Meet 2018 Honours Research Fellow Anja Bless

Anja’s research explores lessons which can be learned from Australia’s tobacco control policies that can be applied to reducing meat consumption for environmental and public health benefits.

We are happy to welcome Anja Bless to the Sydney Environment Institute family. Anja is one of three students to be awarded an Honours Fellowship at the Sydney Environment Institute in 2018 and is undertaking Honours in the Department of Government and International Relations. Get to know more about Anja’s research and interests.

What are you researching for Honours?

My research will be exploring the lessons that can be learnt from the successes of Australia’s tobacco control policies and how these can be applied to reduce meat consumption for environmental and public health benefits.

What are the key environmental issues your research aims to address?

The livestock industry currently contributes more greenhouse gas emissions globally than the entire transportation sector. It is also incredibly water intensive, has led to mass deforestation across the globe leading to loss in biodiversity, has contributed to water pollution, salinity and soil erosion, and is one of the major consumers of grain and legumes which could have been directed to human food.

My research aims to address the impact that over-consumption of meat is having on our environment and on our climate and to help guide policy towards more sustainable diets.

What led you to your research topic?

In my second year of my Bachelor degree I was doing my second ever subject in environmental politics, I watched a documentary as part of our reading requirements called Food, Inc. which triggered my interest in the impact our agriculture, and in particular meat industries, were having on our environment. My major essay, “The Meat Industry, Meat Culture and Climate Change” opened my eyes to the significant absence in environmental politics literature regarding mitigating climate change and minimising environmental degradation by reducing meat consumption.

I wanted to find a way of creating policy solutions for reducing meat consumption through learning from past successes in similar areas. Tobacco control policy overcame many of the similar barriers that face reducing meat consumption – transnational corporate interests, cultural and political barriers, the importance of the meat industry in the economy, questions of civil liberties and the best way of communicating a public welfare issue that is created through individual consumer choices. Many of the policy mechanisms that made tobacco control so effective are also those that have been suggested as being a means of reducing meat consumption. The parallels and implications for further research were too good to ignore.

Apart from research, what are your passions and interests?

While an interest in environmental conservation and sustainable living takes up a fair amount of my academic and personal head space, I do believe it’s important to branch out. I have been involved in theatre and comedy from a young age and have performed in productions for Sydney University Dramatic Society, Womns Revue Society and at Sydney Comedy Festival.

I also have been involved in the University of Sydney Union through their Student Programs Department and have co-directed Verge Festival 2015 and OWeek Festival 2018.

I love to travel and try to get overseas every year. I went back to my family roots in 2016 with a semester abroad at Leiden University in the Netherlands and I am trying to visit all of the continents by 25, I only have Africa and Antarctica to go.

What about SEI made you interested in an Honours Fellowship with us?

The opportunity for mentorship and access to the expertise of other researchers within SEI was too good to pass up. The interdisciplinary nature of the institute also compliments the dual focus of my research on both the environmental and public health benefits of reducing meat consumption. Finally, two of SEI’s research areas are Food Systems and Sustainable Materialism and I felt that my research could contribute to these topics.

Anja is undertaking Honours in Government & International Relations with the Faculty of Arts. Anja’s research will be exploring lessons which can be learnt from Australia’s tobacco control policies that can be applied to reducing meat consumption for environmental and public health benefits