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Demystifying Expertise - 7. Compassion & Connection for Sustainability: Joke van Wensem

Demystifying Expertise - 7. Compassion & Connection for Sustainability: Joke van Wensem

July 3, 2021

In her journey, Joke admits lab work is a lot about washing up and she learnt when you start communicating your research, how you say it matters as much as what you say. And to make a difference to policies, we need to connect scientists first...competition does not always lead to efficiency. Sometimes collaboration is the key, and listening to others seems as important as presenting our Joke says "How can I help you?"

"Sustainability is everything we should do to be able to keep on going...." Joke says... Loosely defined concepts but tightly defined criteria are helpful to know if we are heading in the right direction. 

Soil was Joke's first love but she's moved from soils to climate change...from knowing a lot about a little as a scientist to knowing a little about a lot as an advisor and communicator...It's all essentially  about connecting people and pieces of information 

Choices 13. Sustainable Business & Stakeholders

Choices 13. Sustainable Business & Stakeholders

June 8, 2021

Stakeholder capitalism - for the benefit of all...A big statement? Yup, need big statements even for baby steps. 

"Business As Usual is currently unsustainable and a wasted opportunity"
How can good business be good for the business, the people and the planet?
What is stakeholder capitalism?

In previous episodes, we’ve talked about the environmental impacts caused by the design, production, use and disposal of products such as air fresheners, cosmetics, toiletries, medicines, washing detergents, and hygiene products.

We have explored the pathways from the release of harmful substances (such as pollution to air, water) through to impact on the natural environment and human health and wellbeing.

We have also talked about what we, as consumers and citizens, can do - in this episode we look at businesses, but individuals are not let off the hook, because we also discuss what stakeholder capitalism is, and is all about. 

What makes companies better at being more sustainable – commercially, but also socially and environmentally? Have companies been changing the way in which they conduct their business to reduce their negative environmental (and social?) impacts? More than that - are they beginning to think about their dependence on nature as an opportunity for innovation? 

To talk about this, we have with us Helena Wayth, the CEO of A Bird’s Eye View – a strategic business and marketing consultancy which she founded after years of working in different strategic and leadership positions across sectors and the world. She has written extensively on the changing role of Boards and on governance by private companies.  You can find links to her work and others in the references below. 


Demystifying Expertise - 6. Explorer & Conservationist Tanya Rosen

Demystifying Expertise - 6. Explorer & Conservationist Tanya Rosen

May 20, 2021

Tanya's love for the animals and people she works with will warm your heart.

Tatjana (Tanya) Rosen is a National Geographic Explorer working on snow leopard, Persian leopard and Asiatic cheetah conservation in Central Asia and the Caucasus – currently based at Caucasus Nature Fund; having previously worked on grizzly bears ad wolfs in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in the USA.

The way she speaks about her connection with the animals is moving – so much so that Ece was lost for words at times.

What is even more special about Tanya is that she is also connected to the people. She's striving to find ways that will make life easier both for the people and the animals – this being key to successful conservation.

Her story will take you from Italy and former Yugoslavia to the USA, and via many Central Asian countries to Tbilisi, Georgia where she was when she spoke to Ece. Her story will also take you through war and terror attacks and from the courtrooms to the mountains. 

Having mentioned war and terror, you would be forgiven for thinking the conversation would be dark and gloomy. On the contrary, you will be uplifted by her love for people and the animals she works with. She says any time she feels like giving up, animals remind her why she should not.

Various links she provided can be found on our website:

Choices 12. Down the Drain - 2

Choices 12. Down the Drain - 2

May 4, 2021

Is “cheap” clothing really such a bargain, when we consider our health, wealth and planet?
What are the costs of our fashion addiction?
What can we do about it?

In this episode, we continue on One-Health exploring microfibres that are shed from our clothes and the chemicals we use to wash them...

Fashion.  We love fashion – the colours, the textures. And, often, it is so incredibly cheap! How could we resist? It almost seems too good to be true, and of course, as for many such things, perhaps it is. We hear more and more about the social costs of fast fashion – the child labour, the sweatshops but in this episode we're focussing on the environmental impacts of making and disposing of clothing.

Would you believe that the average US of American throws away 36 kg of clothes each year, and the average European, 11 kg? When you consider that 7,000 litres of water (not to mention energy, dyes and other chemicals, plastics and labour) are used to produce a pair of jeans, such waste becomes even more shocking. Still, less than 1% of all apparel is recycled into new clothing - the microfibres and chemicals in the textiles limit their potential for recycling - even where the facilities exist.

In Down the Drain 2, We speak again with microbiologist and water resources expert Dr Eunice Ubomba-Jaswa about how fashion, fast or not, affects our water systems – their quality and quantity – and thus, our health, and the environment. We explore these issues, and look at what we can do to reduce the impacts of fashion production, wearing and washing.

The impacts of our fashion addiction begin when the textile is made. Growing cotton, linen and other natural fibres requires water; as does manufacturing synthetic fibres. Manufacturing fibres and cloth not only use water, but also a number of chemicals, many of which end up in water systems. The clothes that arrive in your home still have chemicals on them, which can end up on your skin. Washing clothes uses water, releases chemicals, and, we are increasingly aware, microfibres by the billions. Once again, we breathe these in at home, and many also go down the drain, impacting our water systems, and the ecosystems

In the next episode we cover how businesses are better organizing themselves...

and we'll return to textiles and fashion in the future!

