10bn Talks 2017 – The Highlights!

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…

The keynotes

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.

Professor Paul White
Professor Paul White
Professor Tony Ryan
Professor Tony Ryan
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Professor Tony Ryan

Health futures

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.

Professor Marco Viceconti
Professor Marco Viceconti
Marco discusses the role of predictive technologies in healthcare.
Marco discusses the role of predictive technologies in healthcare.

Art futures

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.

Professor Jackie Labbe
Professor Jackie Labbe
Professor Labbe reads a poem by Mary Robinson.
Professor Labbe reads a poem by Mary Robinson.

Justice futures

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.

ICC Judge Morrison
ICC Judge Morrison
Law student Josephine Garvey chats to Judge Morrison about his career.
Second year School of Law student Josephine Garvey chats to Judge Morrison about his career.

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. 

Professor Danny Dorling
Professor Danny Dorling
Carl Lee
Carl Lee explains some of the challenges associated with living a world of 10 billion.
Danny Dorling listens to his former University of Sheffield colleague Carl Lee.
Danny Dorling listens to his former University of Sheffield colleague Carl Lee.
University Teacher, Carl Lee
Carl Lee


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.

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A student uses charcoal to create her artefact.
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Hester Reeve explains the concept of negative space

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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.

Read more about Casey’s work here. 

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Dr Casey Strine

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The debates

Water futures

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!

Find out more:
The Nexus Network
The Sheffield Water Centre
Grantham Centre for Sustsainable Futures

Left-right: Dr Vanessa Speight, Professor James Wilsdon and Tinashe Mawodza
Left-right: Dr Vanessa Speight, Professor James Wilsdon and Tinashe Mawodza

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.

Find out more about the debate here. 

Photograph by Carman Leung
Photograph by Carman Leung, student from the Department of Journalism Studies

Energy futures

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.

Alfred Denny Tour Guide Richard Bourton tells students that this person was an Italian convict who died by hanging. Photograph by Grace Jones
Students explore the Archives below Western Bank Library. Photograph by Grace Jones
Dr. Alastair Buckley shows students the Green Roof on Hicks Building. Photograph by Grace Jones

Photograph by Grace Jones

Maggi Killion, Manager of AWEC, shows students the greenhouses (we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside!). Photograph by Grace Jones

Words and photography by Fern Merrills (unless otherwise stated). 

Introducing the 10bn Magazine

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The 10bn Magazine is finally here!

This unique publication, which covers a range of topics related to living in a world of 10 billion, was created by a team of second year students as part of AML2:10bn 2015-16.

Subjects such as migration, climate-change, biodiversity, religion, food and more are all explored via a range of mediums including essays, poetry, art and photography.

The magazine is available to read online now.

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The magazine’s editorial team was:

Tayma A Bartram (Picture Editor); Michael CW Chilton (Editor); Harriet A Hales (Copy Editor); Elka Hubenova (Online Editor); Dinora AA Kruja (Deputy Editor); Evelyn A Mantoiu (Contributor); Kate M Marron (Graphic Design Contributor)

The 10bn magazine was sent to a few experts for critical review. Here’s what they had to say:


[The magazine is] very impressive, reminiscent of the big corporate style reports I sometimes get from Greenpeace or BP.  The production values, layout and use of imagery is strong [and it has] a really nice mix of stories across a big area. The articles are well written, informative and curated nicely.

All in all, a very impressive piece of work.

~ Alan Grady,Programme Editor, ITN, Channel 5 News


The magazine looks excellent.

~ Anwar Ahktar, director of The Samosa


This [is an] excellent critical assessment […] of population growth [that is] lucid, well structured and easy to read and absorb.

[The magazine shows] an appreciation of the fragility of the rule of law and the necessity to construct appropriate social and legal architecture to run in parallel with scientific innovation.  That requires an awareness by intelligent and perceptive young people and this endeavour illustrates that Sheffield University is well up to the mark.  

I congratulate all involved for their effort and erudition.

~ Judge Sir Howard Morrison QC

Lectures, Poetry, Exhibitions and Junk Food: The Festival of 10bn 2016

In February 2016, we ran a series of talks, workshops and exhibitions exploring what it will be like to live in a world of 10 billion.

We’ll be doing something similar for AML2:10bn 2016-17, with a wide range of activities scheduled to take place between 13 February and 3 March 2017.

Until then, though, we thought we’d share some of the best bits from the first ever Festival of 10bn…

Some of the photographs have links attached – click on them to find out more!

JF 2
Students getting to know each other at the 10bn welcome reception
Food being served by students studying MA in Food Security
Food being served by students studying for their MA in Food Security and Food Justice at The University of Sheffield
Students getting their food
Students getting their food
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Students REALLY enjoying their Real Junk Food!
Food Hall - Sheffield’s ‘Pay as You Feel’ dining room and freecycling food network ran by the community promoting cross societal engagement through food!
Food Hall – Sheffield’s ‘Pay as You Feel’ dining room and freecycling food network
Save our Sandwiches save surplus food from going to waste and redistribute it
Save our Sandwiches save surplus food from going to waste and redistribute it
The aquaponics display- saving the world with fish poo!
The Aquaponics display- saving the world with fish poo!
Abdi-Aziz Suleiman, former Sheffield SU President, giving a talk about migration.
Abdi-Aziz Suleiman, former UoS Students’ Union President, giving a talk about migration
Senior Lecturer in French Studies and 10bn Academic Lead, Amanda Crawley Jackson, giving her thoughts on migration in the media
Panel debate on the space for nature in a world of 10bn

10 billion shades of migration

Kia Muukkonen, studying International Relations and Politics at the University of Sheffield, is just one of the students who has been taking part in 10bn this year. Kia has been working as part of an interdisciplinary student group exploring attitudes to migration. Here’s what she had to say about their research project:

So Kia, how did it all start?

