Students Staff

29 July 2013

Key global issues to be analysed through ESRC Professorial Fellowship

The threat of climate change, diminishing natural energy resources, the pressure to produce enough food for our growing global population and how these issues interconnect is the focus of a major new research project being led by Professor Mark Harvey at the University of Essex.

Professor Harvey, from the Department of Sociology, will be investigating what is known as the ‘food-energy-climate change trilemma’ after being awarded a prestigious Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Professorial Fellowship. His research will analyse how different areas of the world are dealing with these interlinking issues.

The ESRC Professorial Fellowship is designed to support senior social scientists working in the UK and provides researchers with the freedom to pursue their own innovative and creative research agendas.

Professor Harvey’s Fellowship will enable him to analyse the global sociological, political and economic aspects of the ‘trilemma’, where the world is at increasing risk from catastrophic climate change and disruptive economic crises.

The trilemma concept captures the interdependency between:

  • The development of renewable energy alternatives to depleting and finite resources (fossil carbon fuels, ‘peak oil’) to meet growing energy demand; 
  • The growing demand for food both to meet rising standards and population growth; 
  • The competition for land, and pressures to convert land for both food and energy, so accelerating global climate change.

The Fellowship research will compare differing trilemma dynamics in four regions: 

  • The United States
  • Europe
  • Brazil
  • China

Professor Harvey said: “Understanding how this trilemma is developing in different parts of the world is critical to finding possible solutions, but it presents a challenge to social science.

“The research will compare how countries and regions are responding to the trilemma and analyse how they are intensifying or diminishing the risks of economic crisis and damaging climate change.

“The prospect of tackling some of the major and most challenging issues in the world today is enormously exciting. I hope the research will extend the frontiers of economic sociology by reconceptualising societal changes in their natural environments.”

His research team will include a senior research officer and an ESRC doctoral student. The project begins in January next year and runs for three years until the end of 2016.

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