For more info, references and about our guest, visit our website

Science-in-fiction novelist: Susan M. Gaines

Science-in-fiction novelist: Susan M. Gaines

April 14, 2021

In this episode, we hear about Susan’s zigzagging path from literature to science and back again.


We chat about Susan’s novels, Accidentals and Carbon Dreams—which deal with the science and politics of species extinctions and climate change—about incorporating knowledge of sciences like ornithology, wetlands biology, and geochemistry in realist fiction, and about how she got talked into writing Echoes of Life, a non-fiction book about the history of organic geochemistry.


You can learn more about Susan’s work—including all the birds in Accidentals!—on her website.


And if you’re interested in reading more of these novels about science—which have been variously called “science in fiction,” “lab lit,” and “nerd novels”—you can search for your favourite topics in the Fiction Meets Science database of novels about science. 

Choices 11. Down the Drain - 1

Choices 11. Down the Drain - 1

March 22, 2021

When things go down the drain, have we really flushed them out of our lives?
How do we know which chemicals accumulate, which are safe or not?
Why care about fish changing sex?

In this episode, we talk about emerging contaminants, pseudo-persistence and One-Health 

You are probably aware, by now, that we should not pour fat down the kitchen sink or flush tampons, condoms, wet wipes, hair, floss down the toilet. These clog the system at home or in the sewers or wastewater treatment plants. In the UK at least, the media and people have a morbid fascination with what they call ‘fatbergs’ gathered / congealed masses of fat in the sewers.

There is also increasing awareness of microplastics – bits of plastic that is too small to see or barely  visible - --- from microbeads in toiletries to microfibres from synthetic clothing, blankets, rags, and the like. We will get to this in Down the Drain 2.

How about toiletries like make up, cleansers, shampoos and conditioners? How about medicines like painkillers, antidepressants, birth control pills and antibiotics? You may assume because they are certified to be used on and in our bodies, they must be alright for the environment too. That could be the case if the chemical ingredients were not accumulating in the environment. 

For more info, references and about our guest, visit our website

Mainstreaming the environment into economics:  Kerry ten Kate

Mainstreaming the environment into economics: Kerry ten Kate

March 3, 2021
In this episode, we speak to Kerry about how she handles the challenge of bringing different groups who don't normally see eye to eye together around "common problems" and values the emerging generation of people who are able to speak the languages of different disciplines and work with different tools and data. 
You'll notice she doesn't adhere to a traditional job or even a single research area. Carving out where we can be most useful is the future. 
Throughout her journey starting from the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, you will hear the joy Kerry finds in this challenge and grace in apportioning the achievement to all involved.

Kerry was director of the Business and Biodiversity Offsets Programme (BBOP) and is currently a freelance advisor, a Council Member of the RSPB and a Non-Executive Board Member of Natural England

Choices 10. Electric Vehicles

Choices 10. Electric Vehicles

February 18, 2021

In this episode, we talk comparing costs and benefits; and life cycle analysis and thinking about the full cost 

Hybrid and electric vehicles have been coming to the market for quiet a few years now. In November 2020, the UK government announced a two-step policy:

Step 1 will see the phase-out date for the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans brought forward to 2030.

Step 2 will see all new cars and vans be fully zero emission at the tailpipe from 2035.

We talked to someone who is already making the switch. He happens to be an environmental economist ("first a birdwatcher" he would say). 

Why electric vehicles? Because they don't emit the same / as much air pollutants during use - see our episode on air pollution and its effects. In addition, the electricity they use could be largely, and even wholly, renewable, also avoiding emissions of greenhouse gases. We cover the impacts of producing electric vehicles has like lithium mining but we also remind about the impacts of oil extraction. There is no zero impact way of moving about...well not in a motorised vehicle anyway. That's why it's crucial we follow a transport hierarchy: 

  • Travel on public transport - needs more public investment (more, better connected, safe, less environmental impacts)
  • When you can’t use public transport – opt for lower impact: walk, cycle, and when you have to drive a car, choose an electric one…that’ll be hard for the gas guzzling SUV drivers but we still have hope…and the technology and the regulation!

Our guest in this episode is Ian Dickie,  is a Director of eftec and a Director of the Aldersgate Group

Update on Covid19 and masks - February 2021

Update on Covid19 and masks - February 2021

February 9, 2021

Given the new virus variants, we wanted to check out the new advice about masks. Listen to the quick update (we sneak in 'the precautionary principle' too). You can download the references which we used for the update by visiting the episode webpage - click here

Environmental Policy Adviser: Jill Duggan

Environmental Policy Adviser: Jill Duggan

February 3, 2021

In this episode, we hear the varied career history of Jill from fine art to economics; from John Lewis shop floor to her current position as the CEO of Environmental Defense Fund-Europe. Her curiosity and determination not to settle for “the way it is, the way it is done” enabled her to link it all together and how her ‘butterfly mind’ is also what makes her sting like a bee. 

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