School holidays and energy consequences – via The Conversation UK

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School holiday shakeup brings unintended consequences

By Allison Hui, Lancaster University; Elizabeth Shove, Lancaster University, and Gordon Walker, Lancaster University

Michael Gove’s proposal to allow all schools in England to set their own holidays is part of a bill aimed at removing “unnecessary burdens” and regulations. But removing some burdens could create others. Some potential complications such changes might present for schools and for families have already been discussed, but there are other unintended consequences.

Our particular interest is in energy. The link is not initially obvious, but it is clear that what people do, and when they do it, is important for determining peaks and troughs of energy demand. No one buys gas, electricity or petrol just for the fun of it; they are used for providing power and heat at home, getting to school or to work, and so on. How and when people use these resources, whether they do so at the same time as others, and how they are distributed throughout the year is of direct significance for total energy demand. Changing the length, timing, or coordination of school holidays would have a big impact on the ways in which daily lives are scheduled, and hence on the timing of when energy is used.

Changing travel patterns

For one, travel patterns and the school run could be affected. If families with children at several different schools find that their holidays fall during different periods, the journey to school, with its consequences for fuel use and carbon emissions, might have to be extended to cover more days of the year. Potentially such changes could break up familiar patterns of traffic congestion around the school run, sometimes reducing traffic, or potentially making it worse. Either way, peaks and levels of transport-related energy demand are likely to shift as families adapt to new holiday periods.

Changing where energy is used

Also consider the energy used in heating and running buildings occupied at different times of the day and year. Currently the longest school holiday period is during the summer, when energy demands are lower. During the Christmas break it’s colder, but the energy burden of keeping warm during the day is shifted from the school (or workplace) to the home. In theory, schools could change the timing and duration of holidays so as to reduce the need for energy intensive heating or lighting – for example by making winter and Easter breaks considerably longer and extending the summer term.

Children out of school are generally at home, so this strategy would shift costs from schools to parents. It’s obvious what this would mean for those who pay the bills, but it’s not clear what such a change would mean for total energy consumption. Collective heating systems – as in a school – would more efficiently keep lots of children warm, using less total energy than required to heat and light many private homes through the day. Then again, those homes are already heated for part of the day; extending this by a few more hours (and not heating the country’s schools at all) might entail less energy consumption in total.

Disconnected policies

It would be interesting to see some careful working out of the implications of education policy for energy demand. Somewhat similar calculations have been made in an effort to quantify the energy consequences of putting the clocks back and of thereby shifting patterns of activity into hours of darkness (or light). This is something of an exception. More commonly, little or no attention is paid to the impact that non-energy policies have on the temporal and spatial patterning of daily life, and hence on the energy demands – and carbon emissions – that follow.

One way or another, the proposal to de-synchronise school holidays is sure to have tangible, but unintended and unanticipated consequences for energy demand. And yet despite this there is no systematic attempt to think about how this, or indeed any other, non-energy policy affects the extent and timing of energy demand.

Allison Hui and the DEMAND Centre receives funding from the RCUK Energy Programme and EDF as part of the R&D ECLEER Programme.

Elizabeth Shove and the DEMAND Centre receive funding from the RCUK Energy Programme and EDF as part of the R&D ECLEER Programme

Gordon Walker and the DEMAND Centre receive funding from the RCUK Energy Programme and EDF as part of the R&D ECLEER Programme

The Conversation

This article was originally published at The Conversation.
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Immigration, artistry and transformation

When I came across this piece in The Atlantic last month, it struck a wonderful chord. In it, Joe Fassler talks to writer Edwidge Danticat about the links between immigration and creativity. One of Danticat’s favourite books is Patricia Engel’s It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, which discusses how for immigrants, life is a work of art. In moving to a new country, immigrants face situations that require a creativity and resolve that is seen most often in creative arts, and which can implicitly teach their children about the value of these endeavors.

While I haven’t read Engel’s book, the sentiment certainly corroborates many of the discussions I had with Hong Kong return migrants. Even when people didn’t speak explicitly about art, their experiences moving to another country, and even returning to their home country, demanded transformation, a remaking of everyday life, and a sense of humor.

