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Pesticides, Urban Nature and Ecological Public Health: a social study of environmental worldviews and practices
PI, Julia Shaw, with Andrew Barry, UCL Geography. The project explores Local Authority and private use of non-agricultural pesticides, and public perceptions of urban nature, ‘pests’ and pest-control. The project builds on growing community campaigns regarding the impact of urban herbicides and insecticides on both ecological public health and the entwined biodiversity and climate-change emergencies. While global climate-change protests have focused on governmental action on carbon emissions as a requirement for meeting UN 2030 SDGs, such community level campaigns highlight the need for greater scholarly emphasis on the significance of local environmental attitudes and policies on pesticide use, and the potential for change. The study focuses on the impact of local government and university policies and local campaigns concerning the management of wildlife in urban streets, pavements and green spaces. Issues to be researched include: changing attitudes towards urban 'natures' and toxicities; the relation between universities and their immediate environment; the distribution and residue of pesticides in the urban environment; and changing patterns of pesticide use in homes, businesses, schools and universities, data on which are, with limited exceptions (e.g., https://www.anses.fr/en/system/files/2019Pestihome.pdf), generally lacking. As a pilot-study phase we focus on Cambridge, examining how recent community pesticide-free campaigning that has led to a council-led Herbicide Reduction Plan is impacting on wider attitudes towards, and behaviours surrounding pesticide-use in private and public spheres including homes, businesses and schools. These developments present a timely and unique opportunity to track changing public attitudes and behaviours regarding pesticide-use at the same time as changes in policy and practice are being considered and demonstrated. Methods include ethnographic and qualitative social research including online surveys for completion by residents and local stakeholders on pesticide-usage and understanding of pesticide toxicity and relevance for biodiversity and climate-change matters; social sciences-based analyses of intersections between cultural heritage and social memory, and attitudes towards biodiversity and environmental conservation; analysis of university/government policy and campaigning activities surrounding urban pesticide-use. Outputs: Shaw, J. 2022. Urban Pesticides, Chemical Exposures and Ecological Public Health: diachronic perspectives on landscaping practices and geographies of health and toxicity, Paper given at UCL Chemical Exposures Workshop 9-11 June 2022. https://iris.ucl.ac.uk/iris/publication/1962764/1
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