the COVID-19 response

One of the abiding images of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in the UK has been the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, looking nervous and uncomfortable, flanked by his scientific advisors at the regular press conferences. With three white men in suits in a wood-panelled room, the aim presumably was to project a sense of control and…

The Philippines has rated ‘Golden Rice’ safe, but farmers might not plant it

by Glenn Davis Stone and Dominic Glover “Golden Rice” is probably the world’s most hotly debated genetically modified organism (GMO). It was intended to be a beta carotene-enriched crop to reduce Vitamin A deficiency, a health problem in very poor areas. But it has never been offered to farmers for planting. Why not? Because Golden…