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Making sense of sustainability by promoting environmental futures dialogue: an arts and social sciences collaboration

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Can social scientists, arts scholars and artists work together to develop creative and imaginative strategies to address some of the major environmental risks that face us in the 21st Century? Is it possible to develop cross-disciplinary ways of working to promote ideas about ways of making possible the changes that are necessary in order to deal with the risks and uncertainties involved for people and their communities, and the rapid pace of change in human-ecological relationships?  Can artists and social scientists envisage possibilities for living with the environmental transformations that are already under way, and to help promote ways of creating more sustainable lives, places and futures?

We are building a new social science-arts network within Wales and beyond that will directly address such questions.

Network Aims

The network will:


  • Enable social scientists, arts scholars and artists to work together to foster intellectually and culturally creative work - also involving people and communities - on ways of making sense of uncertainties, ambiguities, dangers and risks posed by natural resource depletion, climate change and environmental transformation
  • Elucidate contested meanings of sustainability (including sustainable energy), and consider how ‘sustainability’ operates as a set of scientific, political, ethical and arts discourses
  • Explore how  and why arts scholars, and artists who are producing and performing works on the theme of sustainability, promote awareness of the importance of the aesthetic value of those artworks
  • Develop cross-disciplinary ways of working so that artists, arts scholars and social scientists can envisage and promote generative, future-oriented actions and activities that are capable of contributing to more sustainable lives and place-making.

Please visit the Environmental Futures Dialogue website for more information on the network's planned outcomes, past and future events, news, contact details and much more. 

Invitation to Register Your Interest In the Network 

If you wish to register your interest in becoming a network member, please send an email with this request to 

Network Organisers

Karen Henwood is a Professor in the School of Social Sciences. Her research interests include how members of the public and local communities make sense of, and respond to, environmental risk. She has written extensively on social sciences methods (including interpretive and temporal) for studying the dynamics of time, identities/subjectivities, and socio-cultural change. 

Dr Carl Lavery is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Theatre, Film and Television at Aberystwyth University, where he teaches theatre and performance through the lens of ecology.

Dr Chris Groves' work focuses on how people and institutions negotiate and deal with an intrinsically uncertain future – one increasingly imagined against the backdrop of global environmental change and accelerating technological innovation  (such as in personalised genetic testing, and bio-/nanotechnology ). The monograph Future Matters: Action, Knowledge, Ethics (Brill, 2007), co-authored with Professor Barbara Adam (Social Science, Cardiff University), examines these themes in depth.

Dr Ria Dunkley is a Researcher at the Sustainable Places Institute, Cardiff and the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning (IATL) at the University of Warwick. Her research interests include arts and cultural movements that support sustainable development and Education for Sustainability at all levels, within both formal and informal contexts. She also has an interest in emergent research approaches.