Friday, 28 January 2011


It's about time I talk about my current "career situation". Am I currently working? No. Am I an undergraduate student? No. I am what you could call 'purposefully unemployed'. Or a postgraduate student as more commonly known. This time last year, I was still not sure whether I would be undertaking a Masters... not for a while anyway. But thanks to a dying economy, funding opportunities (for which I am eternally grateful) and a lack of job opportunities, here I am! I've heard people call a Masters an investment. I hope that in a few months, that will prove to be true, but from my current point of view, it's more of an overpriced hell to put yourself though. Still... considering the current rise in tuition fees, I find myself extremely lucky to be doing it now.

SPEP stands for Sustainability, Planning and Environmental Policy - arguably the longest title for a Masters. But SPEPers are an exciting breed. I have taken great pleasure in getting to know the class of 2010/2011 who come from a huge range of backgrounds. I could spend hours talking about what we do and what makes us the best Masters course in the School of Planning at Cardiff (ha!), but I won't quite now. In short... When guest lecturers talk proudly about the economic benefits of their projects, we are the ones who raise our hands and ask about the implicated social and environmental costs. We work hard and in our free time we talk about the difficulties of being green (and we moan about the onslaught of deadlines). And when Kevin McCloud comes to the university to talk about EcoCities, we are on the front row ... OK, so maybe that's because it's Kevin McCloud, but still!

I, in no way, regret having chosen to do this Masters. I'll put that partly down to the awesomness of SPEPers, but also because I really feel like I'm doing something worthwhile. Before starting this course, I had applied to various jobs in the environmental sector, and I was surprised (or rather annoyed) at the constant requirement for a postgraduate level of education. Why had I indebted myself for three years only to be told that my degree wasn't enough?! I understand why now. The 'environment' is such a complicated mass of tangles, you need not only a comprehensive understanding of the environment as a whole but also the specific understanding and expertise of a certain area/sector. Doing SPEP is like a crash-course in the expertise area. It's also about gaining a critical perspective and not being afraid of taking a radical outlook on things - something which is particularly important from an environmental viewpoint. In 4 months, my ideas and speculations about environmentalism have been squished, expanded and re-articulated... and there's still 8 months left!

So here's to the next 8 months. And here's to my fellow SPEPers, without which I would probably be in a mental asylum repeatedly talking about the values and improbabilities of bioregionalism!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

"Surely you can't be serious" "I am serious... and don't call me Shirley."

It's the end of a long month, culminating in a depressing exam on environmental policy. So tired. Feel like I need to catch up on 2 months worth of sleep (the joys of being a Masters student...). But I still wanted to remind people of the wise words of Lt. Frank Drebin:

"I've learnt something this week. About the Earth. And about Love. I guess love's like the ozone layer, you never miss it till it's gone. Blowing away a fleeing suspect with my Magnum was everything to me. I enjoyed it, well who wouldn't. But now I want to be the environmental policeman. I want a world where Frank Jr., and all Frank Jrs., can sit under a shady tree, breathe the air, swim in the ocean, and go into a 7-11 without an interpreter. I want a world where I can eat a sea otter without getting sick. Where the Democrats put somebody forward worth voting for."
- Lt. Frank Drebin, Naked Gun 2 1/2

Those are the wisest and most important words one will ever hear. ... Well, maybe not. Nevetheless, Leslie Nielson remains my idol.

More serious blogging coming next.  "Roger that Over. Over." "Over." "Roger." "Huh?!"

Thursday, 20 January 2011

When I'm older I wanna be...

I've been thinking back about what careers I have wanted to follow in my life. It's quite a short list, but seems to cover a huge range of sectors. For a large part of my innocent youth when TV had not yet taken its effect on me, I wanted to be a dinosaur. A tyrannasaurus rex to be precise. I remember this because I recently found a set of instructions, written by yours truly, detailing how exactly to be a tyrannasaurus rex.

It went a bit like this...
1) Bend down low.
2) Arms out, using hands as claws.
3) Snarl and GROOOOOWL.

