Is our current political system crumbling under the weight of climate change? Are our traditional values and ideologies inadequate for framing environmental issues? Together with my supervisor at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, I explored new ways of thinking about the politics and ethics of climate change and the environment. The aim with my research at UBC was to expand on our traditional political scales, such as left to right and libertarian to authoritarian, to accommodate for those values and debates inherent in environmental discourse.
A recurring theme in my research has been nature. Some argue that nature only has instrumental value. That is, it only has value because it is able to serve the good of humans. Nature has provided that food and fuel necessary for human survival and development. Others will argue that on top of this, nature also has intrinsic value. They argue that there is something inherent in nature that is valuable and good, independent from the services it can provide human beings. This position can motivate efforts to conserve and protect forests, lakes, or certain animal or plant species.
The debate between these two perspectives will probably go unresolved and will continue to influence environmental politics across the world. Should efforts be focused on anthropocentric policies or on policies that also take into consideration the protection of nature? Philosophical debates aside, I gained an immense enjoyment from having access to such beautiful nature and wilderness throughout my month in Vancouver. Living in Vancouver, you are never far away from beautiful and wild nature. On the UBC campus, you are surrounded by it. You have the beautiful Pacific Spirit Regional Park with several trails and rich vegetation. You also have the many beaches, which you are rewarded with after a gruelling climb down through the forest. And of course, you have the mountains in the distance.
Before I left for Vancouver, I was nervous. I had never been to Canada before and I had a new culture and city to navigate all on my own. Since I was conducting individual research, I was also worried about the absence of a social context. But I quickly realized that wherever you go, university campuses are welcoming and inclusive spaces for anyone who shows up. I found great enjoyment from meeting with academics in my field of interest as well as other students from vastly different fields also doing the Visiting International Research Student program. Lastly, I also enjoyed the context that the surrounding nature offered. I learned the value of exploring and learning about the natural environments around you. I enjoyed doing trips on my own and found that spending time in forests, in the mountains, or on a wild beach made me feel relaxed and calm. This insight is definitely something I will try to carry forward as I return for one final and potentially hectic year in Edinburgh.