Introducing Dr. Helena Varkkey, SEAC Visiting Fellow and Associate Professor of Environmental Politics at the Department of International and Strategic Studies, Universiti Malaya.
1.What will you be working on during your time as SEAC Visiting Fellow?
I will be working on a project called "Seasonality in the Anthropocene: Understanding Transboundary Haze in Southeast Asia" with Dr Thomas E.L. Smith from the LSE Department of Geography and Environment. The project explores the idea of how seasonality affects social resilience and shapes mitigative actions in relation to haze. We will draw from survey data and deep dive into what 'personal' actions people take to reflect that behaviours change according to changing seasons. We will compare this with how ‘institutions’ have used seasonality to either galvanise action to drive change and/or to manage public uproar.
2.What led you to your field of study/what inspired your interest in these topics?
I was in high school when Malaysia experienced its worst episode of transboundary haze in history. My brother, who has asthma, got very sick. Because of this, the haze issue always stuck out for me, compared to all the other environmental issues we were facing. When it came to picking a research topic for my Masters in International Relations at the University of Sydney, transboundary haze became the natural choice. More than 15 years later, I'm still stuck on this topic!
3. How do you like to relax and unwind?
I have a second degree black belt in karate. I have been doing karate since I was seven years old. I stopped practising during my postgraduate studies, but I have recently started practising again when my eldest son started classes. I now assist my sensei in teaching and am preparing for my third degree black belt grading. I enjoy karate because it is an art, not only a sport. It's also a great way to get the mind off work!