Over the past three weeks the University of Sheffield has been buzzing with activity as students from all disciplines came together to explore the question, ‘how will we live in a world of 10 billion?’.
From lectures on demographics to workshops on migration to debates on the future of renewable energy, it’s been a whirlwind of a few weeks!
So, as the 10bn online course also draws to a close, we thought we’d share some of the highlights from this year’s events…
Demographics and dilemmas
It all started on Monday 13 February with a lecture on the ‘demographics and dilemmas’ of 10 billion by Professors Paul White (Emeritus Deputy Vice-Chancellor) and Tony Ryan (Professor of Physical Chemistry and founding Director of the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures).
This was a lively opening lecture which sparked some interesting debate about how we will cope in terms of food, healthcare and energy as the population grows.
If you missed Paul and Tony’s lecture, you can listen to an audio recording and see the accompanying slides here.
The following day, Professor Marco Viceconti (Professor of Biomechanics) joined us to talk about the uses, limits and ethics of predictive technologies in healthcare across the world.
This was an engaging and insightful talk that brought together ideas and concerns from medicine as well as engineering, while managing to be accessible to those outside these two disciplines.
Listen to Marco’s lecture and view his slides here.
The next day it was Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Arts & Humanities Professor Jackie Labbe’s turn to give her 10bn keynote.
In it, she explored aspects of our past through the prism of art and literature, drawing parallels between the environmental and demographic upheaval brought on by the industrial revolution and the changing world of today.
Through careful and close reading of poetry and art, Jackie brought to the surface the concerns, anxieties and experiences of people living in nineteenth century Britain, sparking lively discussion on how these concerns might bear similarities to those felt by people in 21st century Britain.
On Thursday 16 February we were joined by guest speaker, International Criminal Court (ICC) Judge Morrison, who had traveled over from the Hague to give a special talk on the future of international criminal law.
This was an engaging and illuminating lecture in which Judge Morrison discussed the international tensions associated with a growing population and talked about how international criminal law may need to expand to tackle environmental and transnational corporate offending.
10 billion: future prospects and current thinking
For the final keynote, we rounded once again on the demographics of 10 billion with Professor Danny Dorling (Professor of Geography at the University of Oxford and author of Population 10 Billion) and Carl Lee (University Teacher, School of Geography).
In this exciting and insightful talk, Carl and Danny introduced the demographic challenges posed by 10 billion, debated the reliability of current projections and addressed the socio-political implications of moving towards a more settled and equal world.
You can listen to the full talk and see Carl and Danny’s slides here.
Drawing negative space
Students from all disciplines were given the opportunity to roll their sleeves up and get creative for this special art workshop led by fine art lecturers Hester Reeve and Christine Arnold (Sheffield Hallam University).
The purpose of the workshop was to explore and express the concept of negative space and the spaces in-between, specifically in relation to the University campus.
Students from Journalism, Architecture, Geography and beyond all came along for what turned out to be an extremely rewarding two hours of expression and experimentation using just charcoal and a white canvass.
Migration and the Bible
Half way into the 10bn programme we welcomed Dr Casey Strine (Lecturer in Ancient Near Eastern History and Literature) to discuss the parallels between Biblical and current-day narratives of involuntary migration.
Casey also talked about the ‘Back where you came from‘ project in which asylum seekers and refugees read and discuss texts from the Book of Genesis dealing with involuntary migration in order to inform art making (monoprints, ceramic vessels) expressing their interpretation of and reaction to these stories.
Students then had the opportunity to practice the same technique used by the asylum seekers and refugees Casey had worked with. Using white wax, the students drew an invisible image onto a white canvas before brushing it over with watered down black ink to reveal the image or scene they had created. The end results where fascinating and sparked interesting discussions about how we perceive and empathise with the experiences of others.
We invited three people working in the field of water and the environment to debate the future of H2O. The panel included: Professor James Wilsdon, Director of the Nexus Network, an ESRC initiative to link research & policy across food, energy, water and the environment; Dr Vanessa Speight, Director The Sheffield Water Centre at UoS and Twenty65; and Tinashe Mawodza, postgraduate researcher at Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures.
Following short presentations from each member of the panel, the audience had an opportunity to ask questions and challenge the speakers on a number of issues. The discussion which ensued covered everything from how we can preserve water by taking fewer baths and limiting our time in the shower to developing robots that swim around our water networks seeking out problems to fix!
Visions of nature
Organised collaboratively by Dr Tom Webb (Animal and Plant Sciences) and Vera Fibisan (English Literature), this was an interdisciplinary debate which brought together scientific, artistic and philosophical perspectives on the topic of nature.
Over 130 students and staff attended the closing debate seeking answers to the question, ‘can we have a fully renewable energy future?’.
The multidisciplinary panel included: Dr Alastair Buckley (Physics), Professor Paul Mosley (Economics), Dr Grant Wilson (Chemical and Biological Engineering), Matthew Billson (Director of Energy2050), Professor Fionn Stevenson (Architecture), Dr Karen Finney (Energy 2050), Dr Chris Jones (Psychology) and Professor Martin Mayfield (Civil Engineering) all came along to have their say – as did the audience!
To get a true feel of the event, read postgraduate student Lucy Smith’s review here.
During 10bn we invited students to go on a tour like no other…
Unlike the traditional University campus tour, this was one where students were offered a glimpse of the ‘unseen’ corners of our campus. Stop-offs included the historic Alfred Denny museum, the dusty chambers of Western Bank Library, the ‘green’ solar paneled roof of the Hicks Building and the carefully controlled greenhouses at the Arthur Willis Environment Centre.
Photograph by Grace Jones
Words and photography by Fern Merrills (unless otherwise stated).