How can we make our cities greener? Andy Burnham on transforming Manchester

Posted on: December 4th, 2023 by mlpEditor

**We are extremely sorry to announce that this event has been cancelled as Andy Burnham will now be on an international visit on the 18th January. If you purchased a ticket, your refund will be issued via Eventbrite**

In an era marked by unprecedented urbanisation and environmental challenges, the importance of creating a sustainable future for our cities has never been more pressing. City leaders and citizens are playing pivotal roles in steering the course towards a greener and more sustainable urban landscape.

As cities continue to expand and evolve, their sustainability becomes a critical factor in ensuring the well-being of both current and future generations. The interplay between city leaders, who set policies and make strategic decisions, and citizens, who drive demand and catalyse change, is at the heart of this transformation.

Manchester is no stranger to this challenge. City officials have long recognised the need to address climate change and reduce carbon emissions, with a first Zero Emission plan launched in 2009.

Since then, mayor Andy Burnham has pledged to make the Greater Manchester region carbon neutral by 2038. But the process of implementing some of the changes to realise the pledge has been far from straightforward.

The implementation of the Clean Air Zone (CAZ) has sparked a heated debate, pitting environmental concerns against economic considerations. Advocates stress the urgency of cleaner air for future generations, while critics emphasize the need for a balanced approach that doesn’t undermine economic recovery. It’s undoubtedly a complex issue, and Andy decided to press pause on rolling out CAZ in February 2022. Manchester continues to grapple to find a consensus that effectively addresses both environmental and economic imperatives remains a formidable challenge.

What other plans do Greater Manchester leaders have to transform our city into one of the greenest regions in Europe? And can citizens and leaders work together to make this happen? Join us to explore this complex issue with our special guest Andy Burnham.

Seeing Britain through the eyes of an insider/outlier: in conversation with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

Posted on: November 23rd, 2023 by mlpEditor

In this second collaboration with MACFEST, a now internationally recognised Festival, the Manchester Lit & Phil are delighted to host an online conversation with the multi-award-winning journalist and author Professor Yasmin Alibhai Brown FRSL.

Led by our former President, Ian Cameron, the conversation will weave its way through Yasmin’s incredible career – from exile in Uganda, to critically acclaimed scholar and commentator in the UK. Hers is a story worth listening to.

Yasmin will reflect on the many insightful, cutting-edge contributions she has made over the years on a wide range of political, social and cultural issues. And through these reflections, she will speak of the challenges she has had to face, in an often caustic social media environment, particularly as a woman of colour. Her commentary is often delivered with unwavering passion and conviction. And always underscored by a fearless intellectual rigour.

Journeying through a substantial catalogue of successful books and novels, including her latest book Ladies who Punch, Yasmin will illuminate the personal beliefs and values she holds dear: on Feminism, Culture, Art and Activism. And she will offer her personal and nuanced views on matters that continue to demand our attention – including diversity, equality, inclusion, freedom of expression, racism and populism.

In this hard-hitting discussion, Yasmin will be asked questions such as: what is the state of multiculturalism in Britain today? Does she see it as an unqualified success, or in dire need of re-evaluation? And something many of us have been reflecting on in recent years: what does it mean to be British today?

 

TO BOOK: Please visit MACFEST’s Eventbrite page

Plastic Ocean

Posted on: October 16th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Join us for this online talk, to explore a photographic artist’s response to the worrying state of our oceans today.

Oceans are essential to life on earth. They cover more than 70% of the planet’s surface, regulate the climate, and supply the oxygen we need to survive. But every year, more than 8 million metric tons of plastic enters our oceans, affecting marine environments, biodiversity, over 700 different species, and ultimately human health.

For more than 13 years, artist Mandy Barker has created different series of work to try to engage new audiences with the harmful effects of marine plastic pollution. Captions alongside Mandy’s work detail the ‘ingredients’ of the plastic objects photographed, list brands, or provide descriptions about locations and countries and what was recovered there. The aim is to provide the viewer with a realisation of what exists in our oceans. It is hoped that raising awareness of the scale of plastic pollution that is affecting our oceans, through the passing on of these facts combined with scientific research, will ultimately lead the viewer to want to make change and take action.

Mandy writes:

“Art alone cannot change the world. But by bringing attention to marine plastic pollution in this way, it is hoped my work will help inform, and raise awareness about the overconsumption of plastic and the wider issue of climate change, and in doing so encourage a wider audience to want to do something about it.”

What are you drinking? A look at chemicals in the urban water cycle

Posted on: October 2nd, 2023 by mlpEditor

When you turn on the tap to get a glass of water, do you think about where that water has come from? Or rather, where it’s been and what treatment processes it has had to go through?

