Research Meeting Room 1


Research Meeting Room 1
13th Floor, Edward Boyle Library, University of Leeds


23 Mar 2020


12:00 pm - 5:30 pm

CANCELLED: Researchers Turning Activists: Climate Emergency and the Alliance Between Scientists and Environmental Activists

This workshop is primarily aimed at MA Research students and Post-graduate Researchers in the Civil Society, Development & Democracy (CDD) Pathway, however may be of interest to those students on the Cities, Environment & Liveability (CEL) Pathway and the Sustainable Growth, Management & Economic Productivity (SMP) Pathway also.

Over the past year the unfolding crisis of climate change was brought back to public attention and the political agenda thanks to environmental protests by Extinction Rebellion, Fridays for Future and others. Many researchers, who work on climate change and its wider consequences, came forward to speak out and support the protests, some even joined the protesters in the streets. However, usually academics are reluctant to go beyond communicating science and to become political activists. Many researchers feel that a boundary between science and politics must be upheld to maintain the credibility of science beyond political ideologies and agendas. But is that feasible and sensible in the context of climate emergency? The restraint has led to criticism from civil society, who at times express frustration over academics’ reluctance to support them more openly and radically.

Which role and stance should and can researchers adopt? Can and should researchers be activists? What are the benefits, what are the dangers? These questions are not only relevant for researchers interested in climate change but equally to researchers working on gender, racism etc. And of course there are important links between climate change, feminism, racism, inequality etc. In this workshop we will discuss the climate emergency from various perspectives (incl. eco-feminist perspective and why climate crisis is a racist crisis) and we will discuss scholar activism in the age of climate emergency.

Aims of this workshop

  1. Research: to sensitise students to climate emergency and how the climate crisis may be relevant to their own research. Students will be encouraged to relate various themes linked to climate change to their own work.
  2. Visionary & Practical: to gain a better understanding of scholar activism and consider ways in which their own visions of a better future might be translated into action. Students will be encouraged to think beyond impact, to envision what they can do beyond mainly offering critique.

Workshop Leader/ Organiser


Viktoria Spaiser

University Academic Fellow in Political Science Informatics, University of Leeds

Viktoria has been the University Academic Fellow in Political Science Informatics at the University of Leeds POLIS since 2015. Her research interests lie in applying mathematical and computational research approaches to social and political science research questions. Viktoria works on a wide range of topics including anti-Semitism, political participation, democratisation, development, sustainability and segregation. Recently she has been researching public goods dilemmas, specifically how societies can respond to the climate crisis, and in combining data science and experimental methods.

Julia Steinberger

Professor of Social Ecology and Ecological Economics, University of Leeds

Prof. Julia Steinberger researches and teaches in the interdisciplinary areas of Ecological Economics and Industrial Ecology. Her research examines the connections between resource use (energy and materials, greenhouse gas emissions) and societal performance (economic activity and human wellbeing). She is interested in quantifying the current and historical linkages between resource use and socioeconomic parameters, and identifying alternative development pathways to guide the necessary transition to a low carbon society. She is the recipient of a Leverhulme Research Leadership Award for her research project 'Living Well Within Limits' investigating how universal human well-being might be achieved within planetary boundaries. She is Lead Author for the IPCC's 6th Assessment Report with Working Group 3.
Before coming to the University of Leeds in 2011, Prof. Steinberger was a Senior Researcher at the Institute of Social Ecology in Vienna (SEC), where she investigated sustainable cities and the links between material use and economic performance. he has held postdoctoral positions at the Universities of Lausanne and Zurich, and obtained her PhD from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has published over 40 internationally peer-reviewed articles since 2009 in journals including Nature Climate Change, Nature Sustainability, WIRES-Climate Change, Environmental Science & Technology, PLOS ONE and Environmental Research Letters.

