Environment? Sustainability? What's that got to do with me?

Posted in: Talks and Presentations

I gave a talk the other day to around 170 6th form students at Bath's Prior Park College which is based in and around Ralph Allen's home.  Quite a setting!

imagesSadly, I talked in a somewhat more modern part of the College.  My title was ...

Environment?  Sustainability?  What's that got to do with me?

... where the 'me', was obviously the students.  A few key ideas were:

  • Both the extent and the quality of human socio-economic development depends on the quality of the natural environment, and this quality and human development have always been in tension.  This is a dynamic and delicate balance that is readily upset.
  • The history of humanity can be characterised as a long struggle with the natural environment to make our lives easier, cleaner, safer, more healthy, and longer.  The trick has been to draw on the biosphere without messing with its ability to support life.
  • How environment and sustainability issues play out will determine both how fulfilling your   lives will be, and the extent of your well-being.
  • You should take an interest in environmental and sustainability ideas and practices, and get involved, directly and as a citizen, as it's through these democratic processes that major decisions will be taken.

And so on, to child mortality figures, UK Aid, CO2 concentrations, global temperature rises, the partial success of the MDGs, a Wordsworth ode or two, David Attenborough, Bjorn Lomborg, Earth summits, Brundtland, the bottom billions, Mao's great leap backwards, Thomas Carlyle's machine metaphor, the industrial revolution and cheaper stuff, the WCS, exotic latin verse, John of Gaunt's complaint, McKinsey, Brian Aldiss, Edward I, Thomas Malthus, acidified oceans, the Black death, the Club of Rome, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Henry Vth, species loss, IPCC, the medieval warm period, habitat destruction, modern pandemics, poverty, chromium ore reserves, Bill Gates, the IF campaign, peak oil, environmental crises passim, Thomas Hobbes, raw material price falls (and rises) – though not necessarily in that order.

I ended up with the idea and promise of the circular economy and one of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation's fab animations.  Phew!

Posted in: Talks and Presentations


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