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Pathways Project

Pathways to Understanding the Changing Climate:

Time and Place in Cultural Learning about the Environment   


In the framework of the AHRC theme 'Care for the Future: Thinking Forward through the Past' exploring the relationship between past, present and future and investigating the significance of continuity and change.

Known as the 'Pathways Project' this work is a collaboration between the Division of Social Anthropology and the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge, the logo is designed with a mirrored letter 'p' to appear as two trees to represent the environment.

  • How do people understand their environment to be changing over time, and how are these changes observed and reflected upon?
  • Do people draw upon a knowledge of past environments when thinking about future environmental scenarios, including those associated with the changing climate?
  • What connections do people make between environmental events effecting the local area where they live, and the experiences of people living in other localities elsewhere in the world?

Pathways to Understanding the Changing Climate is an interdisciplinary research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), that brings together educationalists and social anthropologists with the aim of understanding how people narrate and respond to their ever changing local landscapes.

Using a range of innovative methodologies, the 'Pathways Project' traces the extent to which people connect their local environmental knowledge with global processes - from climate change, to habitat destruction.

Following the Stern Review's focus upon questions of intergenerational equity, a major focus for the project is how children learn about and make sense of environmental change. Members of our team are also investigating how people's working lives shape their engagement with ecological concerns - locally, nationally, and globally.

 Our key activities and outputs include:

  • The creation of a database of narratives and images exploring environmental pasts and futures in East Anglia, a region with a long history of landscape flux and, due to its flat and low-lying nature, a particular of climate change. 
  • Working with primary schools in different locations around the world, running a series of activities including walk-and-talk interviews, archaeological digs and much more, all designed to get children to reflect upon and express their own perceptions of the changing environment.
  • An exhibition exploring how the environment changes over time, hosted by the Prickwillow Museum.

A further important part of our research agenda is to foster cross-cultural links between communities from different parts of the world with radically different ecologies. Drawing on existing networks in regions where the Division of Social Anthropology has strong working relationships - especially Alaska, Mexico and Mongolia - we aimed to understand whether communities make connections between environmental events that they perceive locally and events affecting localities elsewhere in the world.

By establishing links between schools and organisations in East Anglia with their counterparts elsewhere in the world, we not only explored how communities perceive environmental change in their own locality, but also how they receive and respond to the experience of change elsewhere in the world.


To find out more about our work, please contact Libby Peachey, at 




pathwayslogoPathways Project Logo Designed by Libby Peachey 


New Seminar Series from the Climate Histories Group

It is with great pleasure that we welcome you to the new seminar series from the Climate Histories Group.

Charlie Kennel: Visiting Research Fellow, Centre for Science and Policy, Distinguished Visiting Scholar, Christ's College, and Director Emeritus, Vice-Chancellor, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego.

A talk on climate change entitled:
"Climate - The Enigma Wrapped Inside a Mystery"
with comments from Hildegard Diemberger and Richard Fraser (MIASU).

28th February 2017 from 4:30pm-6pm
Seminar Room, Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU), Mond Building, Free School Lane, Cambridge.


The Pathways Project: an event for PGCE students only

6th March 2017 from 6:15pm-9pm (Buffet at 8pm), Homerton College

Contact for queries and to register for this free event by Monday 27th February: Libby Peachey

Here we present some methods used to engage children in learning about their localities in the context of important challenges such as inequality and climate change; including discussion of methods for encouraging understanding about place through comparison with other places between children in different parts of the world. We will put these methods into the context of the curriculum to open up a discussion about how this work might contribute to curriculum objectives. Finally we point you towards some useful resources. 

Presentations will be given by project participants: Laurence Ball (Deputy Headteacher, Weatherall’s School, Soham), Richard Irvine (Research Associate, Anthropology), Elsa Lee (Research Associate, Education), and David Whitley (Lecturer in English Literature). We look forward to seeing you there.