Amber is an AHRC funded doctoral student at Durham University (2020-23) supervised by Clare MacCumhaill and Simon James. She completed her BA (2014-17) and MA (2019-20) both in philosophy at Durham University.
Amber’s PhD thesis explores Midgley’s claim that the concept ‘Gaia’ can function as a tonic to the ‘conceptual emergency’ at the roots of the climate crisis. ‘Gaia’ is the name that Lovelock gives to a particular way of seeing and understanding our biosphere: as a living organism as there is a sense in which it can be said to ‘act’ to preserve ‘life’ in general – its life. This imaginative vision guides us towards an appreciation of the sanctity of life and the interconnectedness, interdependence and flux of all things, and – properly understood – instils an attitude of respect and wonder towards Gaia and a greater sense of kinship with the natural world. Midgley’s idea then, is that to see what ‘Gaia’ shows us, is to experience the world in a way which entails pro-environmental action. And hence it is a tonic for the predominant (and pernicious) image of the biosphere as an inanimate collection of natural resources to be used as we please.
Since the majority of Midgley’s work on this topic is addressed to a non-specialist audience, her arguments have yet to be fully theorised. Over the course of her PhD, Amber hopes to do this theoretical work, supplementing Midgley with conceptual resources from other philosophers (including Murdoch and Anscombe) in order to investigate the extent to which, and why, ‘Gaia’ can help us address the present climate crisis.
In addition to Environmental Philosophy, Amber is interested in meta-philosophy. Once again, she was encouraged and inspired by Midgley’s words. Midgley’s insistence that good philosophy is needed by everyone and her (at times) exasperation with the hyper-specialisation of academia on these grounds, really resonated with Amber and encouraged her to try to delve deeper into the question of how we can practice philosophy more inclusively. That is to say, the question of what practical and methodological choices we can make, as philosophers, to enhance philosophy’s capacity for service in our present context. Things like: what we count as ‘doing research’, whose voices we acknowledge and/or amplify, who we address, what problems/topics we focus on, our writing style, what we’re aiming for in writing at all, what we do with our ‘findings’, etc.
Amber is particularly interested in working with children, having spent some time working in a primary school before completing her masters. Whilst working in a school she ran a philosophy club for 9-11 year olds. In October 2020 she prepared an interactive talk on Gaia as part of the woodcraft folk’s Dream Big at Home initiative. This summer she began preparations for a series of activity trails which will be happening this autumn as part of the Being Human Festival, see here for more information about the Autumn Activity Trail.