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Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment


More than 1,700 people have come to 14 public events hosted and co-hosted by the Forum that aimed to catalyze debate around key issues related to sustainability and the environment and to highlight the University’s research in this area.

These events have been organised both independently and as part of the Cambridge Science Festival. The Forum has co-hosted them with a number of University centres and initiatives including the Cambridge Global Food Security Strategic Initiative, the Public Policy Strategic Initiative, CamPlants Hub, the Centre for Existential Risk (CSER), the Mongolia & Inner Asia Studies Unit (MIASU), the Future of Cities Programme and the Centre for Science and Policy (CSaP).

Stimulating debate about future cities

Sustainability in cities is a popular topic and over 700 people have come to public events co-hosted by the Forum and other initiatives and centres in Cambridge to debate, ask questions and to talk about what they think that future cities should and could be like.

The Forum's meetings about sustainable cities generated some fascinating ideas. In January 2015, the four Forum members who helped to lead and shape the topic used these as starting point to talk about future research and unanswered questions related to where we live in cities, how we live and how we respond to change.

At the 2016 Science Festival, our event focused on the potential of technology and big data to transform cities in the future. A panel from across and outside Cambridge catalysed a discussion about the potential of these new datasets and how the information can be applied at different scales, and explored questions related to privacy and open data.

In 2015, one panel talked about their vision for a sustainable city and how increased connectivity and the flow of resources, people and energy could help to shape cities in the future. This was followed by a second panel of speakers who discussed visions of a future Cambridge.  These were all brought together in the Foresight-inspired 'Visions of Future Cambridge 2065' report.

At the 2014 Science Festival, we asked the audience what the most important 'ingredients' would be in a sustainable city and broad variety of ideas were put forward, ranging from more places for nature within cities to designing the streets and suburbs we live in to improve our health and wellbeing. 

Our changing world

A number of events also brought together experts from different disciplines and perspectives to stimulate debate about ways in which the world is changing and how we respond to those changes. 

More than 300 people came to our first public event in November 2013 where a panel of eminent mountaineers, a glaciologist and two Tibetan scholars discussed the changes they have seen in the Himalayas over their lifetimes, what these changes mean and future challenges for these extreme environments.

At the 2016 Science Festival, three panel discussions focused on the future of chocolate, confronting extreme environmental risks and the role of policy in shaping the amount of meat in our diets. 

In 2017, two Science Festival events explored the food we eat. On one panel, an archaeobotanist, a plant scientist and a local artisan baker explored 'our daily bread' and ways in which modern ingredients and methods of mass production have completely transformed how bread is made and what we’re eating.  A second event focused on food waste and a local farmer, a plant geneticist and a large-scale vegetable supplier debate the issues stemming from our desire for 'perfect' fruit and vegetables.

These events have been grouped together under our four topics and articles and podcasts about each of them can be found by following links on the right.

If you would like more information about these events, please contact Dr Rosamunde Almond ()