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Cambridge Forum for Sustainability and the Environment


Each of the nine meetings between October 2014 and June 2015 had a different theme and through them, we explored a range of different issues including food security, land use and land-use change, and the demand for natural resources, all against a background of a changing climate.

The series began in October by taking a global view of land use change.

In November, the discussion focused on some of the economic and social drivers behind those changes including economics, politics and health.

In December, the theme was ‘What can we tell from the sky?’ and what recent advances in satellite technology can tell us about how land is changing.

In January, we took a step back and asked ‘Does the way we think need to change?' and explored new ways of thinking about the impact of land use change on both the supply of natural resources and the people who rely on them.

In February, three multi-national companies brought a business perspective into this debate. Cotton was used as a case study to look at how companies respond to the demands being placed on their supply chains and the greatest challenges they can see on the horizon.

In March our theme was 'From global to local' and explore questions that focus on the impacts of changes in land use, climate change and the demand for resources at a range of scales.

In April we focused on a specific resource - wood - and used it to make links between innovation and design, and the future supply and demand for natural materials.

In May we looked ‘through an East African lens’ and picked up themes from previous meetings to explore questions related to the food security and future of agriculture, livelihoods and conservation in the region.

Expert witnesses

We invited three expert 'witnesses' from across and outside Cambridge to each meeting and all of them were asked to focus their brief introductions on answering two questions:

1) What do you perceive as being the main gaps in our knowledge?
2) What would you include in the 'next generation' of research questions?

Their ‘testimonies’ and the background papers they provided were then used as a springboard for an open discussion.  

All the material gathered over the course of the year will be used as the basis of an output which highlights research issues related to how we live, where we live and how we respond to change. The multi-disciplinary discussions within the Forum feed into and shape this, providing fresh ideas and catalysing discussion around emerging research pathways.

This year, a new Parallel Forum was also set up to bring together a cross-disciplinary group of post-docs, Masters and PhD students who are working on sustainability and the environment to explore gaps in what we know and future research questions and opportunities. This group ran in parallel with the original Forum and met four times, using the background papers from the three expert witnesses and their ideas about future research as a starting point for their discussion.

For more information about the Forum or any of these meetings, please contact Dr Rosamunde Almond ()

Land use change - report cover

This report highlights the 'wicked problems' and key future research questions we generated over the course of the year while we explored land use-change and connections between food security, biodiversity and bioenergy.

Download the report

Kalyan Varma - Redwood seed - BANNER

A Parallel Forum brought together a cross-disciplinary group of early career researchers four times over the course of the year and they used background papers provided by Forum witnesses to explore gaps in our knowledge and future research questions and opportunities.

Find out more