Thinking about how this resonates with the work of artists made me consider how even things like Austin Kleon’s ten rules for stealing like an artist could be re-written with immigrants in mind. My exploration of what that might look like is not based on research so much as a creative extrapolation from the experience of my family and other immigrants I have encountered. Therefore please read it as an experiment in pushing this link between immigration and artistry forward, not as a comment on any debates within migration literature (nor actual advice that should be given to all immigrants). The statements below in quotes are Kleon’s original advice, and any other comments are my own. Your thoughts and responses are welcomed

1. Steal ideas from the locals – though you will re-work them as you do so, it is helpful to build on what others already have discovered about your new context.

2. “Don’t wait until you  know who you are to get started” – this one applies to immigrants as it does to artists. Life in a new place is hard, but it keeps going whether you  know how you fit in or not.

3. Make the life you want to live – it’s hard to live exactly as you did before, or as the locals do, so why not make the life you want for yourself in your new context.

4. “Use your hands” – while for artists this is about making things, for immigrants it is probably more about making connections and relationships

5. “Side projects and hobbies are important” – whether taking on new pursuits or continuing old ones, leisure can be incredibly important for some immigrants’ happiness and sense of community in a new place

6. “The secret: do good work and share it with people” – proving yourself as an artist and as an immigrant are not necessarily all that different

7. “Geography is no longer our master” – this is something immigrants are certainly already aware of

8. “Be nice (the world is a small town)” – especially now with the internet and social media, keeping connected is easier than ever, so even what immigrants do in other countries can make it back to the ears and eyes of their families elsewhere!

9. “Be boring (it’s the only way to get work done)” – I’m not sure this advice is as necessary for immigrants as artists – or so the stereotype of hardworking and motivated immigrants would suggest

10. Creativity is the way to find your new normal – whether subtraction or addition, immigration is about transformation and creativity is, as Engel suggests, a key component of this

While the parallel starts to show its weaknesses when you try to push it further like this, I still appreciate the way that picturing immigrants as artists frames them as key actors in the transformation of their lives. So much discussion of immigrant adaptation is about fitting in and therefore highlights normal practices in the larger population. As I’ve seen in my research though, when people immigrate their experience is much more about creative adaptations to new ways of living. In my work I’ve used creative methods to get at some of these adaptations, but I think there is much more that can be done in this vein. As a next step though, I’ll have to go and pick up Engel’s book.

Moving with practices

It’s always an exciting moment to see your words make it into print. Though there are always things you would have changed with hindsight, it is also rewarding to know that finally your thoughts, and the experiences others generously shared with you, can move on to begin a discussion with readers.

In that spirit, here are a few sentences from my latest paper, which can be found on the publisher’s site for those with university subscriptions. While it is an academic paper, for anyone who is not connected to a university but remains interested, there is also a limited number of free downloads available at this link.

“Despite arguments that mobilities are pervasive aspects of all social life,many studies of leisure, hobbies and subcultures have failed to probe the significant extent to which travel affects these communities. After arguing that social practices are inseparable from their mobilities, this paper shows how the objects and goals of leisure reinforce structured ways of travelling. That is, enacting the goals and emotions of leisure, and using specialized objects and knowledge, is only possible when leisure enthusiasts move in particular ways and according to distinct temporalities.” (p2, online advanced copy)

“patterns of travel are not just shared by leisure enthusiasts—they are constitutive of these groups. That is, subcultural practices are made distinct and meaningful by their temporally structured mobilities.” (p16, online advanced copy)

“Studying mobilities through the frame of practices is therefore important because it sheds light on how people are ‘mobile-with’ practices and the elements that compose them.” (p16, online advanced copy)

The full citation for article in question is:
Hui, A. (2013). Moving with practices: the discontinuous, rhythmic and material mobilities of leisure, Social and Cultural Geography. Published online 2 Sept. Available at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14649365.2013.827736#.UlgPDhA9JaQ