Writing and the Environment

Submitting Institution

Bath Spa University

Unit of Assessment

English Language and Literature

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

This study addresses the impact of researchers in the Writing and Environment Research Centre who have pioneered the `environmental humanities', contributing to public debate in a field of acknowledged political and cultural importance. Neale's work has been used by trade unions in the UK and overseas. Garrard's book is used in HEIs in the UK and abroad. Evans reaches public audiences with his BBC radio work and Guardian column; Kerridge with literary nature writing. Kerridge and Garrard have influenced the teaching of ecocriticism in numerous universities. Collectively, the centre contributes to public awareness of the cultural aspects of environmental questions.

Underpinning research

Richard Kerridge has lectured at BSU since 1990; Greg Garrard since 1997. Jonathan Neale was appointed in 2004, and Paul Evans in 2009. Together they form the nucleus of the Writing and Environment Research Centre. Kerridge and Garrard are literary ecocritics, who have played leading roles in the development of ecocriticism in Britain. The Centre developed from their work. In 1992, Kerridge introduced the first ecocriticism module in Britain, and in 1998 edited, with Neil Sammells, the first collection of ecocritical essays, Writing the Environment. Garrard published Ecocriticism in 2004: the first British monograph-introduction. They have since published widely on ecocritical topics. Kerridge's nature writing has recently appeared in Granta and Poetry Review. He was awarded the 2012 Roger Deakin Prize by the Society of Authors. Kerridge and Garrard were the first Chairs of the UK and Ireland branch of ASLE (the Association for the Study of Literature and Environment), and from 2005 to 2008, Kerridge was an elected member of the Executive Council of the original US ASLE. They have given plenary lectures at conferences held by ASLE, ASLE-UKI, ASLE-Australia and NZ, and EASLCE, and have organised several funding bids. In 2010, Garrard was successful with an AHRC Network bid with Bath University, which funded `Cultural Framing of Environmental Discourse', a multidisciplinary network. Kerridge was sponsored by the AHRC and the British Library to speak at a multidisciplinary conference at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, 2011.

Neale is a creative writer of great versatility, whose work includes novels, children's novels, plays, travel writing, popular history, popular science and political writing. His impact in this field comes from Stop Global Warming: Change the World (2008), and subsequent collaborative work arising from the impact of that book. A work of popular science and political argument, ranging through scientific, economic and personal material, it covered the science of climate change, the social context of climate disasters and the history of climate politics. At that time it was unusual to argue that the solution would involve not a reduction in growth but an expansion worth millions of jobs. Primarily a literary writer, Neale had to experiment with readings to different audiences to train himself in making the scientific material clear.

Evans is a nature writer, dramatist and broadcaster. Since 1992 he has contributed weekly Country Diary columns to The Guardian, also writing feature articles. He is a regular writer and presenter for established Radio 4 programmes such as Nature, Costing the Earth, Living World, World on the Move and Saving Species, as well as feature programmes based on landscape writing and sound, such as Wicken Fen, Islay, The Wrekin, Orford Ness and Dungeness. His plays for Radio 4, Owls (2007), The Ditch (2009), The Shining Guest (2011), Hy-Brasil (2012) and Chapel of Skins (2013) were innovative combinations of nature documentary and Gothic thriller. Owls was performed on stage by Auricular in London (2010); The Ditch won the drama award at the BBC Audio and Music Awards (2011). Evans's nature writing has appeared in Nature Tales (2009), On Nature (2010) and The Living Edge (2011).

References to the research

1) Evans, .BBC Radio 4 plays and contributions to programmes. E.g.:

Trees of Trafalgar 2005; http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/science/nature_20051024.shtml

The Sounds of Britain Wicken Fen (2007): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b007y98b.

Owls (2007) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00dx253,

The Secrets of Islands, 2009 http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00j7528

The Shining Guest (2011) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b014f9qf

Hy-Brasil (2012) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01mdg51

Chapel of Skins (2013) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/galleries/p013ssld

2) Evans, Guardian Country Diary columns. Submitted in REF 2. See also:
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/series/country-diary+profile/paulevans Celia Locks, The Guardian: "Paul is one of the Guardian's best Country diarists and over the 10 years or so that I was editor of the column, I received a lot of letters and emails about his writing. The vast majority were extremely complimentary. He takes the diary into poetic territory while at the same time conveying a deep knowledge of both nature and Wenlock Edge."

3) Garrard, Ecocriticism (London: Routledge, 2004).
Ashton Nichols, Professor at Dickinson College, describes the book as "the best single introduction to the subject for students, undergraduate to postgraduate and also for scholars interested in learning about or focusing their knowledge of the fastest growing field in literary interpretation and research. My students have praised its clarity and scope, and colleagues have often thanked me for referring them to his title. The structure is clear, the organization logical, and the specific content accurate and extensive. I suspect this is the sort of title that will remain on bookshelves of grad students and scholars for decades to come. If there is a better book for the purpose, I do not know what it is." Chad Davidson at the University of West Georgia says that the opening chapter "was the very reason I taught the first incarnation of this class." Professor Catherine Rigby at Monash University considers Ecocriticism one of a small number of landmark works in the field."


4) Kerridge and Sammells, eds, Writing the Environment (London: Zed Books, 1998)

5) Neale, Stop Global Warming: Change the World (London: Bookmarks, 2008)

6) Neale One Million Climate Jobs (2009 and October 2010):

Details of the impact

Garrard and Kerridge have written most of the textbook material on ecocriticism published in Britain. Ecocriticism appeared in 2004; a revised edition in 2012. Writing the Environment appeared in 1998; Kerridge's ecocriticism chapter in Literary Theory and Criticism: an Oxford Guide (ed. Waugh) in 2006. These works have been widely used in university courses.

