Open letter to UWE Bristol: ‘Sustainability’ of the Bloodhound SCC, cars, rockets and forthcoming arms and ‘defence’ business fair at UWE?

Blogger’s note: this letter was picked up by the WesternEye (UWE’s student newspaper) and is now visible on their website at the following address: James Longhurst still hasn’t replied, just like UWE has ignored previous questions raising fundamental and evidenced issues about UWE’s claims to sustainability (e.g., amongst a proliferating swarm of issues (for some that crystallised around a recent protest against a military business and arms fair within a university whose official motto is ‘better together’, read


Dear James Longhurst,

I am addressing you this public open letter* as a member of ‘society’ who also happens to be registered as a UWE student. I am addressing you as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Environment and Sustainability with various sustainability-related roles within UWE, especially co-director of the Institute of Sustainability, Health and Environment, with a relevant claimed background, expertise and professorship.

I note that UWE’s 2008-2012** sustainability strategy endorses the “UK Government Principles of Sustainable Development”. Those principles include a commitment to a form of democracy/accountability (usually referred to in official statements as ‘good governance’), a commitment to “Using sound science responsibly”, and to ‘justice’. I also note that, in the same strategic document, UWE claims to be “committed to understanding and managing its impact on sustainability”.

In the September 2013 issue of the Western Eye, James Riley published an article entitled “Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the Bloodhound SCC” (page 20). In this article, he states that you [“Professor Jim Longhurst, from UWE’s Institute of Sustainability, Health and Environment”] provided “environmental impact and sustainability advice” for Bloodhound SCC.

My questions to you about Bloodhound SSC are the following:

1/ Could you confirm that you did provide advice to Bloodhound SSC?

2/ Can you summarise the kind and substance of advice you provided to Bloodhound SSC?

3/ Can you summarise your relationship/involvement with Bloodhound SSC if it exceeds such advice?

4/ Noting that Bloodhound SSC is, by Riley’s account, a “rocket-powered supersonic car” consuming “40 litres of High Test Peroxide fuel, every second”, what is your position on the sustainability of the Bloodhound SSC?

UWE website states that “The University of the West of England is taking centre stage in the development of BLOODHOUND SSC, a car designed to take the land speed record to over 1000mph/Mach 1.4”.  As demonstrated by UWE’s website dedicated to Bloodhound SSC, UWE’s 2020 strategy, or the UWE banner to promote Bloodhound SSC opposite the SS Great Britain (one of Bristol’s most prominent touristic – military – attractions), this project was selected by UWE top management and is now celebrated by UWE as an exemplary project***.

5/ Noting that many scholars with an expertise in sustainability emphasize the cultural basis of unsustainability, or more specifically that the sustainability crisis that we are facing is rooted in problematic models and ways of life, what is your view on the fact that UWE collaborates to and promotes a rocket-propelled car such as Bloodhound SSC?

6/ Noting that many scholars with an expertise in sustainability emphasize the institutional basis of unsustainability, or more specifically that the sustainability crisis we are facing is rooted in problematic institutions, what is your position on the fact that the Bloodhound SSC is funded by the MOD and largely based on technology developed by and furthering military institutions.

Finally and relatedly, as you know, UWE will enable the Ministry of Defence next week by hosting the Defence Procurement Research, Technology & Exportability (DPRTE) on 20 November 2013, an event that will also further military institutions and the business of military:

7/ In your view, how does that event relate to sustainability?

Yours sincerely,

Benoit Dutilleul
UWE student ID: 09971108

*Copies of this letter and your response will be published on my blog and parts of them may then be used in publications such as articles in newspapers.

**No more recent document is published on UWE’s sustainability website.

***And even though there has been no news posted about this project on UWE’s website since 2010.