Posted by: Dr. Breffni Lennon | October 28, 2014

Poolbeg will compromise recycling – or recycling will compromise Poolbeg

Ireland after NAMA

If completed as planned, what will Poolbeg mean for waste management in Ireland?

As the plans currently stand, the plant is to have a 600,000 tonne capacity.

And, according Dublin City Council, ten years from now, 708,000 tonnes of waste will still “be available” to Poolbeg. But critically, Dublin City Council has side-stepped the implications of rising recycling rates.

At the start of July this year the EU Commission adopted a new waste target which will “boost reuse and recycling of municipal waste to a minimum of 70% by 2030”. Already, Ireland is recycling more than 40% of its waste and is well on track to reach 50% over the next five years. It is a good news story. The Minister for the Environment, Alan Kelly, addressing the Environment Ireland conference in mid September, endorsed the drive for ‘zero waste’, which, as the term implies, involves reaching 70% recycling and…

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Here is an interesting article , recently published in the research journal Environmental Communication, which looks at the role media outlets play in influencing public perceptions of debates taking place in the climate science community. The authors show the subtle, and not so subtle,  linguistic tools used by journalists to engender uncertainty when reporting on climate science research. It should be noted that they also found a curious rise in the use of ‘hedging’ words in US print media that corresponded with the release of the 2001 and 2007 reports released by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on those same years. Given that scientific uncertainty had actually markedly decreased in the interim period, these findings suggest that there has been a significant absence of impartiality on the part of the media outlets studied.

I have reproduced the abstract and article details below.

You can read the paper for yourself here.


How Grammatical Choice Shapes Media Representations of Climate (Un)certainty

Title: How Grammatical Choice Shapes Media Representations of Climate (Un)certainty

Authors: Adriana Bailey, Lorine Giangol & Maxwell T. Boykoff


Although mass media continue to play a key role in translating scientific uncertainty for public discourse, communicators of climate science are becoming increasingly aware of their own role in shaping scientific messages in the news. As an example of how future media research can provide relevant feedback to climate communicators, the present study examines the ways in which grammatical and word choices represent and construct uncertainty in news reporting about the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Qualifying and hedging language and other “epistemic markers” are analyzed in four newspapers during 2001 and 2007: the New York Times and Wall Street Journal from the USA and El País and El Mundo from Spain. Though the US newspapers contained a higher density of epistemic markers and used more ambiguous grammatical constructs of uncertainty than the Spanish newspapers, all four media sources chose similar words when questioning the certainty around climate change. Moreover, the density of epistemic markers in each newspaper either remained the same or increased with time, despite ever-growing scientific agreement that human activities modify global climate. While the US newspapers increasingly adopted IPCC language to describe climate uncertainties, they also exhibited an emerging tendency to construct uncertainty by highlighting differences between IPCC reports or between scientific predictions and observations. The analysis thus helps identify articulations of uncertainty that will shape future media portrayals of climate science across varying cultural and national contexts.


Bailey, A., Giangol, L. and Boykoff, M.T. (2014) How Grammatical Choice Shapes Media Representations of Climate (Un)certainty. Environmental Communication, 8 (2): 197–215. Special Issue: Media Research on Climate Change: Where have we been and where are we heading?

Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights
University College Cork
“Climate Justice and Adaptation Strategies: Linking Global and Local Initiatives”
Public Panel Discussion
Chair: Professor Siobhán Mullally, Director, CCJHR
Dr Cosmin Corendea, Institute for Environmental and Human Security, UN University, Bonn
Mr Diego Quiroz-Onate, Scottish Human Rights Commission
Mr Oisín Coghlan, Friends of the Earth Ireland
Dr Dug Cubie, Faculty of Law, UCC
Date: Thursday 26th June 2014
Time: 4.00pm – 6.00pm
Venue: Room 107, Western Gateway Building, University College Cork
There is no registration fee for this event.
Advance booking is required via this link
This public lecture is hosted in conjunction with the EU COST Action Programme IS1101 “Climate Change and Migration: Knowledge, Law and Policy, and Theory”. Full details of the project can be found at:
Professor Siobhán Mullally: Professor Mullally is Director of the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights (CCJHR) at the Faculty of Law, UCC, which she co-founded in 2006 with Professor Caroline Fennell. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Institute for Social Sciences in the 21st century (ISS 21) and is a Global Faculty Affiliate of the Vulnerability and the Human Condition initiative at Emory University, School of Law, USA. Siobhán is the founding Joint Editor-in-Chief of the Irish Yearbook of International Law, published by Hart, Oxford. She has published widely in the fields of gender, sexuality and human rights law, immigration and refugee law and international law.
Dr Cosmin Corendea: Dr Corendea holds the Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.) distinction in International Legal Studies from Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco, and he received his LL.M. in Intercultural Human Rights with honours from Saint Thomas University Law School in Miami. Best known for initiating and developing the concept of ‘international hybrid law’ in 2007 – a legal research tool which uses human rights, environmental and refugee/migration law in climate change-related case analysis – his experience includes field research in the Pacific, Europe and Asia, and consultancies for different universities, organisations and United Nations agencies.
Mr Diego Quiroz-Onate: Mr Quiroz-Onate is the Policy Officer at the Scottish Human Rights Commission. He is originally from Colombia. Most recently, Diego was an independent expert on Human Rights Institutions for the European Commission’s Peer Review Mission to Turkey on Judiciary and Fundamental Rights (2011). Before joining the Scottish Human Rights Commission he held a Lectureship in Law at the Robert Gordon University and was a visiting lecturer at Universitat Jaume I, Spain, and ESC Clermont, France. Diego has a LLM in International Human Rights Law, Organisations and Humanitarian Law from Lund University, Sweden, and his academic work in the areas of human rights law, asylum and immigration and the responsibilities of non-state actors under international law has been published internationally.
Mr Oisín Coghlan: Mr Coghlan has been Director of Friends of the Earth Ireland since 2005. Oisín heads the panel of representatives of the Environmental Pillar of Social Partnership and sits on the National Economic and Social Council (NESC). Before joining Friends of the Earth, Oisín worked for 10 years in the areas of overseas aid and human rights. Oisín’s primary degree was Sociology and Political Science in Trinity and he did a Masters in International Relations in DCU. He was elected to the Royal Irish Academy Committee for Climate Change Sciences in 2009.
Dr Dug Cubie: Dr Cubie graduated in Scottish and International Law from the University of Dundee, and received a First Class LL.M (International) from the University of Cambridge. Dug subsequently worked in refugee protection, including with the Irish Refugee Council, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nepal and the Republic of Congo, and with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Dublin. Prior to returning to academia, Dug worked for the Irish Red Cross, in particular covering the Indian Ocean Tsunami Relief and Recovery Programme. Since 2010, he has engaged in research and lecturing in the Faculty of Law, in particular in international human rights, humanitarian and disaster laws.

The Continuing Blight of Ghost Estates on Ireland’s Landscape


Here is a very useful interactive map of the unfinished housing estates, or “ghost estates”, left over from the collapse of Ireland’s recent economic boom. It shows the rather dispersed nature of many of these developments.

Ireland after NAMA

Date:   Tuesday 17th December 2013 (2.30pm-6pm)

Hosted By:   The Institute for International Integration Studies (IIIS)

Venue:   The Neil Hoey Theatre, Trinity Long Room Hub, TCD

Recent decades have seen the growth in the financialization of societies in much of the Anglo-Saxon world. While seen by some as a source of economic growth and dynamism, it has more recently raised concerns with evidence emerging that excessive growth in the financial sector can have a negative impact on economic growth. It is an important factor in the growth of income inequality and instability. Cecchetti and Kharroubi of the Bank of International Settlements have argued in their recent paper that there is a negative relationship between the rate of growth of finance and the rate of growth of total factor productivity. This symposium will address some of the salient issues pertaining to the Financialization of Society with contributions from five renowned international authorities.