After completing the Silver and Bronze stages of AML2:10bn, we all had something in common; we wanted to finish the project and go all the way through the Gold stage. The planning for the migration project had already begun with the Silver stage, and we all got along so well that we couldn’t wait to arrange another meeting and start planning exactly what we wanted to do. We were all interested in the topic of migration even though our subjects vary from politics to town planning. In fact, this was something that turned out to be very helpful, as we have all learnt different skills from our different subjects and have each been able to contribute differently to the project.

The migration group hard at work. From left to right: Valeria Vigilante, Shaun Thomas, Evelyn Doyle and Angela Lin.
The migration group hard at work. From left to right: Valeria Vigilante, Shaun Thomas, Evelyn Doyle and Angela Lin.

How did you decide how to go about doing the research?

During the Silver stage we completed a project proposal for the Gold stage. We decided to look at what kind of effect migration has on culture and individuals, especially in the world of growing population. We decided that rather than concentrating on state level solutions and effects of migration, we wanted to look at how individual people perceive migration and what kind of experiences they have had, whether they are migrants themselves or lived in the UK their entire lives. We concluded that the best way to do this was to set up a questionnaire in order to find out people’s opinions about different kinds of migrants, what they think when they hear the word “migrant”, whether their experiences make a difference when it comes to accepting multiculturalism and migration, and whether different types of migrants were perceived differently. We wanted to see how the growing flow of migrants and the freer movement of people would be perceived by the respondents and, by looking at their answers, we could then find out what kinds of problems and possible solutions there would be in a world of 10 billion people.

What difficulties did you come up against? How did you overcome these?

We soon found out that our project proposal was a bit too ambiguous considering the time and resource boundaries that we had. Firstly, we wanted to have two separate questionnaires: one for refugees and one for students. On top of that we wanted to have face-to- face interviews with different types of migrants, including refugees. Secondly, even though we knew what we wanted to focus on, our project was way too wide, and we had too many questions to look at. This became even more clear after designing the questionnaires, as we noticed that they were too long. After several meetings with different academics from the university and between ourselves, we decided to concentrate only on legal migration as we realised how interviewing refugees would be really risky for the refugees themselves, and it would be really hard to get it ethically approved. We also decided to only have one questionnaire for everyone, and to concentrate on a few questions rather than have too many different areas of interest. All this helped us to get a clearer picture of what we are doing and how we are going to do it, but it also reminded us of the challenges that we have had with our topic and the challenges that we would face in the future. Migration is a very sensitive topic, and even defining the word “migrant” has turned out to be a difficult process, not to mention talking about “legal” and “illegal migration”. After the Brexit result and the growing tension around the topic, we have only become more aware of the sensibility of the topic, but at the same time it has made us realise how important our project is and made us even more motivated to keep up the hard work.

What’s the biggest achievement of the project so far?

It was such a relief when we managed to get our ethics form through and could finally start the next step of the project properly. Even though we had done loads of research and met different academics, the approval of the ethics form marked a special moment in our research process, as we could finally send the questionnaires around, as well as start finding people from different organisations and backgrounds within Sheffield for the face-to- face interviews. Getting the ethics form through was way more difficult than we originally thought it would be and it took a lot more time than we anticipated. After the process we have all really started to appreciate the hard work that goes into creating the questionnaires that are sent to our email inbox each year!

What happens next?

Once we have gathered the results from the questionnaires we will analyze them using SPSS and different readings that we have done. We will then produce an infographic concluding our findings from the questionnaire and literature review. We will also write a longer report analyzing our findings.

How have you found the experience overall?

Even though working on a research project has been a great experience, we have also faced some difficulties along the way (apart from the ethics form). As we all come from different countries and have been travelling around during the summer, it has sometimes been tricky to find a place and time to meet. Luckily there is always Skype, and Google Forms has been really helpful when editing different documents. Three of us have also taken part in a research methods course as part of our second year of university, which has been really helpful when planning the questionnaires and the research questions, different hypothesis and figuring out what kind of sample size we need in order to get more reliable findings. The course will also come in handy when analyzing the results using SPSS and when writing a research report. It is great to notice how the information and skills learnt while in university can be used in practice and that it is actually helpful and needed in real life projects as well.

Obviously this is only my personal view and some of us may have experienced things differently than me and there are many things that I did not write about, including several lectures on migration that we have attended, amazing and helpful staff in the university that have really guided us throughout the project (especially Fran), tens and tens of cups of coffee during our meetings, as well as some really inspirational talks on migration, brilliant learning moments and most importantly, the great chemistry that our group has. Even though the process has been a bumpy ride so far, we have all been very passionate about what we are doing, and been able to be flexible in order to make this project work. I’m sure in the end this flexibility and hard work will pay off and our project will have a great ending.