Global Citizen: reporting for duty

Posted on: December 5th, 2022 by mlpEditor

What role will today’s and tomorrow’s innovators play in helping us survive and thrive?

The global climate crisis. Famine and drought. Population growth. The battle for diminishing resources. These are no longer visions of some future nightmare. We are facing these challenges today.

Scientists have modelled where we are heading and it doesn’t look good. Protesters have taken to the streets. International targets have been agreed and Governments have laid out their plans.

But will they be enough? Pandemics and conflicts soon knock us off course; deadlines are missed and targets slip. So what can we do to protect our future, deal with today’s issues and learn to live with the extra challenges that are coming down the line?

Our world is evolving quickly. Engineering and Technology are right at the heart of the huge transformation we are experiencing. A career in STEM is becoming more than a career. It is a way of life – a consistent source of boundless creativity.

In this event recording, Yewande Akinola shares her discovery of the roles Innovative Engineering and Technology play in bringing progress and true Sustainability to our world. From the development of our built environment to more specific and intentional problem-solving.

Will humans become extinct through climate change?

Posted on: November 24th, 2022 by mlpEditor

In this talk by Dr Anders Sandberg of the Future of Humanity Institute, we will examine what role climate change may play in the end of the world as we know it.

Disasters come in many shapes and sizes. One way of looking at them are by their scope: how much of the world and the future do they affect? And by their severity: how bad are they?

Global catastrophic risks are those that affect the entire world, while existential risks are those that threaten all future generations – typically extinction risks. There are many potential threats in these categories, ranging from asteroid impacts to nuclear war. Most are fortunately unlikely to spell our doom… but there are enough of them to make us rightly concerned about our well-being.

While natural risks are unlikely to cause an end of humanity, human-made risks are. What is the role of climate change in this? Direct extinction by a changed climate is very unlikely: it takes very extreme heat to stop an adaptive, technological species that is spread worldwide.

But climate change poses a systemic threat. By stressing nearly every part of the world as we move into a century with many other risks, powerful emerging technologies, and an interconnected and fragile global system, it can amplify other dangers and make them more likely to coincide into vast disasters.

Climate change may not be the end of the world, but it can certainly help it along. Conversely, some (but not all!) ways of handling climate change can reduce large risks.

This is a hybrid event, that can be attended in person or watched live online.

Interview with Yewande Akinola MBE

Posted on: November 23rd, 2022 by mlpEditor

Q: Engineering is such a broad field of study. It requires artistic creativity, rational problem-solving, wild imagination, and a desire to improve the world. As a young student, what drew you to get involved in engineering? 

A: As a child, like most kids, I was drawn to the physical aspect of engineering: form, shape, colour. I didn’t know it as engineering. For a long time, I only knew it as architecture. I was very interested in how I could design better buildings for my family. I was very much drawn to the idea of using creativity to build nicer spaces to be in. 

Q: Can you recall the first time you were inspired by a particular architect, a specific building or structure? 

A: I used to spend a lot of time in the home of an incredible architect called Demas Nwoko. My mum would drop us off there when she was at work. He’s one of Africa’s finest architects. He ensures that his architecture speaks the language of the people of the land. Every aspect of his structures speaks to the history and the culture of the community.  

I loved the fact that the chairs were all hand carved. The tiles in the bathrooms had all been carefully hand-produced. They each told a very deep story. He built the house from materials that surrounded it. He produced the clay using a soil that was very much associated with the area. 

“These days, everybody’s trying to ensure that their architecture speaks to its environment. That it doesn’t take away from the context but adds to it. It tells the story or the history of wherever you are or where you’re situating the building.”

There’s a self-reflective element to the architecture that I experienced as a child. I appreciate that even more now because I can see that many people are trying to get back to that. 

Q: What does it mean for you to be a ‘Global Citizen’ and why should we strive to be one? 

A: I’ve had the incredible opportunity of experiencing many different countries and cultures. Engineering, which is such a beautiful, universal language, has opened the world to me. It’s allowed me to speak the language of lots of different countries by being able to design for them.

I’m on a bit of a mission because we’ve got so many similar challenges all over the world. Yet, we lose so much time and efficiency in our attempts to find local solutions to local problems.

“When one country has a problem, it starts trying to find a solution to a problem that another has already solved. I’ll show the audience how they can use very basic but interesting, creative tools to solve global issues.”

Engineering requires us to rise to the task of solving these problems. We must be courageous and intentional in doing so. 

Q: You’ve mentioned that you don’t consider what you do as ‘a living’ but as ‘your purpose’. Do you have an over-arching mission that you wish to achieve? If so, what is it?

A: To empower a generation of people to solve problems through engineering. By giving them access to education, we can help them understand exactly how they can use their skills to do so. 

Q: What advice do you have for those who seek to find their calling in life and their own way to contribute to society? 

A: For me, the first point is about looking at one’s journey so far, taking stock and being so grateful for it. You already have what you need to take the next step. If you’ve got experience or an interest, think about how you can use that to get yourself there. 

The other thing I would say is that you need to be curious. You need to be willing to ask questions, to Google search to find out who you need to talk to. 

“Purpose is an ongoing thing… You don’t wake up one day knowing all that you’re supposed to be about. It reveals itself through action, the process of trying things.”

By doing, you start to connect the dots.  There’s something beautiful about that. You don’t know where it will lead you but you know what you need to be doing right now, using what you currently have. 

Q: Your career has allowed you to work in many different capacities. Public speaker, TV presenter and engineer. What’s next for Yewande Akinola?  

A: I’m involved in the academic industry. I work as an engineer. I speak at events. I am currently working on a YouTube series intended to inspire young people. This means that I’m now exploring how to write scripts and direct videos.  

If a young person is thinking of becoming an engineer, I want to ensure that they have the resources to do so.

Thank you to Yewande for taking the time to answer our questions.

‘Global Citizen: reporting for duty’ takes place at the National Football Museum on the 29th of November 2022.

Manchester: what changed, and what comes next?

Posted on: November 9th, 2022 by mlpEditor

How has Manchester changed to such an extent? And what lessons does its journey hold for other places?

Guardian columnist John Harris and Sunday Times journalist Hannah Al-Othman both have a long-standing interest in how Manchester has been revived and regenerated over the last 30 years, and the big social issues its transformation has highlighted.

Where is Manchester and its surrounding region now heading?

With Boris Johnson’s ideas about “levelling up” apparently fading and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham using his new job to carve out a different kind of politics, there are huge questions to address. