‘There’s no natural weather anymore’
Professor James Curran has studied the environment all his life. Now he’s in charge of Scotland’s fight against floods. He tells Jess McCabe how he’ll rise to the challenge
My eyes are drawn to James Curran’s tie. It’s blue. It’s snazzy. Turning it over to show me the Institute of Physics label underneath, the chief executive of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency explains that it shows the patterns made by ionising particles in a cloud chamber.
‘Going way back, physics, that’s what I studied,’ he explains. ‘But I was never convinced it was quite the right thing – I just drifted into it because it was easy to be honest.’
This statement could easily seem boastful, but Professor Curran is so unassuming and friendly, smiling from behind thick glasses, it really doesn’t. Still, it’s possible my face reacts to the assertion that a career in physics is the easy option, because he adds quickly: ‘I come from a family of physicists, so it was easy to just drop into it. I was never convinced it was quite the thing for me. I’ve never had a plan – I really haven’t. My life has just been a random walk.’
Random it may be, but this walk has taken 62-year-old Professor Curran to a key position as Scotland’s first responder to flooding disasters, and guardian of the natural world.
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