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Top tips from Mairéad Hurley

This month we are pleased to hear from Mairéad Hurley, Assistant Professor in Science Education at Trinity College Dublin and member of the ACPC programme committee. Let's find out what keeps Mairéad inspired:

Listening to - Podcast / Music: My go-to podcast is Brené Brown's Dare to Lead - here's an episode I enjoyed recently. For unparalleled storytelling to listen to on a long journey though, one of my all-time favourites is Heavyweight. In each episode, host Jonathan Goldstein helps a listener to delve into an unresolved real story from their past to reach some sort of closure. The emotional range covered in the different episodes includes devastating, poignant, through cringe-inducing embarrassment to heartwarming and hilarious. Here's a great episode to get started.

As for music, I absolutely love the 2022 album by Irish actor and singer Jessie Buckley along with guitar legend Bernard Butler, it's called "For All Our Days That Tear The Heart" - I saw them perform it live during the summer in Ireland and it was magical. But I can't listen to anything with lyrics when I need to concentrate, so my latest favourite music for working is from Scottish composer Erland Cooper. His work is inspired by nature, landscape, history and language. He's done a really interesting project that he describes as "collaborating with nature" - he recorded an album of his compositions called "Carve the Runes, then be Content with Silence" inspired by poet George Mackay Brown. Then he put it on 1/4-inch tape, deleted all the digital copies, and buried that single existing master tape somewhere in the peaty soil on the island of Orkney in 2021. He promised to dig it up and release it unaltered in 2024, "recomposed" featuring the input of the rain and the peat soil. But he also created a treasure hunt with crypic clues for fans to follow, and so it was actually recovered early from its peaty grave - you can read more here.

(Re-)Reading - I always have lots of books on the go at the same time. My favourite right now is the absolutely staggeringly beautiful book Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She's a member of the Citizen Potawotami Nation, and describes herself as "an ecologist, a writer, a mother" and as "a traveler between scientific and traditional ways of knowing". This book explores the wisdom of plants, and highlights the Indigenous ways of caring for nature, and their traditions of reciprocal relationships between humans and the land. It also shines a light on the injustice and loss caused by settler practices, for people and for ecosystems. I've cried more than once, and the whole book is covered in notes, I know I'll keep going back to it for a long time. Another book that I'm enjoying dipping in and out of again and again is All We Can Save: Truth, Courage and Solutions for the Climate Crisis, a gorgeous and powerful collection of writings by female contributors, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K. Wilkinson. I've got Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth on the go at the moment as well, and finally, so that it's not entirely non-fiction, I'm reading a novel by Irish writer Doireann ní Ghríofa called Ghost in the Throat.

Following - People and groups who are doing interesting and radical work to address intersecting ongoing planetary crises - people who are thinking (eco)systemically, addressing injustice, and actively building creative communities to tackle these crises head on. A mixture of artists, activists, architects, economists and educators that I'm particularly inspired by include the Transition Network, Superflux, Dark Matter Labs, Civic Square, Advaya, The Billion Seconds Institute, and the Doughnut Economics Action Lab. There's also a growing network of thinkers and practitioners in the UK working on collective imagination or "Imagination Infrastructuring" which I'm following intently.

Things Keeping me up at Night - I always try to squeeze every last moment out of every day, so it's usually myself keeping myself up at night, staying awake far too late to do or read one more thing, and then struggle to get out of bed in the mornings, especially now in the depths of winter! But not all late nights are spent contemplating ecological and societal collapse, I love playing Irish traditional music with friends, so whenever possible I keep myself up late doing that, which I really enjoy, it completely refreshes me!

Somewhere I’ve been recently & somewhere I’m planning to go - I recently spent three very enjoyable days in sunny Malta with the ACPC planning the programme for the 2023 Ecsite Conference. It was so inspiring as always to have conversations with colleagues and to get to see the venues for the conference and social events (hardly a spoiler alert here, they're all STUNNING!) Malta seems like an incredible place, so I'm really looking forward to getting back there for the conference in June, and then staying on for a holiday afterwards to decompress and to explore properly.