04 Dec 2008

UK researchers help form the global debate around climate change

Open University academics have won a prize in a prestigious international competition for short films on climate change. Dr David Humphreys, a senior lecturer in environmental policy at The Open University, visited Bangladesh to produce the DVD, which forms part of a new level three environment course, Earth in Crisis.

Run by the World Bank, with more than 80 entrants from around the world all filming and discussing aspects of climate change, the competition is designed to bring to the fore how local communities are adapting to climate change. The overall winner will be announced in January at a ceremony in Washington DC, USA. The Open University’s entry is among the finalists.

The Open University’s entry focuses on the challenges faced in rural Bangladesh as a result of climate change. Areas that used to be productive crop-growing fields have suffered from salinisation (increased salt levels) as the result of storms and flooding. Unable to grow traditional crops local farmers have been forced to adapt by turning to shrimp farming - or find other employment.

Dr David Humphreys visited Bangladesh to produce the DVD and was shocked by what he saw: “Many of the fields that used to be used for rice production are now completely under water. Driving around the flood plains it was shocking to see water surrounding us as far as the eye could see. The environmental transformation the people of this area have suffered is staggering.”

“We are delighted to have our film recognised internationally. It illustrates that we are producing compelling educational material that is relevant to the wider world. In my mind, there is no greater social justice issue facing us now than the threat of climate change, the consequences of which could cascade down human civilisation for generations to come.”

The DVD forms a section of a new environment course at The Open University, DU311: Earth in Crisis, which focuses on climate change and international environmental policy. The course encourages students to reflect upon their own behaviour in relation to international environmental problems such as global warming. It is suitable for anyone wishing to examine global environmental issues in greater detail.

Dr Humphreys believes that the course couldn’t have come at a more relevant and important time, with the UK’s Climate Change bill recently given Royal Assent: “If we don’t get to grips with climate change in the next 20 years we will suffer serious environmental and social consequences.”

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