Grand Challenges Seminar Series 2015

The Grand Challenges Seminar series is organised and run by the DTP students.  Each term they select topics that represent the grand challenges of today’s environmental researchers and invite renowned guest speakers to debate approaches in tackling these challenges.  The format is a series of short talks followed by a panel discussion.  All are welcome to attend.

Who gets on Noah’s ark? – Approaches to conservation

Date: Thursday 5th February (3rd week)

Today we bring together four speakers from different backgrounds to discuss how we prioritise our conservation efforts. As we teeter on the brink of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction we don’t have the time or money to save all species. Do we focus on charismatic flag ship species, ecosystems in general or preferentially save those of greatest use? Help us decide as each speaker pitches the benefit of their approach, followed by open floor debate.

On thin ice: the future of polar resources

Date: Thursday 12th February (4th week)

The poles represent one of the last great frontiers to civilisation, a vast wilderness rich in resources yet largely untouched by modern human intervention. As future population and energy demand increases the need for access to the Earth’s resources expands. Do the poles represent a future viable and ethical region to exploit? This seminar session seeks to discuss and debate the geopolitical sphere surrounding use and access to polar resources, as well as the potential implications to the natural world. Can we develop the technologies to exploit these reserves in a socially and environmentally acceptable way?

Sustaining our future: with or without GM?

Date: Thursday 26thth February (6th week)

Join us for our seminar on the future of food with Peter Melchett, the policy director of the Soil Association – a UK organic foods and farming organisation. He will be joined by John Crawford, leader of the Institute Strategic Programme on Delivering Sustainable Systems at Rothamsted Research. Together we will discuss how we can continue to feed our growing population. Can technical approaches such as GM sustain a projected population of 10 billion, or will we need to return to alternative approaches, such as organic farming?

The seminar will be chaired by (TBC). There will be time for questions from the audience during the seminar as well as a wine reception afterwards.

Winners and Losers in a Warming World – Climate Rights and Responsibilities

Date: Tuesday 3rd March (7th week)

How exactly are humans changing the climate, who is making the largest contribution and how does the impact differ from place to place? Can the damage done by climate change be apportioned to individuals and our decisions, and should we each be responsible for changing our own behaviour, or should governments lead the way? Do consumers have the right to continue to cause pollution and use resources in ways that contribute to climate change, or should they be stopped? Are they infringing on the rights of people in other (maybe less industrialised) countries or those of future generations and other animals? Should we change our lifestyles to mitigate climate change or accept it and seek to adapt?

In an attempt to answer these questions we will bring together perspectives from science, law and philosophy. The speakers will help us to assess the change we are experiencing, propose measures to combat this change, define the roles and responsibilities of different countries and single individuals and discuss the feasibility of an international framework for ‘climate rights’.

Misinformation in Science

Date: Thursday 12th March (8th week)

Misinformation is everywhere, proliferating ignorance, misconception and confusion among laymen and scientists alike. Topics such as evolutionary theory, climate change and genetic modification have become part of our everyday lexicon, yet few people truly understand the fundamental principles and mechanisms behind them. Obfuscation, inaccessibility and even the very semantics of our language often inhibit effective communication. What we take to mean by the words “theory”, “hypothesis” or “uncertainty”, or by confused concepts such as “weather” and “climate” remain ambiguous in spite of their scientific definitions. Join us and our guest speakers for the concluding seminar of the series, as we attempt to remedy the problem by addressing questions in contemporary science and the implementation of public policy.