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Pesticides, Toxicity and Urban Nature: a comparative social study of environmental worldviews and practices
PI, Julia Shaw, in collaboration 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. The project focuses on two case-studies: i. Cambridge, where following community action over the last two years, the City Council is about to roll out a two-ward herbicide-free trial (https://www.cambridgeindependent.co.uk/news/herbicidefree- trials-to-begin-in-two-cambridge-wards-and-9238734/), and which presents 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. ii. Selected parts of the Camden borough of London including UCL and its immediate vicinity in Bloomsbury where UCL has an existing biodiversity-related project that can be built upon. Planned methods include: i. Field-based monitoring of the impact of urban pesticides on pollinator populations in parks, and air quality in built environments, especially in and around schools. ii. Online surveys of residents on their pesticide use and understanding of pesticide toxicity and relevance for biodiversity and climate-change matters. iii. Ethnographic and qualitative social research studies of pesticide use in homes, businesses,schools and universities. iv. Social sciences-based analyses of intersections between cultural heritage and social memory, and attitudes towards biodiversity and environmental conservation. v. Analysis of university/government policy, campaigning activity, and related social media content regarding pesticide-use, pesticide toxicity and ecological public health. 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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