My research is on the consequences of climate change, and I love this. In my opinion, climate change is the fight of our era and this focus makes my work worthwhile. However, it means I can’t ignore everything else around me and tunnel my vision only to the consequences I’m researching. I now question every decision I make, from food to power to washing and to transport. Long gone are those guilt-free days when I thought that recycling was enough to play my part.
The ship is a good place to make you consider your consumption and waste. Everything you need has to be brought with you before you set off, and most waste has to be stored, transported, and deposited at a shore facility. We were not distanced from our waste as much as ashore, where the bin in your flat gets magically emptied (okay okay maybe not by magic, maybe by flatmate – thanks Sam) into a larger outside bin, which magically gets taken away to ??????, out of sight and out of mind. Sometimes I imagine all the waste an individual creates during their lives stacked up next to them, one towering monstrosity, a mountain of slow degradation. Well, on a ship it’s not quite like that, as waste is stored away nicely and the food waste is burnt. But there were containers full of our recyclables, and its presence alone is enough to make you think.
The ship is also a great place for focus. Having no signal and little internet is freeing, and being away from notifications allowed me really focus, and weirdly considering the long working hours, relax. I might adjust the notification settings of a lot of apps on my phone.
Now the fieldwork aspect of my PhD is complete, I need to process my samples, analyse the data, and write. Many students go to far-flung conferences in this period to present their early findings, but I have decided against going to any outside the UK or further than a train can reach. As tempting as they are, and as good they are for networking etc, I can’t bring myself to fly again. I feel guilty for my flight from Svalbard to Aberdeen, and got the train from Southampton to Aberdeen and back before and after the trip to avoid any extra flying. As climate scientists, I think we need to question the good that will come from our carbon emissions. Are we helping the world, or just ourselves?