Director, Royal Geographical Society
Joe Smith became Director of the Royal Geographical Society in 2018. His work seeks to promote better understanding of - and action on - global environmental change issues. This breaks down into three areas of research and commentary: the history of environmental politics; public engagement and the media, and the politics of consumption. His research practice across these areas has a strongly collaborative and interdisciplinary quality and an experimental edge.
In much of his work he combines thinking and writing about these issues with direct engagement, using the term 'action research' to describe projects that generate research but are simultaneously designed to make a difference to the way the world is.
These include a long running strand of work on media decision-making and environment (1996-), the experimental public engagement and research project Interdependence Day (2006-) and the communications, participation and research project Creative Climate (2009-) (a 'Mass Observation' of climate change over ten years, 2010-2020).
All of these seek, in different but related ways, to advance public understanding and debate about environmental change, and to place them within the context of wider political, social and cultural change. Together these strands of research contribute to an understanding of the dynamic relations between media, publics, democratic institutions and environmental change.
Joe was previously Professor of Environment and Society at the Open University, where he taught environmental politics at both undergraduate and Master’s level. He also writes popular materials on environmental issues and has consulted on numerous broadcast projects on BBC1, BBC2, BBC4 and Radio 4 over the last ten years.