Five minutes with Lauren Rickards
This month we meet Lauren Rickards – a University of Melbourne Research Fellow with PIARN, the Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute and the Victorian Centre for Climate Change Adaptation Research.
Dr Lauren Rickards BSc (Hons), MSc (Env Change and Mgt), PhD (Geog)
My area of expertise is critique of complex policy issues such as climate change extremes, adaptation and the future of agriculture.
In a typical day I perform the normal work / life juggle. Ride or run to work, catch up with colleagues, work on one of the many interesting projects I am involved in, try to cross some things off the list, read a bit of literature, dash home, play with my two year old, feed the chooks, tag team with my husband, get ready to do it again!...
The best thing about my job is working with interesting people to give serious intellectual attention to crucial societal problems in order to help identify what is really at issue.
The downside of my job is having to chase short-term, overly prescriptive funding
If I wasn't a Research Fellow I'd be a consultant to government on agricultural and environmental sustainability issues as I was previously – good work, except when you want to change what questions are asked, not just answer them!
Before joining the University I was an Associate Partner at RM Consulting Group for a few years, including being Thinker-in-Residence for Birchip Cropping Group. Before that I was Vice-Principal of Janet Clarke Hall, a residential college of the University of Melbourne – helping lead lots of country students.
The best piece of advice I've received is try to get past the urgent to the important.
My career highlight is yet to come!.. Studying at Oxford was incredible.
One thing that most people don't know about me is when I was growing up I wanted to be a dairy farmer like my grandparents.
To me, adaptation means realising that the thinking that got us into this problem is not going to get us out.
One of my key areas of work in primary industries’ adaptation is how we think about and manage risk, uncertainty and human agency in climate change adaptation.
I decided to become a Research Fellow because I wanted a chance to get to the bottom of the issues we face rather than constantly skating over the surface.
What concerns you most about climate change adaptation in the primary industries? The limited business-as-usual thinking that dominates most climate change adaptation discussions in the sector. Cavalier statements about how change will be achieved without appreciating the costs and risks that adaptation poses for many farmers given the existing effects of climate extremes and other pressures on them. Neglect of the potential value of, and current costs of, agriculture as currently practiced.
What would you like to see happen over the next 12 months in the climate change adaptation space? Some serious, considered discussion about what the goal of adaptation is, particularly for agriculture, and what perverse policies may need to be reconsidered if we are to work towards it.
I'm passionate about fresh air and good food.
I'm always being asked so what should we be doing?
One piece of advice I would give to young researchers is don't stop thinking critically.
Read Lauren's recent opinion piece on scenario planning for climate change adaptation at The Conversation.