Scales, levels and spaces of the nexus. Conference 19 Nov 2015 in London
We framed this year’s conference around the themes of scales, levels and spaces – the nexus is often framed as a global security problem, but this can obscure alternative understandings of interactions and trade-offs at local, regional and national levels.
Questions of scale are crucial in addressing linked nexus challenges of food, energy, water and the environment. We hope this broad and inclusive theme offered an entry point for discussion and engagement on the day and throughout the year.
The day was Chaired by Prof James Wilsdon, Director of the Nexus Network. James announced the Nexus Network £300,000 Partnership Grants call (closed 31 Jan 2016) and announced the next two Nexus Network workshops; The Nexus, resource conflicts and social justice workshop on Monday 29 Feb 2016 in Sussex, UK and the Nexuses of the Urban: Interactions between water, energy and food provision for sustainable cities on 12–13 May 2016, Sussex, UK.
The four panel members gave short stimulus talks to get the event participants thinking about various aspects of the nexus.
- Prof Alice Bows-Larkin, talked about her work on the EPSRC-funded Stepping Up project. The project will study what does and doesn’t work, to explore what constitutes good practice across the nexus.
- Andy Gibbs, Head of Economic Performance and Environment from ESRC, spoke about the development of the Nexus Network from a concept, to a funded activity and how pleased he was to see the thriving nexus community at the event. He also spoke of the importance of interdisciplinary research as the way to keep going forward for nexus research.
- Prof Ian Bateman, Nexus Network Co-Investigator from the University of Exeter, talked about links between nexus researchers and policy makers.
- Prof Lyla Mehta, Nexus Network Co-Investigator from the Institute of Development Studies, talked on the politics of working at different scales, especially in the global South.
Professor Tim Jackson, from the ESRC Centre for Understanding Sustainable Prosperity gave the morning keynote on ‘Flourishing within limits – towards a social science for sustainable prosperity’.
Tim asked if there were limits to growth and if these are constrained by natural environment limits or if human innovation has the capacity to overcome these? He also looked what prosperity means. Tim then talked about the ESRC-funded Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity and oulined the Centre’s aim to explore the dimensions of sustainable prosperity and to develop clear, pragmatic steps that could be taken in pursuit of it.
You can download a pdf of Tim Jackson’s talk here CUSP Nexus conference Nov 2015_TimJackson
parallel knowledge sessions
The conference split into 5 parallel knowledge sessions, with people invited to take part in one session. The knowledge sessions were structured as interactive thematic discussions in which opening speakers spoke for five to ten minutes on Nexus related projects, as a stimulus for broader discussion.
- Nexus interactions at the household level. Matt Watson and Peter Jackson from University of Sheffield with Alison Browne from University of Manchester. Chair Saurabh Arora.
- Informing decision making in response to nexus shocks. Candice Howarth, Anglia Ruskin University and Geoff Darch, Atkins. Chair Ian Bateman.
- Levels of decision-making and their mismatches. David Demeritt, King’s College London and Frieda Metternich, Green Alliance. Chair Ruth Welters.
- International development, innovations and scale. Euan Phimister, University of Aberdeen and Peter Cruddas, Cranfield University. Chair Gemma Cranston.
- Nexus struggles: agricultural scales, policy spaces and nexus interactions. Steffen Böhm and Zareen Bharucha, University of Essex. Tom Wakeford, Coventry University. Antonio Ioris, University of Edinburgh. Chair Cian O’Donovan.
parallel workshop sessions
The conference split into 5 parallel workshop sessions. Each session offered a facilitated space in which to discuss current issues and opportunities and to consider how to best set out
continued engagement with and within the network.
- Focal scales, knowing spaces and methods of the nexus. Facilitator Saurabh Arora.
- The funding landscape for nexus research. Facilitators Hannah Collins and James Wilsdon.
- Policy engagement on the nexus. Facilitator Anna Krzywoszynska.
- The politics of ‘scaling up’ (technologies, discourses, policies…). Facilitator Lyla Mehta.
- Building a research career in interdisciplinarity. Facilitator Cian O’Donovan.
Back in the main hall, Dr Bhaskar Vira from the University of Cambridge, spoke on the progress of Nexus 2020.
From March to July 2015, businesses, policy makers, academics and civil society were asked to submit the questions that they thought were most pressing, to be answered by research, to improve business management of the nexus. The questions were whittled down by a group of business people and researchers over two days to identify the top 40 questions. The top 40 research questions will be revealed in a forthcoming journal article. We hope to see multi-disciplinary panels of researchers and business practitioners to devise projects that will deliver the solutions to these pressing nexus issues.
Professor Tim Benton, UK Champion for Global Food Security gave the afternoon keynote on ‘Systems approaches to managing the nexus: can we really do it?’.
Tim talked about how nexus issues are not just an abstract academic concept, but are at the heart of current conflicts across the world.
Focussing on food in the nexus, Tim outlined the impact of the agri-food sector on climate change. Agri-food contributes around 30% of greenhouse gas emissions. This the same amount as the combined output from cars, lighting, washing and freight. As well as concentrating on green energy and transport, should we also be focussing efforts on agri-food to reduce climate change?
Tim then looked at the amount of water in food. If you take all the water which goes into growing the crops, then each person’s daily food in the UK takes over 2000 litres rain water plus around 160 litres of tap water (compared to around 150L of water used daily in the home for washing etc).
Tim also looked at land use and production, trade-offs and managing demand and consumption and issues of nutrition and obesity. Tim spoke of the need for systems thinking and the continued close working between initiatives.
Download a pdf of Tim’s talk Nexus_London_Nov_2015_TimBenton
Download the full agenda as a pdf here: NN Conference 2015 Agenda FINAL
Conference image credits: with thanks to Edwin Cristancho Pinilla, SPRU, University of Sussex.
Nexus2020 image: with thanks to CISL Cambridge.