Being academic, and then getting better

Three days into my dissertation interviews and I was starting to feel like a proper academic.  It wasn’t the interviews themselves, or spending hours writing them up.  It wasn’t continually telling people that I was one, explaining my project and talking about it, even occasionally a bit knowledgably, it wasn’t even the dictaphone (though that certainly helped).  I think the main thing that made me feel like a proper academic, was that I didn’t really know what I thought anymore and was finding myself resorting to the default position – it’s all just very complex…

My project is looking at public perceptions of land use change in the Lakes, and ultimately I want to look into what the general public thinks about the way the lakes looks, how it is managed and ultimately I guess, what it is really for.

Monbiot’s rewilding accusations that the Lake District is being ecology destroyed by the dominance of productionist sheep farming, development of models which talk more about farming ecosystem services than sheep and world heritage site bids which talk of a cultural landscape and not about biodiversity all paint very different pictures of what the Lakes are for, how they should be managed in the future, and more subtle questions about how and why do we fund a national park – are the general public really more motivated by wildlife, or people, adventure, carbon or flood management, and if improving these services means compromising one of those others, or changing the way the Lakes looks or feels, is it worth it.

So far my interviews have shown me a range of interesting and well informed opinions, often thoughtfully argued and well founded, just founded in different underlying ideals and interpretations.  In reality I am often struck as much by the similarity of opinions from diverse and often opposing groups, and it seems that compromise is really understood to be required by all parties.  At the same time it is striking to see how disengagement of different factions, nuances of language, and real  practical tradeoffs and difficult decisions create a highly complex picture which clearly has no easy solution… it is complex…

Smarting slightly from this conclusion which I always resent people trotting out, I went for a walk, things always make more sense when walking… and I thought that in so many ways, a few photos snapped on my phone told the complexity and simplicity of the story so much better than many of the words I had been juggling, and probably than I have juggled here.  I still didn’t know exactly what I thought, but I knew what I felt, and I felt less academic… and I felt better.







About domhall

I have spent the last 15 years juggling careers in education publishing, expedition leadership and safety training. It has involved a careful balancing act of dreams of expedition travel, a love of climbing, walking and the outdoors and the the realities of life - and the later has definitely come off worse. I've run an adventure travel and expedition training business and lived in the sometimes sunny Lake District. Having taken a year out to complete an MSc in Environmental Technology I am now working for The Conservation Volunteers, working on engaging communities in their local green spaces.
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