The HRI was full to bursting with academics and professional services staff, as well current second year students, all excited to see the work students had produced.
Our deputy PVC for Learning & Teaching, Paul Latreille, was one of the academics to speak at the event. He began by congratulating the students on their hard work, and went on to say how impressed he was by the quality of their projects.
We also heard from Amanda Crawley Jackson and Alastair Buckley, the academics heading up the programme. They too were impressed by the students’ work and talked about their exciting plans for the year ahead.
Our guests gave us some really positive feedback, too:
A particularly thought provoking event from the Festival of 10bn in February 2016 was a panel debate which asked: ‘Is there space for nature in a world of 10bn?’
The title of this debate is intriguing in itself, as the subject matter is one you may not immediately associate with the theme of 10bn, which on the surface appears anthropocentric. However, when considering population growth, it is vital that we also consider the impact we are having upon our environment, and the animals with whom we share our planet. Since it is an extremely provocative question,this debate evoked a wide range of responses, and sparked numerous points of contention – as any engaging debate should!
The panelists came from a range of disciplinary backgrounds: Matthew Hethcoat is a Conservation Scientist, Dr Anna Krzywoszynska is a Social Science researcher, Debbie Coldwell is undertaking a PHD in Cultural and Educational ecosystem services, Nicky Rivers is a Living Landscape Development Manager at Sheffield Wildlife Trust and Neil Williams is studying a PHD in the department of Philosophy. This illustrates that to explore a topic such as 10bn effectively, input from a range of perspectives is required.
Opening the debate, the panelists were asked why it is important to make space for nature as we move into a world of 10 billion. A rather harrowing point made was the fact that without nature, the world of 10 billion would cease to exist. Examples were given of the various ways humans depend upon nature, ranging from how nature provides us with food and medicine, to how nature regulates climate and disease, not to mention the benefits it can have for our general well-being.
As panellist Dr Anna Krzywoszynska asserted, ‘our lives are very interconnected with the non-human elements of our survival.’
One of the primary focuses of the debate revolved around the issue of monetary value, and whether or not we should keep economics out of nature. The multiplicity of responses to this key question was insightful, leaving plenty of food for thought.
Debbie Coldwell argued that not putting a value on nature runs the risk that nature may be forgotten about. On the other hand, Neil Williams voiced his concern that focusing on the economic value of nature would enforce the idea that everything can be exchanged for something else, thus jeopardizing creatures that do not provide a service to us.
I found both of these arguments compelling. But ultimately I do not believe that segregating economics from nature is feasible. Money is such a powerful influence in contemporary society. To entirely distance issues of nature from economics would require a radical change to the way society functions.
One of the closing issues debated by the panel was how to get people to care about nature. I thought that this question was highly significant, because in order to live harmoniously with nature it is necessary to respect it.
Encouraging members of the community to experience the beauty and health benefits of nature from a young age was the main response to this question. It is education, the experience of natural surroundings and discovering the benefits of nature that will lead individuals to care about it and fostering a desire to contribute to conservation efforts.
Overall, the debate was intellectually stimulating and it inspired me to consider more deeply the impact humans are having upon the natural world and what the long term dangers of exploiting nature are.
In direct response to the question posed by the title of this debate, I would argue that we must make space for nature if we are to sustain a population of 10 billion. The manner in which we do this is a highly complex question, and possible ways of tackling this problem were explored in other Festival of 10bn events, such as the talk on sustainable energy and the Real Junk Food Project.
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.
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.