Personal profile


Since the early 1970s, I have sought through my research and teaching to promote the development of a strand of cultural geography relevant to planning and environmental policy-making. I joined the geography department of University College London in 1975 and was awarded a personal Chair in 1998. I moved to the School of Environmental Sciences, UEA in 2006, becoming Head of School in 2007. I retired from the University in summer 2010. 

At UCL, I developed research to explore the production, circulation and consumption of environmental discourses. Through a number of theoretically informed, empirical studies funded by ESRC, I was able to demonstrate the importance of a sense of place and contact with nature in people’s everyday lives, and to explore how those embodied experiences resonated with different kinds of expert and lay knowledge circulating through the mass media and other forms of popular culture. A major component of my research has been to demonstrate the value of qualitative research methodologies in capturing the range of cultural meanings and shared values people attribute to nature. I pioneered small group research in geography (and beyond) in the mid 1980s and continued to deploy in-depth discussion groups in a variety of contexts over the next two decades, using many of the facilitation techniques in innovative, participatory decision processes including exploring public acceptability of different options, and how the UK’s legacy radioactive waste should be stored. 

During the 1990s, I led research which questioned the assumption made by environmental economists and policy-analysts that all classes of environmental values could be monetised and included in standard cost-benefit analyses. Since moving to UEA, I have re-engaged with this work through membership of the expert group of the UK’s National Ecosystem Assessment team, and as a co-ordinating lead author working with colleagues to establish an approach to cultural ecosystem services which is able to address the importance of shared social values for nature and the environment. Benefitting from the School of Environmental Science’s excellence in interdisciplinary research and teaching, I have been able to extend my research interests in sustainable consumption and pro-environmental behaviour change into funded research exploring relations between domestic energy consumption practices and climate change. Working in a large, multi-disciplinary consortium funded by EPSRC and E.ON to model transition pathways to a low carbon economy, we have just completed one of the first detailed ethnographic study of what happens in households who accept a real-time energy display and smart meter into their lives. 

Key Research Interests

Cultural geography; social constructions of nature; environmental values and ecosystem services; participatory environmental decision-making; sustainable consumption practices and climate change.

Significant Publications

  • Burgess, J. and Clark, J. 2009. Practitioner evaluations of participatory processes in environmental decision-making. In Jordan, A and Adger, N. (eds) Governance for Sustainability. (CUP Press), 159-190. 
  • Chilvers, J. and Burgess, J. 2008. Power relations: the politics of risk and procedure in nuclear waste governance. Environment and Planning A 40(8) 1881–00.
  • Burgess, J., Clark, J., Davies, G., Eames, M., Mayer, S., Staley, K., Stirling, A. and Williamson, S. 2007. Deliberative Mapping: exploring a new analytic-deliberative methodology. Public Understanding of Science16(3), 299-322.
  • Carvalho, A. and Burgess, J. 2005 Cultural circuits of climate change in UK broadsheet newspapers, 1985-2003. Risk Analysis25(6) 1457-1469.
  • Davies, G. and Burgess, J. 2004. Challenging the ‘view from nowhere’: citizen reflections on specialist expertise in a deliberative process. Health and Place 10, 349-361
  • Burgess, J., Bedford, T., Hobson, G., Davies, G. and Harrison, C.M. 2003. (Un) sustainable consumption. In Berkhout, F., Leach, M. Scoones, I. (eds) Negotiating Environmental Change: New Perspectives From Social Ccience. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, 261-292.
  • Clark, J., Burgess, J. and Harrison, C.M. 2000. "I struggled with this money business”: respondents' perspectives on contingent valuation. Ecological Economics33, 45-62.
  • Burgess, J., Clark, J. and Harrison, C.M. 2000. Knowledges in action: An actor-network analysis of a wetland agri-environmental scheme. Ecological Economics35, 119-132.
  • Burgess, J., Harrison, C.M. and Filius, P. 1998. Environmental communication and the cultural politics of environmental citizenship. Environment and Planning, A. 30, 1445-1460.
  • Harrison, C.M., Burgess, J. and Filius, P. 1996. Rationalising environmental responsibilities: a comparison of lay publics in the UK and the Netherlands. Global Environmental Change6(3), 215-234.
  • Countryside Commission. 1995. Growing in confidence: a research project into public perceptions of risk in woodlands in the urban fringe. CCP457, Countryside Commission, Cheltenham.
  • Harrison, C.M. and Burgess, J. 1994. Social constructions of nature: a case study of the conflicts over Rainham Marshes SSSI. Transactions, Institute of British GeographersNS19(3), 291-310.
  • Burgess, J. and Harrison, C.M. 1993. The circulation of claims in the cultural politics of environmental change. In Hansen, A. (ed) The Mass Media and Environmental Issues. Leicester: Leicester University Press, 198-221.
  • Institute of British Geographers. 1990. The production and consumption of environmental meanings in the mass media: a research agenda for the 1990s. Transactions, Institute of British GeographersNS15, 139-161.
  • Burgess, J., Harrison, C. and Maiteny, P. 1991. Contested meanings: the consumption of news about nature conservation. Media, Culture and Society13, 499-519.
  • Burgess, J., Harrison, C.M. and Goldsmith, B. 1990. Pale shadows for policy: the role of qualitative research in environmental planning. In Burgess, R. (ed) Studies in Qualitative Methodology: vol. 2. London: JAI Press, 141-168.
  • Burgess, J., Limb, M. and Harrison, C.M. 1988. Exploring environmental values through the medium of small groups. Part one: theory and practice. Environment and Planning A20, 309-326.
  • Burgess, J., Limb, M. and Harrison, C.M. 1988. Exploring environmental values through the medium of small groups. Part two: illustrations of a group at work. Environment and Planning A20, 457-476.
  • Burgess, J., Harrison, C.M. and Limb, M. 1988. People, parks and the urban green: a study of popular meanings and values for open spaces in the city. Urban Studies25, 455-473.
  • Harrison, C.M., Burgess, J. and Limb, M. 1987. Nature in the city: popular values for a living world.Journal of Environmental Management25, 347-362.
  • Burgess, J. and Gold, J.R. (eds) 1985. Geography, the Media and Popular Culture. London: Croom Helm; translated into Japanese 1990.
  • Gold, J.R. and Burgess, J. (eds). 1982. Valued Environments. London: Allen & Unwin.

Publications: EPrints Digital Repository

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action