Niamh Moore

Senior Lecturer and Deputy Director of Research Ethics in SSPS, University of Edinburgh

My work is centrally concerned with ‘re-visioning’ an eco/feminist politics of sustainability, by applying the lens of sustainability in new contexts. This holistic approach links environmental sustainability with human and non-human health and well-being, asking how we can sustain collective and personal movements towards social justice, and how the very practice of research, and research methods, might be reworked to sustain a more-than-human world. It is focused on the necessary interconnections and relationalities between these.
I pursue this re-conceptualisation of sustainability through three interrelated foci:
(i) sustaining a more-than-human world (ii) sustaining research, and sustaining research data and (iii) sustaining communities and movements (feminism)


Paul Routledge

Professor in Contentious Politics and Social Change, University of Leeds

My research interests include critical geopolitics, climate change, social justice, civil society, the environment, and social movements. I have long-standing research interests concerning development, environment and the practices of social movements in the Global South, particularly South Asia and Southeast Asia, and in the Global North. In particular, my research has been concerned with two key areas of interest: the spatiality of social movements in the Global South and Global North; and the practical, political and ethical challenges of scholar activism.
My research has been particularly focused on how spatial processes and relations of social movement practices are manifested across a variety of scales; how the particularities of specific places influence the character and emergence of various forms of conflict; how social movement practices are constitutive of different relationships to space; how social movement behaviours and practices are symbolically and materially mediated through discourses and images created by the social movements themselves and by the mass media; and the operational logics of social movement networks. My research here has taken two distinct paths. First, it has focused upon peasant movements resisting destructive neoliberal development in the Global South. My research has incorporated the political economy of development in South Asia (particularly, India, Nepal and Bangladesh); the role of multinational and transnational organisations in the development process; the economic, political, ecological and cultural effects of development upon societies at the national, regional and local levels; the popular response to this process in the form of social movements; the mediation of social movement agency by the specifics of place; and the identities created by those engaged in resistance practices.

Anupama Ranawana

Visiting Researcher at Oxford Brookes University

Anupama’s doctoral work focused on religious political thought in the global political economy. She has over eight years of research experience in both academic and policy based work. Anupama’s experience also spans the local and the global, having worked for organisations such as Oxfam GB and Caritas Canada, as well as the Centre for Policy Alternatives, Sri Lanka. At the university level, she has taught courses on International Political Economy, Democracy and Conflict, Theories of International Relations and on Religion and International Development. Her research, teaching and professional experience has involved her in projects that have examined the following topics: faith and climate change, civil society in developing contexts, transitional justice, peacebuilding and reconciliation, international development, critical political economy, gender and development, postcolonial and decolonial approaches to the political economy. She is currently working on issues of climate change and racism.

Paul Chatterton

Professor of Urban Futures, University of Leeds

Paul Chatterton is a writer, researcher and campaigner. He is Professor of Urban Futures in the School of Geography. He is currently Director of the University's Sustainable Cities Group which has launched the ground breaking MSc Sustainable Cities. Paul is also co-founder and resident of the award winning low impact housing co-operative Lilac. He has gone forward to help set up Leeds Commuity Homes to help promote community-led housing.

His recent books include Low Impact Living (Routledge) (20% off with code DC361) and Unlocking Sustainable Cities with Pluto Press. (see book website @ He is also co-founder of the public charity 'Antipode' dedicated to research and scholarship in radical geography and an associate editor of the journal 'City'

Please note: Students are responsible for arranging transport to all Pathway specific organised training. The WRDTP cannot reimburse you for travel to and from Pathway training sessions.

Hourly Schedule


12.00pm - 12.30pm
Climate Emergency - What Science Tells Us
Julia Steinberger
12.30pm - 12.50pm
Climate Emergency - Feminist Perspective
Niamh Moore
12.50pm - 1.10pm
Climate Crisis as a Racist Crisis
Anupama Ranawana
1.10pm - 2.00pm
2.00pm - 2.10pm
PGRs reflect in pairs how climate emergency relates or should relate to their research (start over lunch)
2.10pm - 2.30pm
PGRs feedback what they discussed in pairs in interaction with the speakers
2.30pm - 2.50pm
What is Scholar Activism?
Paul Routledge
2.50pm - 3.10pm
Our Future Leeds
Paul Chatterton
3.10pm - 3.20pm
PGRs discuss in pairs on how (scholar) activism is relevant in their work
3.20pm - 3.30pm
Coffee break
3.30pm - 4.30pm
Panel discussion on the research activism link with all speakers
Questions to be discussed; Should the boundary between science and politics be upheld?; Which role and stance should and can researchers adopt?; Can and should researchers be activists?; What are the benefits, what are the dangers if researchers turn activists?
4.30pm - 5.00pm
PGRs ask panellists questions, discuss with them research ad activism