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Posted by: Dr. Breffni Lennon | December 4, 2013

Book review: Cultures of Energy: power, practices, technologies

The following book review of Strauss et al.’s 2013 publication features in this year’s Chimera: The UCC Geographical Journal. This insightful book places ” the central challenges of energy and environment in a globalizing world in a truly cultural perspective, one which takes account of issues of meaning, value, diversity and agency” (Arjun Appadurai, 2013) and is highly recommended to anyone interested in contemporary energy issues and the role ethnographic research can play in meeting those challenges.

Cultures of Energy: power, practices, technologies, edited by Strauss, S., Rupp, S. and Loue, T.
Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2013 ISBN: 978-1-61132-166-1

The human use of energy is inherently understood and experienced through cultural frameworks, yet the degree of engagement with this topic on the part of the social sciences has been minimal and uneven at best. So argue the editors of a new collection of essays titled Cultures of Energy: power, practices, technologies. This volume examines how energy flows through the various forms of natural and social circuitry (from production, to distribution and consumption) with specific ethnographic case studies found throughout of energyscapes at the local, national and transnational scales. In terms of geography, probably the most significant English-language fora for engagement in the socio-spatial dimensions of energy, on this side of the Atlantic at least, are found in the United Kingdom with the Royal Geographic Society’s Energy Geographies Working Group, and the ESRC funded Geographies of Energy Transition series led by key academics in geography departments from the universities of Manchester, Leicester, Birmingham and Oxford. This book’s main focus rests predominantly on North American experiences, and grounds itself rather strictly within anthropology. However, this in no way diminishes its contribution to geographic debates on the subject, but rather enhances it.

The book is divided into five thematic parts, comprising sixteen chapters in total and rounded off with an Afterward by Laura Nader. Each section is helpfully concluded with an The first two chapters attempt to theorise how energy and culture are mutually organised at two key scales of enquiry: the individual/household level and the wider socio-spatial arena. The incongruities found in modern institutional arrangements and the unsustainable levels of energy consumption are also highlighted. One intriguing concept the reader is introduced to is that of money as a fictive energy that mystifies or indeed conceals the hidden relationships that conspire to distance consumers from the various sources of energy consumed. This fiction helps create a fundamental problem of energy; that is the unequal to access to power, in all its meanings, that individuals and groups at different societal scales experience. My own research into wind farms reflects this analysis, given the presence of wind turbines on the landscape (a constant reminder of where electricity comes from) and the negative reactions some local people have to them. The second part of the book, comprising chapters 3, 4, 5 and 6, further develop several indicative themes on technology, meaning and what they term the cosmologies of energy. Recognition of the fact that the values and costs of energy are never evenly distributed within communities or indeed wider societies is also highlighted. Part three of the book (chapters 7, 8 and 9) go on to discuss the social and cultural changes brought on by changing energy infrastructures, most notably those connected to electricity generation. Chapters 10, 11, 12 and 13, which constitute the fourth section of the book, explore the conflicts and power dynamics at the centre of a number of controversial energy procurement practices including fracking and biofuels and review how the NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) phenomenon may be applied in a more positive way in order to produce more sustainable local energy infrastructures. The final thematic section of the book (chapters 14, 15 and 16) focuses on oil and the dynamic power contestations associated with this specific resource. Laura Nader concludes the collection with a call for anthropologists to heed the writings of Edmund Leach and Nasim Taleb, whose influential concept of black swans suggests we will continue to experience unpredictability when trying to predict where contemporary energy cultures are going.
Cultures of Energy is an important contribution to current debates on energy and the role it plays in shaping contemporary societies. Of notable interest to this reviewer, given the corresponding themes found in my own doctoral research, was the approach taken by a number of contributors in highlighting the correlation between (meta)physical flows of energy and the mobilities that occur within the social, economic and political relationships at the heart of our advanced energy systems. It also has considerable cross-disciplinary appeal and should be required reading for anyone with an interest in the socio-environmental dimensions to contemporary energy frameworks – particularly to those involved in energy geographies, but also those engineers and planners appointed to build and regulate these frameworks.

