Steph Barker

New to the team is Consultant Steph Barker. She is currently working with Richard on Climate change

The Basics

Name: Steph Barker

Job title: Consultant

Lives: Oxford

Qualifications: B.A. in Ethics, Politics and Economics (Yale, 2019), M.Sc. in Environmental Governance (Oxford, 2021)

Welcome to 3Keel! How has your day been so far?

Thank you. It’s 10am, so the day is young, but it’s been good so far.

You’ve joined 3Keel completely remotely because of the Covid-19 pandemic. How have you found it so far, and how do you stay connected to the team?

I just started a few weeks ago, and given high vaccination rates in the UK, it has been possible for me to spend quite a bit of time in the office. I have been going in a couple of times a week, which has been great. I have enjoyed getting to meet colleagues in person, while also having some of the flexibility that working from home provides. Most of the 3Keel team is still working remotely, so I have been using the coffee morning zoom sessions to get to know other members of the team.

What have you started working on so far?

I have been working on several different projects over the past few weeks. I have done some research on what the market for plant-based milks is expected to do as part of a net zero roadmap in the Climate Change practice area. I have done some research into possibilities for reducing the UK government’s operational carbon footprint. I have also been working on a project within the Circular Economy practice area. We are helping a big animal health retailer to reduce their packaging footprint and writing a company policy on packaging sustainability. It’s been great to get involved in a few projects and learn about what is happening in different areas of 3Keel.

What are you looking forward to most about working for 3Keel?

Having just finished my Master’s in Environmental Governance, I am particularly excited to learn about how organizations are developing their decarbonization roadmaps, and enacting sustainability commitments on the ground. I am a bit of a bookworm, so I loved doing class readings and getting to discuss books and articles with my peers, but I often felt a bit frustrated that there wasn’t a more practical engagement with contemporary environmental governance issues. I am really looking forward to thinking about the more ‘practical’ and action-oriented side of the problems I engaged with during my degree.

Who or what inspired you to work in sustainability?

I don’t know that there was one person or event that made me want to work in sustainability. If I had to point to something, I would probably say that reading David Wallace Well’s book The Uninhabitable Earth confirmed for me that I wanted to do environmental policy work. I picked up a copy of a book when I was in Miami at the end of 2019. I started reading it at a coffee shop in Miami Beach one afternoon. For those who don’t know, Miami Beach is an island just off the coast of mainland Florida, connected to the main city of Miami by several bridges. In his book, Wallace Wells talks about how much sea levels could rise if the world warm by two, four, six or even eight degrees. It is a hard-hitting read that really drives home the reality of an ‘uninhabitable earth’. A world warmed by a couple of degree, in Wallace-Well’s words will leave places like Miami Beach completely underwater. Sitting in that coffee shop, the gravity of the situation sank in. This is of course not to say that my individual decision to work in sustainability will change this, but I think that I was drawn to work in sustainability by the ‘wickedness’ and importance of this problem.

How has the pandemic affected your views on sustainability?

Honestly, I am not sure the pandemic has really changed my views on sustainability and the importance of changing current human relationships to the environment. The sustainability agenda was super important before the pandemic and remains so today. If anything, the pandemic has shown how intimately intertwined global human, animal and planetary health are. In the last two years it has felt like environmental challenges, like climate change have been held in one hand, and the pandemic in another, and I think it’s really important to recognize how these ‘twin crises’ were born out of the same circumstances.

When you’re not working, what do you like to do?

So many things! I am still living in Oxford, and I have stayed connected with some groups that I was involved with during my degree. I currently volunteer with an organization called Uncomfortable Oxford, which runs tours of Oxford city and aims to provide a platform for engaging with the city’s ‘uncomfortable’ colonial history. I am also captaining my old college’s rowing club this year and hoping to get stuck into gardening in an allotment near Port Meadow. I love running, hiking and sailing — really any sport that gives me a good excuse to spend time outdoors. I am also an avid cook, so hosting dinner parties with my four housemates is one of my favourite things to do.

For those wanting to learn more about sustainability, what key resource (tv, film, book, podcast, etc.) can you recommend?

Ooh. Great question. I have so many thoughts. I really love this podcast called Outrage and Optimism — it covers anything and everything environment and climate related, and the hosts get a range of fantastic speakers on the show. They’ve interviewed people, from John Kerry to the CEO of Shell, Ben van Beurden.

On the book side of things, I could probably fill another page with a list of recommendations, but my recent favourite is a book called The Ministry of the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson, which imagines a world in the 2030s where the UN has created a new ‘ministry’ to represent the interests of future generations under the Paris Climate Agreement. Robinson does a great job of exploring many of the policy innovations, and engineering solutions that people think could be used to mitigate and adapt to climate change. I would highly recommend.