With bloodless technicality, risk can be defined as function of two terms: hazard – a damaging “event” of a given type and magnitude, with some probability of occurrence, that impacts people or assets (things of value to someone); and consequence – typically represented as some measure of people affected or assets damaged by a given hazard event.

My own research involving risk, particularly in coastal settings, is situated in bloodless technicality. Buildings and erosion rates are amenable to number-crunching. To illustrate: consider beach erosion. Unto itself, beach erosion is a natural consequence of sediment transport by water or wind, when more sand is carried away from a place than delivered to it. (And by the rule of “no free lunch,” if one place is eroding, then another place must be accreting.) Erosion becomes a hazard when it begins to impinge upon something that someone, or some institution, values as an asset: a road, a house, a pavilion of public toilets. Hazard is not inherent in a beach. But inherent in a piece of beachfront property – expressly because it is regarded as “property” – is the risk that erosion might carve it away.

People, by comparison, are mind-bogglingly complex. Thus, contemplating risk not just in terms of human life (population) but also lived experience in a risky context puts in sharp relief how blinkered the bloodless definition of risk really is.

Fundamentally, risk is a calculation – one in which time and space are intrinsic components.

But a calculation of what? And who is doing the calculating? Did a person choose to be in a risky context, or are they in that context by circumstances beyond their control? Are they even aware of how their situation is a risky one? How does awareness change their attitude toward that risk?

(These are important questions to ask.)

This podcast is an effort to explore the extraordinary diversity of risk and its manifestations – in environmental, social, financial, economic, cultural, and health contexts, and the liminal spaces in which those contexts blur.

In these episodes, I speak with people who are investigating risk in different ways – in different fields and topics and settings, through different research methods, and from different theoretical and conceptual and empirical perspectives.

Accompanying each episode are a few links to relevant supporting material.

Furthermore, this project is taking shape as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to play out. These interviews take place via Skype, warts and all – you can hear patchy Internet connections; you can hear the erms and uhms (mostly mine) of thinking aloud; you can hear sirens and trucks reversing and the household sounds that come with not recording in a studio.

If you’re wondering, I have no operating budget for this project – but I do have the collegial goodwill of Southampton’s School of Geography & Environmental Science. I am indebted to everyone who has agreed to talk with me about the ideas that keep them busy – and I thank them for their valuable time. These recordings have been exceptionally fun to make.

Finally, I encourage you to do something else while you listen to these episodes. Go for a walk, do the dishes, fold laundry, repot plants, polish shoes, peel potatoes, draw elaborate doodles on scrap paper. Listen in headphones or crank it from your floor speakers or play it at modest volume from the little radio in the kitchen.

I’d be glad to know your thoughts (on topics other than vocal fry or my ad hoc production quality), and to hear your suggestions for people to interview and subjects to discuss in future episodes. But troll me no trolls.

Thank you for listening.


Episode 1 – Prof Andrew Tatem – tracking patterns of pathogens

How novel data sources and spatio-temporal analysis have delivered insights into the spread – and containment – of killer pathogens, from malaria to COVID-19.

Episode 1 – Prof Andrew Tatem: patterns of pathogens

Episode 2 – Dr Dianna Smith – food environments

The global pandemic is exacerbating structural inequalities in access to healthy food.

Episode 2 – Dr Dianna Smith: food environments

Episode 3 – Dr Andrew Power – caringscapes

Provision of informal care for people with special needs is an intensive and often invisible labour. What happens when the resources upon which those previsions rely get disrupted?

Episode 3 – Dr Andrew Power: caringscapes

Episode 4 – Dr Suzanne Reimer – risky employment in the “risk society”

Employers discovered the benefits of “flexible” working arrangements. Employees entered a new era of precarity.

Episode 4 – Dr Suzanne Reimer: risky employment

Episode 5 – Courtnae Bailey – climate finance

Climate finance isn’t just carbon markets – it can be much more local. How do communities access the funds they need for projects to help them mitigate against & adapt to climate change?

Episode 5 – Courtnae Bailey: climate finance

Episode 6 – Dr Danielle Rivera – disaster colonialism

When disasters hit places that have deeply entrenched structural legacies of colonial occupation, the modern processes of disaster relief tend to reinscribe old patterns of inequity and coloniality.

Episode 6 – Dr Danielle Rivera: disaster colonialism

Episode 7 – Anna Weber – disasters are not natural

The “levee effect,” the “safe-development paradox,” and “disasters by design” – does the promise of protection make hazard-prone places riskier?

Episode 7 – Anna Weber: disasters are not natural

Episode 8 – Dr Rebecca Elliott – flood insurance & freighted maps of value

A deep-dive into the US National Flood Insurance Program, and how flood-insurance rate maps connote judgements of “value” far beyond the actuarial.

Episode 8 – Dr Rebecca Elliott: flood insurance & freighted maps of value

Episode 9 – Dr Zac Taylor – turning risk into markets


Episode 10 – Dr Miranda Mockrin – fire at the urban–wild interface


Episode 11 – Dr Gemma Sou – intangible resources & how disasters hit home


Episode 12 – Dr Jazmin Scarlett – socio-volcanology & historical perspectives


Episode 13 – Dr Tomaso Ferrando – Barbuda


Episode 14 – Dr Junia Howell – On longitudinal studies


Episode 15 – Dr Nishat Awan – Visual counter-geographies


Episode 16 – Ben Weeks – Way-offshore lobstering in the Gulf of Maine


Episode 17 – Zoë Kitchel – Fish and fisheries in a changing climate


Episode 18 – Prof John Dearing – social–ecological systems & long timescales


Episode 19 – Dr Paul Rouse – Geoengineering the climate