Activism has an important role in shaping today's environmental debate

PhD student Stephen Langford with his dog
Stephen Langford
PhD student
Supervised by Professor Jenny Pickerill
How alliances across difference are made and sustained in British environmental activism.


Prof Jenny Pickerill and Dr Karen Parkhill (University of York) 


ESRC White Rose DTP Pathway Award

Current research

Reducing the impact that humans have on the environment poses some of the biggest and most significant challenges facing the world today. Activism has an important role in giving prominence to the environmental debate, shaping where that debate is focused, and is central to a vibrant democracy. This research critically examines how alliances across difference, particularly across the generations, are made and sustained in contemporary British environmental activism. The research used activist participant observation of Extinction Rebellion undertaking actions as part of an affinity group and a borough-based group in London during 2019. This was complemented by data gathering via Twitter scrapings and involved developing a methodology using smart phones to capture ‘moments’ in video clips and photographs while being involved in actions.

The research positions UK radical contemporary environmental activism in its historical context. It pays particular attention to place, language and framing, generations, gender and life course, performance, emotion and the visceral and examines how people in the UK become mobilised about environmental issues, build alliances and how they choose to manifest and express that concern across difference.

Academic background

  • BA Economics and Geography - The University of Leeds
  • BSc Landscape Management (Land Use) - The University of Greenwich
  • MA Social Research - The University of Sheffield

Professional background

Worked at the highest levels in the National Health Service before deciding to change tack and develop a second career in landscape, environment and sustainability research and teaching.


Analysis from inner London of deprivation payments based on enumeration districts rather than wards Tim Crayford, John Shanks, Madhavi Bajekal, Stephen Langford, Madhari Bajekal BMJ Sep 1995, 311 (7008) 787-788

Professional activities

Member of the Royal Geographical Society and the Landscape Institute.

Presented two papers at The Royal Geographical Society Annual International Conference 2021:

  • “In it Together! Intergenerational, creative responses to a climate of uncertainty-Intergenerational solidarity on the streets of London. Exploring Extinction Rebellion’s creative actions, that despite difference, bound activists together for common cause”
  • “Crossing the boundary between academia and activism: Postgraduate stories and practices of resistance. A Scholar activist’s story in pictures-Extinction Rebellion’s first year on the streets of London”

Teaching experience

Mentor to NHS Chief Executives

Find a PhD

Search for PhD opportunities at Sheffield and be part of our world-leading research.