Environmental engagement student case study 4: Changing Landscape in the Future

Education for sustainable development


Pip Carlton-Barnes, University College Falmouth, BA (Hons) English with Media

Practical details of your visit

Photo: Pip Carlton-Barnes

Photo: Pip Carlton-Barnes

CLIF- (Changing Landscape In the Future) is a project initiated by professionals and students from the University of Exeter, (Cornwall Campus). The project invited students studying on the English With Media/Creative Writing degrees at University College Falmouth, (who share the same campus), to engage with the Cornish landscape with climate change in mind. Only a handful of students including myself took part.

We visited, ‘The Lizard Peninsula’ in Cornwall as part of an organised trip that was kindly hosted by the very knowledgeable tour guide, ‘Paul’ from, ‘Walk-it-Cornwall’. We travelled lecturers and students together in a minibus provided by our guide and volunteered information about all the different literature both fiction and fact that had informed us of the surrounding landscapes over the years. On arrival Paul produced a very colourful geological map that was entirely lost on me but the information he gave us was fascinating: some of it new and some we were already aware of. This then gave us a historical overview of how the landscape had been shaped up to the present day.

Before we had left we had been given a brief, ‘to engage with the landscape in a way that explores how we personally feel the landscape has changed now and will in the future’.

How it enhanced your learning and/or how your university studies affected your visit experience

Having lived in Cornwall for the majority of my life and certainly all of my memorable childhood I have spent many hours exploring the landscapes of the Cornish coasts. It is a cliché to say I have always taken these places for granted but it is true. I have to say I found it hard to engage with the Lizard in the context of climate change as now in adulthood nothing appears to have changed. Development is often the main headline for most local papers and the driving force for many campaigns across the county. But climate change? I really had to think. Perhaps it is the fresh air, largely clear sea and often lush green landscapes that have inhibited the concept of climate change frequenting the front of my brain. The weather is probably the biggest tell-tale sign but even then, this is Cornwall: the weather has never been predictable has it?

So, when I was asked to approach The Lizard with the changing landscape in mind, now and in the future, and what it meant to me I had to rely heavily on our very knowledgeable tour guide. It was a wonderful opportunity to look into the landscape and how man had shaped it, how moss was present because of clean air and how animals are still the most reliable form of natural lawn mowing! Falling cliffs and disappearing steps, well that was nothing new in fact as a child steps just got in the way and sudden disappearing cliff edges were part of the thrill! As an adult re-visiting these thrills and testing my nerve as a past-time is a valuable resource in preserving the mental pictures of my childhood. For as long as I can remember nature has been shaping the landscape. Don’t we perceive everything to happen in haste as we get older anyway? So why should the speed of nature’s course be any different?

Photo: Pip Carlton-Barnes

Photo: Pip Carlton-Barnes

So do I engage differently now? Yes my methods of calculation have changed. I thought the hills were shrinking but then I realised I take bigger strides. I appreciate that the shape of the landscape has often been shaped by man so I have a greater admiration for nature’s determination and success in retaining such beauty after all these years. In short I enjoy the changes that nature has made and continues to make regardless of the speed they happen.

Having studied many of the canonical works of the ‘Romantics’, over the previous two years it was impossible not to view the landscape in a similar way. At the time I was approaching decisions about my literature dissertation. The environment and my reflections on the landscape kept drawing me closer to‘Thomas Hardy’. It was easy to see how his beautiful literary realist descriptions of landscape had been inspired. So in this respect the field-trip and project certainly helped me form course related questions and answers.

Several weeks later the students who had taken part and produced work in response to the brief were invited to attend an academic conference at Bath University.  Only two of us rose to the challenge and in hindsight it was certainly an opportunity I was grateful to have been offered.

I have spent many years standing in front of hundreds of people as a commentator, (my part-time occupation), so one would think the confidence was there. But, saying what you see at high speeds within my comfort zone and behind the disguise ‘Pip at work’ is enormously different to presenting self-crafted ‘personal’ work to a room full of high achieving academics. I thought it would have been impossible for our audience to ask questions about our work against some of the more academic pieces also presented.  I had produced a slideshow of images taken on the field-trip with subtitles and sound effects that represented my personal response to the brief. But questions were asked and on reflection I am pleased our work sparked curiosity. This then has given me a more productive confidence in presenting my work in the future.

The project has been and continues to be so much fun, exploring new ideas both within my own thoughts and academic learning and listening to those of others. Creating work in an almost recreational manner has in some ways been far more rewarding than completing an essay with grades! Bringing a number of people together with different backgrounds, knowledge and skills is a fantastic chance to express individual thoughts and responses through a variety of media. Ultimately this creates a positive environment to contemplate alternative perspectives and experiment with new ideas and skills. Everything I have learnt so far can only be an asset to any future endeavours be it academic or professional.