The following book review of Bernie Krause’s recent publication features in this year’s Chimera: The UCC Geographical Journal. In short,a great read and highly recommended!

The Great Animal Orchestra: finding the origins of music in the world’s wild places, by Krause, B.
London: Profile Books, 2012, ISBN: 978-1-78125-000-6

Described by Norman Lebrecht as “David Attenborough without the pictures and accompanying orchestra” Bernie Krause, a musician and naturalist, has spent over forty years recording and archiving the sounds found in non-human environments, what he terms “wild soundscapes”. In his latest book, The Great Animal Orchestra: finding the origins of music in the world’s wild places, he provides the reader with descriptions of some of the planet’s more intriguing bioacoustic soundscapes and how they may have contributed to the origins and evolution of both music and human speech. Dividing sounds into three categories, 1.) biophany, those sounds made by animals and plants; 2.) geophany, natural sounds such as those made by wind and rain; and 3.) anthrophany, the human-induced noises that more often than not disrupts the ecosystems that experience them, Krause makes an important contribution to the growing body of work on work on auditory spaces, primarily discussed in the more experimental fields of acoustic ecology and sonic geography, with Boyd and Duffy (2012), and Gallagher and Prior (2013) being two recent contributors to those sub-disciplines.
Part autobiography, part travelogue, and part treatise on the rapidly dwindling acoustic tapestries of natural soundscapes found across the globe (as a consequence of ever greater encroachment by humans) the book is divided into nine chapters. Krause begins by describing how he, in some ways, drifted into natural sound recording having spent many years working in the film and music industries. After illustrating the science behind acoustics and the meaning of such terms as soundscape and niche hypothesis he begins the second chapter with an inspiring story of a trip he made to Lake Wallowa in Oregon in 1971, where a Nez Perce elder, Angus Wilson, gives him a revelatory early-morning lesson on the origins of music. Instructed to remain silent, he sits and waits by a stream near a reed bed before being pummelled by what he describes as an oscillation akin to being sonically blasted by a combination of church organ and pan flute. Wilson then demonstrates how the phenomenon occurred; the reed bed had gradually been weathered by the seasons, resulting in the varying heights and holes in the reed stems combining to produce the unique sound Krause and his mentor experience. The book is replete with stories of this kind and reads all the better for it. Later chapters discuss how he devised the terms biophany and geophany, again from his experiences on commission to record sounds from biomes around the world. Writing on how the largely “self-referential” western music tradition (one can think of Ferneyhough’s Carceri d’invenzione IIb or Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 here) solipsistically neglects the sources of its own inspiration, he suggests we continue to remain more obsessed with human responses to perceived natural sounds than the natural sounds themselves. Krause also shows how human noise drowns out (and ultimately destroys) pre-existing biophanies and geophanies across the world, in what he terms a “fog of noise”, in many ways echoing Chief Seattle’s 1854 speech No Quiet Place. Much of the book challenges what the author sees as a perceived human monopoly on musicianship, with numerous examples given of different animals vocalising across a wide range of sonic bandwidths in much the same way as differing musical instruments occupy a human orchestral arrangement.
One of the most striking suggestions he makes in the book is his claim that one can measure the general health of a habitat by the level of sound complexity present there, essentially diminishing biodiversity leads to diminishing complexity of a habitat’s acoustic signature. It is a strong argument and he backs it up with an example where he records an old-growth forest, before and after selective logging has taken place. While the forest appears relatively unchanged visually, the soundscape tells a very different story. The bio-acoustic signature was devastated once logging took place and the full extent of the damage brought on by this more “environmentally sensitive” form of logging could only be measured aurally, highlighted by the absence of most of the species of bird and insect that had been present prior to logging. While the author ends the book on an optimistic note, I’m not sure this reviewer shares his hopeful outlook, given the accelerated destruction brought on by continued human (over)development and our wilful deafness to the circadian rhythms of the dwindling biophanies and geophanies around us.

