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The books and films that inspire the GSI

Global Sustainability Institute

Faculty: Science and Engineering
Category: Student blogs

12 October 2020

Illustration of head with globe inside

GSI Manager Felicity talks about her favourite bit of the GSI Strategy Day, and encouraging the team to bond through creative tasks and the sharing of memories and inspirations

Every year in December, the GSI holds a half-day off-site strategy meeting, which everyone is encouraged to attend. We look back over the past year, consider our current position and then plan forward to the next year / 5 years / 10 years. It’s a great chance to reflect on who we are and what we do, and that is largely influenced by who is in the current team and what their research interests are. There’s about 50 of us in the GSI family at any one time, with a core staff of researchers led by the Director (Aled) and supported by me (the Manager). Some (like Rosie) have been here since very early days of the GSI, and others might only stay for a few weeks or months on an internship or research project, but we all contribute to the direction and culture of the team. 

After our morning of ‘strategising’ and visioning, we make the most of so many of us being together, to have a festive lunch, and then usually some games and activities in the afternoon. This year may look a little different, but as I started planning it I looked back at previous years for inspiration. In 2016 we had a workshop on “digital distractions, and an introduction to mindfulness, captured by a live illustrator - the lessons of the workshop are preserved in artform on the office wall. In 2017 we had the Grand GSI quiz, with Quizmaster Chris truly testing our knowledge In 2018, with a growing team, I planned an activity to help us get to know each other better and asked everyone to anonymously submit (1) an early memory of nature to be picked out at random and artistically reimagined by colleagues; We then saw if we could identify our memories from the pictures and all shared our memories, (2) a baby picture to be matched to the grown-up team member, and (3) a sustainability-related book or film recommendation that inspired them. In 2019, after a morning talking about what sort of research institute we wanted to be, I broke the group into teams and asked them what they literally wanted the GSI to look like, made out of limited allocated resources: one group got gingerbread and decorations; one group got yoghurt pots and cardboard for junk modelling; one (lucky) group got lego. As always, the fun was in the sharing of details and hearing the thoughts that had gone into all the parts included. 

One of my favourite things about the GSI team is that we are a collective of very different individuals, but with shared passion for a more sustainable world. When in 2018 the team shared their choice of books and films, I was lucky that there was no duplicated entries, when many of them could have been from any one of us (Aled even misidentified his own suggestion!) Plus we all got to hear a bit about what inspired our colleagues, and learnt about some new resources we may wish to investigate further!

They’re listed below, without explanation: maybe there'll be something here to inspire you too

• The New Consumers : The Influence of Affluence on the Environment by Myers & Kent (Book, 2004)
• Living Planet, David Attenborough (TV series, 1984 - )
• Before the Flood (Film, 2016)
• Silent Spring, by Rachel Carson (Book, 1962)
• 4 degrees, by Anohni (song, 2016)
• Blood Sweat & T Shirts (TV series, 2008)
• The end of the line (Film, 2009)
• Limits to Growth - The Club of Rome Report (Book, 1972)
• The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood (TV series 2017 - )
• Welcome to Sodom (Film, 2018)
• Untamed Romania (Film, 2018)
• Permaculture in a Nutshell, by Patrick Whitefield (Book, 2000)
• Prosperity without growth, by Tim Jackson (Book, 2009)
• Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (Film, 2014)
• A Clockwork Orange (Film, 1971)
• The Age of Sustainable Development, by Jeffrey Sachs (Book, 2015)
• All the Way Boys! (Film, 1972)
• Bambi (Film, 1942)
• Microcosmos (Film, 1996)
• Feral, by George Monbiot (Book, 2013)
• The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (Book, 2006)
• Factfullness, by Hans Rosling (Book, 2018)
• The Hidden Connections, by Fritjof Capra (Book, 2002)


Felicity Clarke, Institute Manager GSI
October 2020


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