Ecocriticism has been a required resource on 29 courses at institutions in the UK, US, South Africa, Canada, Australia, India and Taiwan. One of Rigby's PhD students is using Garrard's chapter headings to organise his research on the representation of masculinity and landscape in Australian young adult fiction - an example of the usefulness of Garrard's identification of key tropes in ecocriticism. The 2005 report on ecocriticism in the UK, produced by Garrard and Kerridge as part of the HEA report on education for sustainable development (Dawe, Jucker and Martin, HEA), has continued to influence development in the field. Dr Arran Stibbe of University of Gloucestershire writes that the report "was influential for me in expanding from a pure ecolinguistics focus to greater inclusion of ecocriticism", leading to a new module.

Neale's book persuaded senior union officials and academics to launch a campaign for one million climate jobs. For this campaign, in 2009 and 2011, a team led by Neale (lised in the report) produced two editions of a highly influential report calculating numbers of jobs would needed in renewable energy, transport, and construction over twenty years, what reductions in emissions they would produce, and how they could be funded. Neale rewrote these for accessibility to union members. A group of South African unions and environmental organisations adapted the methodology to produce a similar report in 2011. Neale contributed, and was also asked to write a report for the ETF, the federation of transport unions in Europe, dealing with possibilities of public transport using renewable energy. On request, in 2011-12, he wrote materials on climate change for transport unions all over the world to use in educating their members. Since 2011, Neale has been working with the Alternative Information & Development Centre in facilitating the development of a Climate Jobs Campaign in South Africa. He has made several visits to South Africa, written papers and reviewed research undertaken by the South African Million Climate Jobs Campaign. With the AIDC, he organised three seminars at the Rio + 20 Summit in Rio in June 2012, leading to the development of a global network of organisations promoting advocacy for climate jobs. Brian Ashley, Director of the AIDC, states that Neale's support and contribution "has been invaluable for our work". In 2013, Neale signed a contract with the Campaign against the Arms Trade, a long established NGO, to write them a 15,000 word report by 1 October on the prospects for jobs in renewable energy as a policy alternative to jobs in the arms trade.

Paul Evans is one of the most influential radio broadcasters in this field, setting new directions for Natural History Unit output. Owls won the Audio and Music Drama of the Year Award for 2007, and each of the five documentary-dramas (see above) was a Radio Times Pick of the Day. Sarah Blunt of the BBC Natural History Unit points out that each production involved the employment of a substantial team - an instance of how the research produced by writers is indispensable to the employment of professionals of various kinds in broadcasting, publishing and other related industries. Positive reviews of these works from The Times, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Glasgow Herald and The Scotsman are available, as is a letter of praise from BBC Radio 4 Commissioning Editor Jeremy Howe. Evans was a member of the panel of judges for the BBC Wildlife Award for Nature Writing (the leading British literary prize in this genre) in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Indicative BBC Wildlife sales: 40,963 in July - December 2012.

Celia Locks, Guardian Country Diary editor for ten years, and John Vidal, environment editor, attests that Evans is consistently one of the most popular contributors, judging by readers' responses. An indication of Evans's status and influence is that in 2010 when the new government was proposing to sell publicly-owned forests, Evans was called-upon to give an on-the-spot broadcast from the Forest of Dean, taking up five minutes on Radio 4's primetime current affairs programme The World Tonight. It is impossible to quantify the influence of such an intervention, but the controversy was an intense national news story that resulted in a change of government policy.

Sources to corroborate the impact

1) Individual: Senior Professor and Director, Centre for Civil Society, School of Built Environment and Development Studies, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Has provided a statement to corroborate the impact of Neale's research on international campaigns for climate jobs.

2) Individual: Climate activist with Concerned Scientists Norway, and Associate Professor of Journalism, Oslo and Akershus University College. Has just written a booklet on 100,000 climate jobs in Norway (in Norwegian), backed by several unions and the Norwegian Church. Can corroborate Neale's influence on climate activism internationally.

3) Individual: Commissioning Editor, Radio 4. Impact of Evans' creative writing style on listeners' appreciation of the natural world.

4) Individual: Country Diary Editor. Statement provided confirming Evans' impact on listeners.

5) Individual: Professor of Environmental Humanities. The international impact of Kerridge's and Garrards's work on the Environmental Humanities curriculum in higher education.

6) News item: CAAT News July-September 2013, issue 229 (page 11, bottom right).
Corroboration of Neale's work with the Campaign Against Arms Trade.

7) Report: Presentation of One Million Climate Jobs to the House of Commons. http://www.climate-change-jobs.org/reports. Corroboration of the report being considered by ministers. Indicating impact on national policy formulation.

8) Video: Jonathan Neale introducing his book, Stop Global Warming - Change the World at a meeting organized by the Brent Campaign Against Climate Change at the Willesden Green Library in London on Monday June 6, 2011. The video demonstrates Neale's impact, as a creative writer, in making scientific material clear to wider audiences. http://climateandcapitalism.com/2011/06/11/video-jonathan-neale-on-stop-global-warming-change-the-world/.

9) Reviews of Ecocriticism on Good Reads. Indicative of the reaction of readers outside academia to Garrard's work, and his influence on public understanding of writing about the environment: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1737020.Ecocriticism.