battle of ideas 2007 battle of ideas 2007

The Battle over Nature

  

The Battle over Nature is sponsored by BDP and the Natural Environmental Research Council
 

Sunday

Carbon, carbon everywhere?

What does sustainability mean for the developing world?

Nature’s revenge?

 

 

 


Carbon, carbon everywhere?


Produced by Austin Williams  and The Future Cities Project
Lecture Theatre 1, 11.00 - 12.30 on Sunday 29 October 2006

From the school run to cheap flights, from the energy labelling of buildings to turning off the TV standby, reducing carbon has become the major obsession of our time. Energy use now preoccupies all of society and debates about wind-farms, oil or nuclear power all seem to centre on carbon reduction above all other considerations. World summits focus on the need for governments to reduce carbon equivalents while even on a personal level, insulating one’s loft, installing a solar panel and walking rather than driving have become signifiers of responsible citizenship. The media have made a hero of ethical man. Just as low carbon-rated vehicles signify a better class of concerned driver, politicians who choose eco-friendly bandwagons are chastised for not doing more. Carbon quotas, carbon credits and carbon rationing may be policy mantras, but what do these moral preoccupations tell us about our relationship with nature and our ambition for the future?

Dr Myles Allen, head of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics Department, University of Oxford; Natural Environment Research Council research fellow
Richard Rees, architect; urban design director, Building Design Partnership; author, Urban Design Futures (2006)
Lucy Siegle, columnist, Observer; author, Green Living in the Urban Jungle (2001)
Austin Williams, director, The Future Cities Project
Chair: Tony Gilland, science and society director, Institute of Ideas; national co-ordinator, Debating Matters

 

Battle in Print 1
Battle in Print 2

 

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What does sustainability mean for the developing world?


Produced by Kirk Leech, Austin Williams  and The Future Cities Project
Lecture Theatre 1, 14.00 - 15.30 on Sunday 29 October 2006

The need to reduce the ‘ecological footprint’ has become the orthodoxy of our times. Everyone, from environmentalists to oil companies now agree that sustainable development is a worthwhile goal. But what impact are these ideas having on the developing and under-developed world? Instead of celebrating the economic growth and social improvement of developing countries, commentators seem to fear the consequences. Excitement at the rapid growth of India and China is tempered by concerns about the consequences for the environment. International agreements, drawn up by Europe and the US, demand that these nations adopt responsible, sustainable practices. Consequently, Western engineers and architects are designing eco-cities in China, and ensuring that urban projects prioritise sustainability and natural resources above all else. We in the West, they say, must ensure that developing nations don’t make the same mistakes as us. Anti-poverty campaigners have also taken up environmentalism, arguing that it is the poorest - those who depend most upon the natural world for their survival, and those with the fewest resources to buy their way out of unhealthy environments - that suffer the most. Hence, the poorest people in the world are urged to develop sustainably. Everything, from dams that could provide energy and clean water to roads and mains power grids, is greeted ambiguously, at odds with environmental policies.

But can the people of the underdeveloped world overcome their meagre local limits whilst and protecting the natural world? With the threat of apocalyptic consequences if the whole world develops to the standard of the West, is it irresponsible to suggest that the developing world should aspire to Western standards of living?  Have we the right - in the name of sustainability - to hold back development for those who have yet to benefit from economic progress? Should we in the West trade in some of our economic growth to set the rest of the world a more sustainable target?

Dr Jim Butcher, senior lecturer, Faculty of Business and Sciences, Canterbury Christ Church University; author, Ecotourism, NGOs and Development (forthcoming)
Francis Glare, director of urbanism, Building Design Partnership
Kirk Leech, project officer, Research Defence Society; writer and researcher on environment and development, King's College London
Sara Parkin, founder director, Forum for the Future
Dr David Satterthwaite, senior fellow, Human Settlements, International Institute for Environment and Development; co-author, Environmental Problems in an Urbanizing World: Local Solutions for Cities in Africa, Asia and Latin America (2000)
Chair: Dr Peter Martin, lecturer, department of engineering science, University of Oxford

 

Battle in Print

 

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Nature’s revenge?


Produced by Austin Williams and The Future Cities Project
Lecture Theatre 1, 16.00 - 17.30 on Sunday 29 October 2006

We are regularly told that natural disasters are crises of our own making: the price for upsetting ecosystems and destabilising the climate. Humanity stands accused of wantonly despoiling the planet and now, literally, reaping the whirlwind. From the tsunami in 2004 to the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Indonesian earthquake in 2006, natural catastrophes are cited as a metaphorical revenge for our hubristic approach to nature. Other commentators don’t think it’s metaphorical. Some have suggested that we were asking for it by arrogantly constructing cities like New Orleans in ‘unnatural’ low-lying environments.

So how should we relate to natural disasters: as challenges to solve, or as a morality tale warning us to be modest in the face of such threats? What is the role of the natural sciences - and of scientists studying natural hazards - in a cultural climate that seems to believe that these events are often the consequence of human folly? If we insist on human culpability, are we in danger of viewing technical problems as catastrophes beyond our control? Should we simply prepare for the worst and hope for the best? More generally, how should human projects such as scientific technologies, engineering and architecture – developed precisely to interfere in the natural order and overcome nature’s limits – cope with the new demand that we should minimise our impact on the environment? 

Oliver Morton, chief news and features editor, Nature
Joe Kaplinsky, patent analyst and science writer
Peter Sammonds, professor of geophysics, University College London
Professor Geoffrey Wadge, professorial research fellow, Environmental Systems Science Centre, University of Reading; volcanologist; chair of the Foreign and Commonwealth Scientific Advisory Committee on Montserrat Volcanic Activity
Chair: Austin Williams, director, The Future Cities Project

 

Battle in Print

 

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