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Dr Sonja A Boehmer-Christiansen
reader in geography at the University of Hull, and editor of Energy and Environment

I was born, like a certain little elephant, with much natural curiosity and the desire to argue rather than believe. Neither desire was killed off early, and, if anything, these desires have grown stronger. The ability to observe closely and patiently is also important, but can be taught, and used to be taught in many subjects.

I might not have studied as hard as I did, had I remained where I was born and moved ‘normally’ into the world of nine-to-five jobs and ‘fun’. As it happened, I had to face challenges abroad, moving from one hemisphere and one ideological camp to another. This presented serious intellectual and social challenges, to anybody seeking understanding and intervention.

The world astonished me – its variety of shapes, colours and peoples, and also beliefs and values. This took me into geography, for a while underwater and into geology, then towards culture and world politics. Having begun my education in the German language was lucky, for here ‘science’ is not confined to the study of nature or machines, but includes the study of peoples and their relationships as well.

To count as science, such knowledge seeking should not have ulterior motives such as growing rich and powerful, for that would lead to bias and selection. I found my niche where nature meets culture, in environmental politics and policy.

Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen is coauthor of International Environmental Policy: Interests and the Failure of the Kyoto Process (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)), and Acid Politics: Environmental and Energy Policies in Britain and Germany (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).