Kate Burningham




Kate Burningham is a Reader in Sociology of the Environment at the University of Surrey. She is overseeing the CUSP theme on social and psychological understandings of the good life.

Kate is a sociologist who has been working on issues of environment and sustainability for over 20 years. Her research interests focus on the social construction of environmental issues, lay environmental knowledge, environmental inequalities and sustainable lifestyles.

Kate is a Deputy Director in CUSP, leading the societal understandings work theme, which explores the contested and situated nature of ordinary people’s visions of the good life and explores the role of materialism in delivering (and hindering) a sense of prosperity. It will explore how different philosophical understandings of justice and fairness enter lay narratives of the good life and how aspirations for prosperity and sustainability are negotiated in diverse places and circumstances.

Kate was recently a co-investigator in both the ESRC research group on Lifestyles, Values and Energy Consumption (RESOLVE) and the ESRC, Defra and Scottish Government funded Sustainable Lifestyles Research Group (SLRG) in which she led a qualitative longitudinal project Exploring Lifestyle Changes in Transition (ELiCiT).

Past funded research includes: for the ESRC, ‘Beyond NIMBY: A Multidisciplinary Investigation of Public Engagement with Renewable Energy Technologies’ and ‘Understanding Lay Environmental Knowledge in Industry’ ; for The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, ‘Vulnerability to heat and drought in the South West of England’ and ‘Rainforests are a long way from here: the environmental concerns of disadvantaged groups’; for the Environment Agency projects researching vulnerability to flooding, public responses to flood warnings, and environmental inequalities and a project for the ESRC, The Environment Agency and Hull City Council exploring children’s experiences of flooding in Hull. Kate supervises a number of PhD students located in the Department of Sociology and in CES.

Publications (selected)

Barnett, J., Burningham, K., Walker, G., & Cass, N., (2012) ‘Imagined publics and engagement around renewable energy in the UK’ Public Understanding of Science Vol 21 No. 1:36-50.

Walker, G. & Burningham, K. (2011) Flood risk, vulnerability and environmental justice: evidence and evaluation of inequality in a UK context. Critical Social Policy Vol 31 No. 2: 216-240.

Walker G, Cass N, Burningham K, Barnett J, (2010) ‘Renewable energy and sociotechnical change: imagined subjectivities of ‘the public’ and their implications’ Environment and Planning A Vol 42 No. 4: 931 – 947.

Burningham, K. Fielding, J., Thrush, (2008) ‘“It’ll never happen to me”: Understanding Public Awareness of Local Flood Risk’ Disasters: The Journal of Disaster Studies, Policy and Management Vol 32 No. 2:216-238.

Burningham, K. , Barnett, J. , Carr, A., Clift, R., & Wehrmeyer, W. (2007) ‘Industrial constructions of publics and public knowledge; A qualitative investigation of practice in the UK chemicals industry’ Public Understanding of Science Vol 16 No. 1: 23-43.

Burningham, K. & Thrush, D. (2004) Pollution Concerns in Context: A Comparison of the Risks Associated with Living Close to a Road and a Chemical Factory. Journal of Risk Research, 7 No.2: 213-232.

Burningham, K. & Thrush, D. (2003) Experiencing Environmental Inequality: The Everyday Concerns of Disadvantaged Groups. Housing Studies, 18, 517-536.

Burningham, K. & Thrush, D. (2001) Rainforests are a long way from here: The environmental concerns of disadvantaged groups York: York Publishing.

Burningham, K. (2000) Using the Language of NIMBY: A topic for research not an activity for researchers. Local Environment Vol. 5, No. 1:55-67.

Burningham, K. & Cooper, G. (1999) ‘ Being Constructive: Social Constructionism and the Environment’ Sociology Vol 33 No. 2 :297-316. Q1 Sociology.