How Stories and Sagas Create Agency for the Climate and Biodiversity Crises

  • Thu 9 Feb 23

    13:00 - 14:00

  • Colchester Campus

    STEM 3.1

  • Event speaker

    Jules Pretty

  • Event type

    Lectures, talks and seminars

  • Event organiser

    Life Sciences, School of

  • Contact details

    Dr Anna Sturrock

Environment, society and culture are closely linked. They shape each other.

Professor Pretty’s new book, Sea Sagas of the North takes the North Sea and eastern North Atlantic as its palette, and tells tales of ecological and economic change in six countries looking inward to the sandy shallow sea. A burnished ancient skipper of the drifters and trawlers leant across the café table overlooking the long-abandoned site of a beach fishing village, and said, “You know, we were more tolerant and kind in those days, when we had the fishing. We went to other ports and places, and came back with stories and gifts.” An Icelandic author, Andri Snær Magnason, wrote a lament to their first glacier entirely to disappear, saying, “How do you say goodbye to a glacier?”

It is a common feeling for people, these days, to feel anxiety and fear, helplessness too, in the face of global-wide crises. Yet stories can create agency, can be like tricksters of old who set us on the path through the dark forest. A very simple solution exists: leave all fossil fuels in the ground. Yet implementation seems impossible.

This talk is about hope and heroic journeys. It about acting and inspiring. It is about the options available to all of us for a low-carbon good life. The American poet, Mary Oliver, put it well in her seven-word poem, Instructions for Living a Life: “Pay attention, Be astonished, Tell about it.”

During this seminar, Professor Pretty will also highlight a few of his most highly cited papers and explore the main take home messages and the magical ingredient(s) that made them so widely read and paradigm shifting. A must see for any budding scientists trying to write a publication classic in an increasingly saturated market.


Jules Pretty is Professor of Environment and Society at the University of Essex, and Director of the Centre for Public and Policy Engagement. His books include Sea Sagas of the North (2022), The East Country (2017), The Edge of Extinction (2014), This Luminous Coast (2011), Agri-Culture (2002) and Regenerating Agriculture (1995).

He is Chief Editor of the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability. He received an OBE for services to sustainable agriculture, an honorary degree from Ohio State University, and the British Science Association Presidential Medal. He is among the top 1% most cited scientists worldwide, and is host of the podcast Louder Than Words and film shorts series Brighter Futures.

How to attend

This seminar is being held in person in STEM 3.1 (STEM Centre on Square 1, Colchester campus). You can also watch via Zoom (meeting ID: 916 2270 2239)

If you have any queries about this seminar please email Dr Anna Sturrock (anna.sturrock@essex.ac.uk).

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