Earthwatch Oxford lecture highlights the scientific challenges for the future
Chief Scientific Adviser to HM Government, Sir John Beddington, highlighted the scientific challenges for the future including climate change, food and water security and energy provision for a growing global population. Sir John was speaking at the sixth annual Earthwatch Oxford lecture on 3 March at the Said Business School, University of Oxford.
Entitled The Big Science Questions for Society
the event was co-hosted by Earthwatch, The Open University, and the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment (SSEE) at the University of Oxford.
Sir John spoke about the unprecedented times the world is facing in terms of population growth and an ageing population. In a thought-provoking talk that touched on subjects from the economic growth of countries like Brazil and China to the need for ‘climate smart' agriculture and the importance of technologies like carbon capture and storage, he emphasised throughout the importance of science in informing solutions to the challenges we face. Sir John also stressed the equal importance of communication and maintaining a dialogue with the public.
From left to right: Nigel Winser, Professor Hazel Rymer, Sir John Beddington, Professor David Macdonald and Sir David King.
Speaking of the rising global population, Sir John told the audience at the Said Business School: "The decisions we take on the food system today and over the next few years could have a profound effect on issues such as deforestation and biodiversity. If we get the decisions right - so that we get through the next few decades until the population levels off - then the benefits will be long lasting. But conversely, if we make the wrong decisions, then some of the damage to the environment could be irreparable. We need to make the right decisions now so that we can feed everyone without causing lasting damage."
Executive Vice-President of Earthwatch, Nigel Winser, said: "I was delighted to welcome an audience of over 200 senior business leaders, opinion formers, and representatives from the science and NGO communities in Oxford and further afield to our Oxford lecture. Sir John gave us a challenging insight into the scope and complexity of the global social and environmental priorities that we face, and stressed the need for improved collaboration and public understanding of science."
Sir David King, the Director of the SSEE, said: "The challenges to global security over the coming decades in managing supplies of water, energy and food to meet continuously increasing demand are compounded by climate change and its impacts. We need new thinking in science, in economics, in politics and in business to convert these challenges into opportunities for better living which incorporate the true value of the global commons into our social structures."
Sir David King (left) and Sir John Beddington.
Hazel Rymer, Professor of Environmental Volcanology and Dean of Science (Elect) at The Open University said: "Our natural world is being challenged on many different levels, ranging from severe weather and natural disasters to food production. We have to increase our scientific knowledge to better understand how to deal with challenges on a global scale. The Open University has recently partnered with Earthwatch to enable students across the world to develop their experience and knowledge through research fieldwork."
Earthwatch is an international environmental organisation whose mission is to engage people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Our vision is a world in which we live within our means and in balance with nature.
Earthwatch makes research grants of over £3 million in support of around 80 projects each year. Earthwatch recruits volunteers from the general public and partner organisations to share the costs of a research project, and to join it as research assistants. In the past 40 years, Earthwatch field assistants have contributed over 10 million man-hours to research internationally.
Earthwatch has four priority research areas: ecosystem services, climate change, oceans and cultural heritage.
Earthwatch welcomes proposals for long-term support. Twenty eight per cent of our current projects have been supported for over 10 years.
The Open University
The Open University and Earthwatch have been in partnership since June 2010. The partnership encourages students to enhance their learning by volunteering for environmental science field work and also enables volunteers to turn their experience into study credits which then count towards an OU science degree, the new BSc Natural Sciences.
For further information, please see: http://www3.open.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/qualification/b64.htm .
The Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment
The Smith School is an interactive hub within Oxford University that engages with, educates and equips public and private enterprise with the solutions, knowledge and networks needed to address the major environmental challenges facing our planet.
The School strongly believes that the only way to address the environmental challenges we face is by convening and partnering with both public and private enterprise.
The Smith School helps public enterprise with policies that create opportunities for private enterprise to develop solutions to address the major environmental challenges facing our planet.
It does this by playing three roles:
• A translator and integrator
• An intelligent user of research
• An inter-disciplinary hub
For further information visit http://www.smithschool.ox.ac.uk/