Dr Alfy Gathorne-Hardy

Interdisciplinary Lecturer in Sustainable Resource Use

Background

My career has spanned academia, consultancy, parliament and government including a secondment to Defra to develop the Government’s Bioenergy Sustainability Criteria. My academic research examines the interactions and trade-offs between different players in socio-ecological systems. I received a doctorate from Imperial College before going to Oxford in 2011 to study the Indian food system. I was the Research Director of the Oxford India Centre for Sustainable Development from 2014, and joined the University of Edinburgh in 2017.

What will you eat for supper tonight? Pasta due to fussy children, or raw vegetables for health? Perhaps you’ll avoid meat due to cultural/religious views, or maybe you don’t mind what you eat as long as there’s plenty of it at a good price? Then again, maybe you’re not in a position to choose – maybe you’re one of the 2 billion who don’t have access to adequate food, let alone the ability to choose from the enormous variety we are familiar with in the West. Whatever your do, you are part of the global food system, both driving impacts and vulnerable to what the system throws at you. Your decisions will influence not only local issues such as your health and wallet, but also global factors including the rate of agricultural expansion into biodiverse rich habitats; the employment and job qualities of those working in the world’s largest sector; the aesthetics of landscapes as well as climate change, and energy use and numerous other factors. Equally your ability to buy adequate food is impacted by your employment conditions, the global economy, resistance of pests to pesticides, national food policies and the ability of the food system to respond to biotic and abiotic shocks around the world.

It is the complexity of this push- and pull- relationship that I’m fascinated by. While most of us want to reduce our environmental impacts, which aspects of the environment are most important? Once we’ve made these decisions of what we value, how can we measure them? And if do measure them, what can we do about trade-offs: which is more important, our love of certain foods, the working conditions of those that produce them, climate change, biodiversity?

View all 6 publications on Research Explorer