Boyd, C. and Duffy, M. (2012) Sonic Geographies of Shifting Bodies. Interference: A Journal of Audio Culture, 1 (2): 1-7 [Online].
Chief Seattle (1854/1993) No Quiet Place. Hastings: Pickpocket Books.
Corbin, A. (1998) Village Bells: Sound and Meaning in the Nineteenth Century French Countryside. London: Columbia University Press.
Gallagher, M. and Prior, J. (2013) Sonic geographies: Exploring phonographic methods. Progress in Human Geography, Published online before print, April 29, 2013, DOI: 10.1177/0309132513481014.
Johansson, O. (ed.) (2009) Sound, Society and the Geography of Popular Music. Farnham: Ashgate.
LaBelle, B. (2010) Acoustic Territories: Sound Culture and Everyday Life. London: Bloomsbury Academic.
Murray Schafer, R. (1977) The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World. Vancouver: Destiny Books.
Thompson, E. (2004) The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America, 1900-1933. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.

Posted by: Dr. Breffni Lennon | October 21, 2013

Fukushima wind farm to help in post-tsunami recovery

Construction ha begun, developing “an array of floating wind turbines off the coast of Fukushima, Japan. Estimated to begin generating electricity sometime in October 2013 this video from The Guardian newspaper website shows a turbine being transported to the site”.

Click on the image to watch the video.


Posted by: Dr. Breffni Lennon | October 18, 2013

Politics and Protest in Ireland: A Brief History and a Call to Action

Great read!

Ireland after NAMA

Why have the Irish not protested the crisis and austerity in Ireland?

People are debating why the Irish have not been more like the Greeks and Spanish protesting against unemployment, the bank bailouts, austerity Budgets and cuts to public services? This article delves into that subject and offers some suggestions as to why this is the case and some indications for progressive social movements in Ireland. Firstly, it provides a short overview of the history of protest in Ireland and how this, along with successful state strategies of control, and the decisions of key political forces of opposition have stopped us from protesting the biggest economic collapse in the history of our state. This article is based on my practical experience and academic research into the politics of protest*.

Austerity Kills

History of Protest in Ireland

Protest and opposition has had varying aims and forms and involved a range of groups and…

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Posted by: Dr. Breffni Lennon | August 21, 2013

Geography Grad opening on UCC Digital Humanities MA

School of Geography and Archaeology
Geography Grad opening on UCC Digital Humanities MA
Full Scholarship worth €5,400
We have a late opening for a full scholarship for a Geography Graduate to join the Digital Arts and Humanities MA in UCC, starting in September. The course will give students a grounding in how information and communications technology (ICT) tools can be used to capture humanities data sources in digital form to frame research questions, collaborate on research using social networking tools, and present results, both in print and online.  Students will be encouraged to and facilitated in the creation of digital artefacts individually and in teams. The Scholarship student will work on a thesis based on/in/around library collections, specifically Bantry House, or the Grehan Estate, or possibly any other initiative – such as the Department’s Africa collections – that will produce a digital artefact based on the collections in the Boole Library.
Students who are interested can contact Denis Linehan, School of Geography & Archeology UCC
Full details about the programme


Posted by: Dr. Breffni Lennon | July 20, 2013

Future Earth blog launched recently

An exciting new blog has just been launched as part of a 10-year research programme that looks to find solutions to the most urgent challenges of global sustainability in the 21st century. Future Earth expects to become “an international hub to coordinate new, interdisciplinary approaches to research on three themes: Dynamic Planet, Global Development and Transformation towards Sustainability”.

You can learn more about this blog here.

Posted by: Dr. Breffni Lennon | July 20, 2013

Japan begins building floating wind farm off Fukushima coast

Construction is now under way to develop an array of floating wind turbines off the coast of Fukushima, Japan. Estimated to begin generating electricity sometime in October 2013.

A  video from The Guardian newspaper website showing a turbine being transported to the site can be accessed here.

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