Danny Dorling explores inequality and environmental change at the inaugural Green Templeton Social Sciences Seminar

Danny Dorling presents at the inaugural Green Templeton Social Sciences Seminar Series, 6 February 2019

The inaugural Green Templeton Social Sciences Seminar Series launched on Wednesday 6 February.

A large crowd gathered in the EP Abraham Lecture Theatre to hear a talk from Professor Danny Dorling, Halford Mackinder Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford, who was introduced by Senior Tutor Alison Stenton.

Green Templeton’s Alex Midlen (MSc Nature, Society and Environmental Governance), who founded the Seminar Series, reviews the evening:

Climate change, population, consumption – three big global themes, expertly woven together by Professor Danny Dorling through the lens of inequality at the inaugural Green Templeton Social Sciences Seminar.

In a packed theatre, Professor Dorling drew from his some of his recent works to provide unique insights into the links between inequality and environmental change.

Growing inequalities in wealth and income over the past 30 years, especially in the USA and UK, has led to great changes in what and how much we consume. He illustrated this with the example of the expansion of low-cost airlines, providing easy access to business and tourist destinations for those with sufficient disposable income to take weekend breaks, own second homes, have an annual family skiing holiday and so on. People with excess income over and above basic needs tend to find things to spend it on, creating a consumption boom with inevitable impacts on the environment, ranging from plastics pollution to greenhouse gas emissions.

We heard that people in richer countries produce more carbon emissions than those in poorer countries by an order of magnitude as a result of these consumption patterns. Should these poorer countries, in the name of development, aspire to similar lifestyles was a challenging question posed from the audience – raising a question about the very values that underpin modern western society. A question to which we may well return.

Danny Dorling presents at the inaugural Green Templeton Social Sciences Seminar Series, 6 February 2019

We heard the surprising forecast that the rate of global population growth is slowing rapidly and may even lead to falling world population within a generation. Professor Dorling cited this as a source of optimism in the future, suggesting that some of the pressures we are so concerned about today, such as migration and environmental degradation resulting from population growth and consumption, may be reversed.

Ending by posing the question “How can the social sciences help?”, he drew attention to the importance of knowledge, education, and understanding socio-economic trends. Perceptive questions and contributions from the audience enlivened the lecture throughout, and many took the opportunity to continue the discussion informally at the drinks reception that followed.

View the slides and listen to the audio from Professor Dorling’s lecture here.

For more information about the Green Templeton Social Sciences Seminar Series, please contact alex.midlen@gtc.ox.ac.uk

Created: 07 February 2019