Low Carbon Healthy Lifestyles – Transdisciplinary work?

Published by: Neil Chadborn on 7th May 2013 | View all blogs by Neil Chadborn


Working towards a shared goal, i.e. healthy lifestyle and sustainability, could be described as ‘transdisciplinary’ work. This way of working or researching is often overlooked, because expertise and ‘knowledge’ tend to develop within specialties; in this case, public health and environmental science. Unfortunately disciplines have their drawbacks; research may miss opportunities of ‘cross-fertilisation’ as exemplified by the newspaper article mentioned in my previous blog. Furthermore putting knowledge into practice may be hindered because lifestyles are not arranged in disciplines – we need messages that talk to different facets of our daily life at once. I am involved in an international project that will look at the benefits of transdisciplinary research for human development and sustainability science:

How can we better connect social and environmental sciences to enhance the well-being of people and their environments, especially in the context of poverty?

A challenge for working in a transdisciplinary way can be terminology - because it is mix of several disciplines titles tend to be long and complicated. Also different disciplines may have different meanings for key terms, therefore some meaning can get 'lost in translation'. How do people talk about these links between health and global climate change? We invented the term ‘Low Carbon Healthy Lifestyles’. Twitter users organise around hashtags, which can be an important seed crystal to grow interest and debate. This is the best I’ve found so far: #climatehealth

A great case study of these overlapping issues are the community projects funded by Natural Choices for Health and Wellbeing (Liverpool Primary Care Trust NHS in partnership with Mersey Forest). See my previous blog article.

I have been researching the impact of one of these projects; a therapeutic horticulture project for children. Children and young people from 3 local schools participated in the project, learning about the natural environment as well as benefitting their own wellbeing. I am currently studying how children perceive the gardening project and how they felt it affected their wellbeing. I am particularly interested in how their concepts of nature, ecosystem or sustainability may influence their perceptions of the social world. Are the words and concepts used by the horticultural therapists a critical factor, or is simply being in greenspace therapeutic?

There are ways that tackling climate change can benefit health and wellbeing, however these are often not made explicit. People often consider one or the other, maybe because both health and sustainability are complex topics. I believe bringing these two together, either within global research or local community activities, is a great way to build momentum.


1 Comment

  • Keith Bell
    by Keith Bell 3 years ago
    Neil, The Mersey Forest looks like a beautiful project. I've just "liked" the Facebook page to stay in contact. Focus on children as driver for environmental change has always been crucial. Is your community affected by the UK's rickets epidemic? I've seen a lot of news about this online. I believe the cause is poor sanitation over generations leading to gut flora imbalances. Flora imbalance is not normally associated with vitamin D deficiency, but should be. We also don't know the effect of routine vaccination on flora. Improved sanitation such as dry compost toilet technology which dovetails nicely with gardening and forestation is what I see as solution to a global rickets epidemic. It also addresses global warming as mixing our waste with water leads to algae blooms which are a significant source of carbon dioxide. UK beaches are polluted with raw sewage 10x over legal limits.
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