First Year Student’s Perspectives on what a Sustainable Liverpool Looks Like

Post by Dr Alex Nurse

A few weeks ago, Pete North and I ran a seminar with the first year students taking the ‘Living With Environmental Change’ module.  Following discussions about what makes a sustainable city, we wanted to see what the first years themselves thought about what Liverpool was doing both right and wrong, as well as what it could do moving forward.

To help us, we used the World Cafe model of discussion, breaking into seven groups, each with a specific topic.  They were decided by the key areas for action identified in the recently published Environmental Audit of Liverpool, which in turn became key focus areas for the city’s new Green Partnership.

Those areas were: Energy, Transport, Green Infrastructure, CO2 emissions, Eco-Innovation and Waste/recycling.  We also added an extra table discussing the City’s overall priorities.After that, we set the students to it – taking ten minutes on each table to discuss their thoughts, writing down their best ideas for those who would follow.

Student ideas about Waste & Recycling

Student ideas about Waste & Recycling

We felt that there some excellent ideas and some great examples of forward thinking that could really benefit the city.  One example included a shift to consider wastefulness alongside traditional conceptions of waste/recycling, with the group suggesting greater use of clothes/food banks. Whilst the students weren’t fans of the recent move by the City Council to suspend Liverpool’s bus lanes, they were excited by the prospect of the Scouscycles bike hire scheme.  Similarly they had numerous ideas that the city could adopt to encourage the more efficient use of transport such as car-pool lanes and they were very keen for the rollout of Merseytravel’s Walrus Card (the Liverpool equivalent of the Oyster Card) to be completed.

Eco-Innovation Ideas from the students

Eco-Innovation Ideas from the students

In the coming months, Low Carbon Liverpool will have the opportunity to present evidence to the upcoming Mayoral Commission on the Environment, as well as continuing to feed into the activity of the Liverpool Green Partnership.  We plan to use some of those best ideas to help shape the evidence that we present, and hope that some of them may be realised.

For more information on Low Carbon Liverpool, or to find out how to get involved, please visit www.lowcarbonliverpool.com

TV: the best contraceptive?

Blog Post by Dr Paul Williamson

Fred Pearce, author of PeopleQuake, has recently argued in the Conservation Magazine that the spread of television is closely linked to falls in fertility rates, citing evidence from countries as far flung as India, Brazil, Jamaica and Mexico.

India's Total Fertility Rate (Source: Pearce, F (2013) ‘TV as birth control’, Conservation Magazine)

India’s Total Fertility Rate (Source: Pearce, F (2013) ‘TV as birth control’, Conservation Magazine)

 If this sounds a bit far-fetched, he is not alone in these views. For example, did you know that the British Government’s Department for International Development, along with Marie Stopes International (a charity that promotes sexual health and family planning) co-sponsor a TV soap in Kenya called Makutano Junction, which fosters an understanding of family planning issues.

Rates of TV Ownership in India (Source: Pearce, F (2013) ‘TV as birth control’, Conservation Magazine)

Rates of TV Ownership in India (Source: Pearce, F (2013) ‘TV as birth control’, Conservation Magazine)

The link between television and fertility rates is contested. It could simply be that television ownership is a proxy for local levels of economic development, with more affluent households and societies tending to opt for fewer children and own more TVs. Or it could be, as Fred Pearce argues, that TV shows model more affluent, emancipated (and childless) lifestyles for women that have a direct bearing on the attitudes and behaviours of those watching them.

Either way it is intriguing that TV shows appear to be seen as suitable recipients for ‘development’ aid; and equally intriguing to consider the relative importance of persuading the poorest people in the world to have fewer children versus, say, addressing the inequities in global trade that help keep them in poverty in the first place, or persuading those in the rich world to consume a less unfair share of the world’s resources… all debates that are covered as part of our geography degree programmes.

Young people and stories of the riots: Liverpool 1981 and 2011

Post by Dr Andy Davies, Dr Bethan Evans and Dr Matt Benwell

For the last year, we have been working with young people from KCC LIVE, a youth-led community radio station in Knowsley, on a participatory geographies project, funded by the British Academy, to produce a radio documentary about the riots in Liverpool in 1981 and 2011. In October 2012, 10 young people aged from 16-22 were recruited to take part in the project, a year later, a core of 6 young people remained involved, seeing the project through to the end.

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As a participatory project, our aim was for the young people to drive the project. To begin with, we used a variety of focus group and participatory techniques, such as mind mapping, and participatory diagramming (and lots of post-it-notes), to explore the volunteers’ opinions of previous documentaries, work out what this one should be like, who they would like to interview, and what questions they would like to ask people who were associated with the 1981 and 2011 riots in Liverpool. Using their experiences as presenters and producers at KCC Live these themes were shaped into ones suitable for a radio documentary. Themes developed during these discussions included race, racism, community identity, policing, poverty and deprivation, and, media representations of young people.

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Beginning in early 2013, the volunteers began interviewing people associated with the riots, including members of Merseyside Police, BBC Radio Merseyside and residents of the Liverpool 8/Toxteth area of Liverpool. The young people from KCC Live were responsible for conducting the interviews. In total 5 interviews were conducted, collecting around 4 hours of audio material.

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Over the summer of 2013 the volunteers then analysed these recordings, working together to map out the key points from each interview and to identify themes that were important to discuss within the documentary. They then edited the recordings and in doing so coded the clips according to content (training us in how to use the audio software at the same time). They then worked with a senior member of the radio station who has experience in producing documentaries to work out music for the production, to record their own reflections and discussion that would form part of the final documentary.

The final 30 minute documentary is available via the youtube link at the top of this page or by clicking here. It includes extracts from the interviews, music and discussion by the young people themselves reflecting on what the interviewees were saying and providing commentary on what they thought were the main issues in 1981 and 2011. The documentary was broadcast on KCC LIVE with an accompanying discussion by other volunteers at the station. This full, hour long show including the documentary  and subsequent discussion can be listened to by clicking here.