As you can see, I was a truly gifted child... with big ideas! Come to think of it, I think I wanted to be a dinosaur because we had just got The Land Before Time on video. So I guess TV played a strong role in my life from the very beginning! My next career choice was also influenced by a famous film... Indiana Jones. I remember having a brief spout of wanting to be an archeologist. I soon found out it wasn't all about tombs, doom and big kabooms though and so that quickly dissapated.

My next career choice was a much more serious one. In my teenage years, I used to write a lot... diaries, short stories, I was even the co-editor of my own newsletter at school. It was called the Fourth Estate (use wikipedia to all those who don't know what that refers to). It really was pretty awful but nonetheless, it was an important venture into the world of journalism and press. I definitely took that pretty seriously for a while, I even did a week of work experience for a local magasine. But somewhere in between my cringe-worthy articles and the realisation that I had big important decisions to make about schools and universities, I stopped writing....

So when I was asked, in a recent job application form, why I had chosen my particular career path... I was stumped. I cannot think of one single moment where I decided to go into the environmental sector. It has always seemed like a path that I have always been on. It was a never a choice. I found geography, and since then I've just been following my nose, just seeing where it takes me! So far, so good.

Oh, and I was rejected for that job! I blame it on that stupid question. Pfff...

Monday, 17 January 2011

'Geographers do it in the field'

I am a proud geographer. I remember my first Christmas as an undergrad when we all got our geography hoodies. Never were we cooler than when we were walking around campus, all wearing our dark green hoodies supporting various geographer-related innuendo. Geographers do it in the field. Check out my pyramidal peaks. Not even continental drift can keep us apart. The list of innuendo is endless! In retrospect, I was probably wrong in chosing the catch line 'Give us a Pinch' (a reference to a legendary geography lecturer in Southampton). Other than geographers who went to Southampton, nobody gets it. And yet random strangers do still pinch me! One man even felt the need to tell me that my promiscuity was an ugly thing. I personally feel that wearing a hoody is anything but promiscuous - but each to their own! Later in that same year, we were no longer in dark green hoodies but in bright blue polo shirts supporting the words 'Sponsored by Crayola'. Yes... that is a reference to geographers and their map-making skills.

But the point is that during those 3 years, and still now, I wore those hoodies and t-shirts with pride. At the end of my time at Southampton, I didn't only get a BA (upper second class... thank you very much!), I didn't only get a new innuendo-based wardrobe, I got something to identify myself by. It sounds stupid, but I'm sure that anyone who went to university (and at least felt they got something out of it) can relate, whatever subject you studied for.

My hope is that I can keep this sense of identity and take it into my professional career. Isn't a job so much better when you actually feel a passion for it? Wherever I am in 10, 20 or 30 years time, I hope I am still proud to wear some dorky t-shirt with a company logo and some unintelligent humour on it!

Geographers... represent.

Friday, 14 January 2011

My entry into the world of blogging.

So here I am, about to get stuck into my first blog. I'm still not sure what I want to get out of this. All I know is that I had some funky dream where I was an anonymous columnist for the New Yorker and people were reading my articles with enthusiasm. Sounds fun! But I gave up on wanting to be a journalist a long time ago, so here's the next best thing... and I can thank the miracle that is the internet for this.

I used to have a diary when I was younger. There's something comforting about writing your thoughts down; it can validate them (or just be used to laugh at years later when reading old diaries). So this is what I want to do, I want to put these thoughts down and send them across the comforting anonymity of the cybernet - minus the cringy teenage love stories, only I get to laugh at those.

Who am I? No one important. That doesn't mean I can't make a difference in this world though! If you hadn't guessed by the title of this blog, I consider myself an environmentalist. No, I'm not a hippy. No, I don't want to live in a little house on the prairie. No, I'm not against nuclear energy. I'm a child of the 21st century (sort of) who thinks the world we live in is a lot more important than what we take it for. And yes, I think we need change. But let's not get into that yet!

Oh, and why Kermit? Well... It's not easy being green.