It’s true that chemicals can extend, improve and enrich our health, wellbeing and life experiences. But the rate at which new chemicals are being generated is resulting in widespread contamination of water. Arguably, the impacts of chemicals in our environment represent the third greatest planetary crisis behind climate change and biodiversity loss. And yet they are inextricably linked to both.

Currently, more than 56% of the world’s human population lives in cities. And daily use, release and exposure to chemicals in our environment is an emerging concern.

Leon Barron’s talk will outline how chemicals move in our urban water cycle. From the wastewater we generate, to river pollution, to contamination of our drinking water and their occurrence in both humans and biota. Advances in measurement technology has underpinned much of this, especially the use of mass spectrometry, to fingerprint chemical sources.

Leon will describe the role of wastewater in understanding exposure to chemicals, with respect to continuous release of treated effluents to our rivers, lakes and seas. He will also talk about using the analysis of wastewater generated in cities to understand consumption and exposure patterns to every-day-use chemicals – like pharmaceuticals, personal care products, pesticides, lifestyle chemicals and many others.

He will go on to assess potential solutions to this issue, to ensure that we balance the environmental impacts of chemicals and their immense benefit to society.

If we’re going to survive and thrive in the future, there is no doubt that we will need to look after our water supply.

Great Expectations – at the Royal Exchange Theatre

Posted on: August 3rd, 2023 by mlpEditor

Come along to the Theatre Group’s visit to ‘Great Expectations’ at the Royal Exchange Theatre.

From the Royal Exchange’s website:

This adaptation of a classic by Tanika Gupta is just pure genius. You’ll get to see the familiar Dickens framework, but it comes with a twist.

All my life they looked down on me, always cursing and abusing. But you, you will be different!

Bengal, 1903. Rumours that the British Empire plans to partition Bengal spread and uncertainty is never far away. For one Indian boy destiny is found on the banks of the River Padma before the Goddess Lakshmi. Here a promise is made. Born out of terror or kindness the choice Pipli makes that night will shape his life forever.

Pooja Ghai directs Tanika Gupta’s adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. Pipli moves from his home in Rajshahi to the bustling streets of Calcutta. With an open heart he navigates unforgiving darkness and unsettling friendships in his search for a better future. For Pipli, dharma – the right way of living, is never far away.

 

Lit & Phil members and friends are invited to book their seats directly with the theatre for the 2.30 pm matinee performance on the 20th September.

There will also be a post-theatre meal at Cote Brasserie in Manchester at 5.30 pm. This will be an opportunity to share our views about the play in a relaxed atmosphere.

Please email the organiser, Joanna Lavelle, via the button above if you would like further information or if you would like to join us.

 

Good to know: There will be an online pre-event discussion led by Dr Manju Bhavnani before the play on Tuesday 12th September at 6.30 pm via BlueJeans and an online post-event discussion on Tuesday 25th September at 6.30pm. Email the organiser via the button above for signing in details.

If you can’t go to the theatre on September 20th, you can still join in the pre-event discussion on September 12th and/or the post event discussion on September 25th.

Engineering enzymes to reduce plastic waste

Posted on: June 27th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Plastic waste is a global pollution crisis. Finding effective solutions to tackle PET plastic pollution is crucial for preserving our environment and creating a more sustainable future.

PET plastic, short for polyethylene terephthalate, is a commonly used material in bottles, containers and packaging. Unfortunately, PET plastic waste has become a significant environmental problem. When not properly recycled, PET can persist in the environment for many years, contributing to pollution in our oceans and ecosystems.

Current recycling methods for PET plastic face several challenges. The processes can be energy-intensive and costly. And the quality of recycled PET may not always be on par with virgin plastic, limiting its usability.

In 2016 scientists found an enzyme, a special type of protein, called IsPETase that can break down PET into its original building blocks. This discovery generated a lot of interest in using biological methods to recycle plastics.

But enzymes such as IsPETase are not immediately suitable to be used on a large scale, as they are not robust or efficient enough for industrial use. Whilst enzymes can be engineered to meet these industrial demands, the process is very challenging when working with plastic degrading enzymes.

In this online talk, Dr Elizabeth Bell will describe the development of a high-throughput platform for engineering plastic degrading enzymes using a process called directed evolution. Directed evolution is a mimic of natural evolution but done on a laboratory scale. It focuses on tailoring the specific properties of an enzyme to meet our requirements.

Elizabeth and her team used this platform to create a new variant of IsPETase that can withstand high temperatures and is more effective at breaking down PET. The engineered enzyme can also selectively degrade the PET component of a multi-material plastic that is commonly used for food packaging.

This study demonstrates that laboratory evolution can be used as a powerful tool to engineer enzymes to effectively break down plastics. With further research and development, these engineered enzymes could play a crucial role in reducing plastic waste and promoting a more sustainable future.

Kindness & Integrity – Leadership in a troubled world

Posted on: May 23rd, 2023 by mlpEditor

It is said people get the leaders they deserve. If this is true, can we all change so that leaders realise that leading with kindness, integrity, compassion and mutual respect is the way forward for maintaining a stable and peaceful world order?

In a special collaboration with MACFEST, the Muslim Arts and Culture Festival, the Manchester Lit & Phil are delighted and honoured to be hosting an ‘in conversation’ event with the eminent scholar, diplomat, author, poet, playwright, and polymath, Professor Akbar Ahmed.

Following a distinguished career in academia and public service, Akbar has devoted himself to the healing of the many harmful divisions between peoples and communities of different religions throughout the world, as these continue to pose serious threats to world peace.

Led by our current President, Ian Cameron, the conversation will be both an examination and a celebration of Professor Ahmed’s highly commendable multi-faceted life’s work.

In a world currently dominated by populist leaders and outright dictators, are Professor Ahmed’s noble efforts in driving towards such a change likely to succeed?

The panel will also be joined by special guest Professor Karin Vogt – an author and academic-teacher trainer at Heidelberg University, Germany. Professor Vogt is very interested in promoting diversity and intercultural understanding and we’re pleased to have the opportunity to hear her contribution to the discussion.

No Pay? No Way! – Theatre Group discussion

Posted on: May 10th, 2023 by mlpEditor

Find out more about the Royal Exchange’s production of ‘No Pay? No Way!’

This Lit & Phil member-led discussion last about 45 minutes and will include opportunities for questions and discussion among the participants.

All are welcome, whether or not you can attend the production at the Royal Exchange.

Good to know: the meeting will be online using Blue Jeans, allowing all users to be seen and to join the discussion.

Revolutionising cancer screening

Posted on: April 12th, 2023 by mlpMemberAdmin

Are we a step closer to finding a cure for cancer?

Whilst we can often successfully treat those that are diagnosed at an early stage, depending on the type of cancer, even the most effective treatments are often not effective when cancer is diagnosed at an advanced stage. For these reasons, great efforts are made to diagnose cancers as early as possible.

There is only so much that can be done to make the public and clinicians aware of the signs and symptoms. To make real progress, we need better tests and to use them in screening programs targeting seemingly healthy people.

Up until now, screening tests have been designed to look for one specific type of cancer at a time. And a significant problem is posed by the unreliability of these tests. For every early detection of cancer, several others receive a false-positive. If we were to have 20 different screening programs (one for each type of cancer), most people would receive a false-positive result once every few years. These false-positive tests cause anxiety, can lead to invasive further testing and are expensive to the NHS.

But there is hope on the horizon. Recent technological advances allow for the detection of tiny fragments of genetic material present in the blood. This, for the first time, offers the possibility of having a single blood test for many different types of cancer. One such test can detect 50 different types of cancer, with varying success, and it only very rarely gives a false positive result. If this test can find cancer early enough, it could revolutionize the way we approach cancer control.

Join us as we host Professor Peter Sasieni to learn more about this ground-breaking development in cancer research.

Demystifying Antarctica: What we’ve learned and what comes next

Posted on: March 14th, 2023 by mlpMemberAdmin

Since its discovery in 1840, polar scientists have gone to great lengths to explore Antarctica’s depths. An ice-covered continent the size of the United States and Mexico combined, it has been the site and subject of revelatory scientific studies and awe-inspiring adventures. In its vastness and mysteriousness, it has captured imaginations and has been the source of inspiration for centuries.

The significance of Antarctica’s role in the maintenance of ideal life conditions across the entire planet has since been established. Its ice, ocean and ecosystem play a vital role in the regulation of the global climate. Although many questions remain about its past and its present, particular attention has been turned to the future of its ice sheet. Concerns about its diminishing size have been at the heart of the polarising climate change debate.

Professor Helen Fricker will speak of the physical processes which determine the state of the ice, the transformational impact of satellite observation on her studies as well as the effects that the atmosphere and the oceans have on the ice. We will ask her how the future of Antarctic ice will affect sea levels globally.

As getting to grips with Antarctica involves a range of specialisms and extensive international collaboration, Helen will go beyond her background in geophysics to provide us with a comprehensive understanding of the continent. As one of an increasing number of women polar scientists, we look forward to hearing from someone who has first-hand experience of seeing the effects of climate change.

This online event has been organised in collaboration with the Institute of Physics.

Find out more about the IoP here: https://www.iop.org

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