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What are the “wicked problems” facing our planet, how are they connected and how can we address them?

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Community resilience in world crises with Dr Cressida Bowyer

Ahead of COP 26, the UN’s Global Climate Change Conference, Dr Cressida Bowyer speaks to the Life Solved podcast about insights The University of Portsmouth will be sharing.

Community resilience

The University has been working with communities in informal settlements around Nairobi, Kenya, in order to tackle issues of air pollution and poor lung health. Creative methodologies have provided a rich source of information and insight into specific problems.

Cressida says that by working with ‘community champions’, researchers can learn vital contextual information from local people and find out how work is having an impact there. These community champions also work as a trusted conduit of information from international research projects to the local people.

People really need to understand what's going on so they're not suspicious about the project and to give consent for their children to be involved.

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Senior Research Fellow

One such project is the Tupumue project. Tupumue means ‘let’s breathe’ in Swahili and is gathering data from schoolchildren in two areas near Nairobi: the informal settlement of Mukuru and the wealthier area of Buruburu.

One of the reasons air pollution is such an issue in the Global South is the vast amount of plastic waste. The burning of plastics, in addition to carbon-emitting cooking and heating fuels, can mean that lung health is impacted long-term, especially in urban areas. Tupumue has been working with community champions to explore how the respiratory health of children living in these Mukuru and Buruburu is affected. The children have been creating artworks that express their experiences of lung health, which adds unique and insightful qualitative data to the study.

In addition, the University has been looking at urban plastic pollution in the Sylhet region of Bangladesh.

We, the Global North, export the most difficult to recycle waste. 50% or more of our plastic waste is exported to countries in the Global South. They don't even have the infrastructure to deal with their own plastic waste, let alone out of plastic waste.

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Senior Research Fellow

Cressida says that the adaptability of the community to change and external stresses are vital in helping people survive the impacts of world problems. She calls this ‘resilience’ which can be used as an indicator of the health of a local population and its environment.

Wicked problems: climate change, pollution and biodiversity loss

Whilst understanding and implementing changes to tackle pollution on a local level is one vital action, the other side is in solving the global problem.

Cressida says that the global crises of climate change, plastic pollution and biodiversity loss must be addressed on the international level and that all three are interconnected.

For that reason, she’s been working with the University of Portsmouth’s Revolution Plastics Initiative on an ambitious agenda for COP26.

The UN’s Global Climate Change Conference will take place in Glasgow this November, and in addition to presenting a Community Participation approach, the team will be pressing a multi-level approach to tackling plastics pollution.

Addressing plastic waste is climate action. A community-based participatory approach uses creative methodologies to research community resilience and adaptation to climate change. This could be utilised to motivate climate action.

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Senior Research Fellow

Cressida’s hope is that by gaining insight into communities, local-scale solutions can be implemented to ease the impacts of plastic waste and climate change whilst at the same time work takes place on a global level to address the causes of these problems.

Episode transcript:

Anna Rose: Welcome to Life Solved, the research podcast from the University of Portsmouth. This time, how can we combine community-focused research and action with global initiatives to tackle our world's greatest problem?

Cressida Bowyer: The really important thing is this participatory element; talking about how we could use those methods to research community resilience and adaptation to climate change, and how we can also use those creative methods to motivate climate action.

Anna Rose: From air pollution to plastic waste, ocean sustainability and climate change, nothing's off the agenda this time. Let's catch up with Dr

Cressida Bowyer Bowyer. In an earlier episode of Life Solved, we met

Cressida Bowyer alongside Dr Louis Netter and heard about their work using art to create social interventions during the spread of COVID 19 in informal settlements near Nairobi, through Act Nairobi.

Cressida Bowyer: My name is Dr

Cressida Bowyer Bowyer, I'm a senior research fellow at the University of Portsmouth, and I work as part of the Revolution Plastics Initiative. Revolution Plastics is looking at ways to tackle the amount of plastic pollution on our planet.

Anna Rose:

Cressida Bowyer's also worked with populations on tackling air pollution and promoting lung health through awareness and engagement in communities. What's unique about

Cressida Bowyer's approach is that she combines creative methods of engagement to share information and collaborates with community activists to make sure the context is relevant and effective. This happens within a framework of science and research that allows her to focus on the impact of the work. She explained.

Cressida Bowyer: We really started off with how we can use creative methods to disseminate science findings. But then I got very interested in how we can use creative methods as a research tool. I'm really interested in an approach called community-based participatory research, which is basically research in the communit

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