Name: Gordon Wilson
Organisation: Open University
Role: Coordinator EU project: Lived experience of climate change
What first triggered your interest in environmental issues?
Initially, back in the 1970s a mixture of political and personal motivation triggered my interest in environmental issues. Then I was a community activist who founded a radical printing and publishing cooperative. At the time I had rejected my higher education in applied science in favour of radical social thinkers. Environmental issues for me were thus somehow intertwined with social issues of inequality and injustice. Only later, when I joined the OU full time did I start to engage academically with environmental issues, where I found my formal science education and self-taught social science a useful combination.
What are you working on, concerned by, or motivated by at the moment?
My adopted discipline in the OU is international development (aka development studies) and I am generally interested in the tension between environmental challenges and socio-economic development. My official job title is 'senior lecturer in technology and development’.
What do you anticipate working on, or thinking about, in relation to environmental issues over the next 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years?
As an academic nomad, having moved from science and technology to social science and now attempting to synthesise the two, I am fascinated by difference between people/societies/cultures in terms of knowledge and mindsets. Until recently I viewed difference negatively -- equated with power, inequality and injustice. But now, I also see the possibility of negotiation of difference and of that negotiation potentially and positively becoming the source of new knowledge with respect to global environmental challenges such as climate change. This is how I see global citizenship evolving and becoming an informed force for public action to meet these challenges. I guess in this sense I'm still a community activist at heart. Such considerations have already led to the pan European partnership I am coordinating to support postgraduate curriculum in the area of the lived experience of climate change. With Ugandan and other colleagues I'm currently developing a research bid in the same area.
How optimistic or pessimistic are you as you look at where we might be in 2020, and why?
I'm an optimist, with occasional bouts of doubt. I have a fundamental belief in the human ability to reflect, communicate with other humans (drawing on the work of the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas), and innovate in a social as well as technical sense with respect to the environmental challenge. However, as a former radical activist who was profoundly wounded in the 1980s, I now have a modest processual approach, rather than expecting a big bang of change.
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