About the project
Living Well with Water is a PhD research project funded by the White Rose College of Arts and Humanities, part of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. The wider aim of the project is to put ecological democracy into practice; to understand what matters to people about local environmental decisions, specifically around the rivers in York. The way this will be framed is to open up conversations about ‘environmental values’ and to try to prompt new ways of thinking about our relationship with rivers in urban areas.
The focus of this project therefore will be giving a voice to people who are affected by decisions, allowing people to participate in the decision-making process who may previously have been left out or not had an opportunity to have a say.
I am Seb O’Connor and my PhD is based at the University of Leeds but I travel to York on a regular basis. I have a Msc in Ecological Economics from the University of Edinburgh where I was particularly interested in ways of carrying out non-monetary (values beyond a price) valuations of the environment and how we democratise decisions about nature more generally.
Ecological Economics (EE) is field of study that is concerned with understanding the relationship between the environment, the economy and society. The aim of EE is to look at the ways in which we can make this relationship sustainable, efficient and fair. The basic starting point for EE is to recognise that we are fundamentally embedded within, and reliant upon, the natural world we live in. As a subject then, it includes not just economics but lots of disciplines such as philosophy, geography, anthropology and psychology – to name a few – in order to get a better picture of how the human and the more-than-human world relate and interact.
Flooding therefore is a prime example of this relationship between nature and people sometimes being extremely problematic. The idea that floods will happen though is inevitable and acts as a reminder that we are fundamentally embedded within the natural world, where flooding is a part of the natural water cycle. However, our actions and our relationship with the environment over time can make living with this phenomenon more difficult, or alternatively, better. So this research project from my own perspective is about exploring ways in which we can, quite literally, live well with water.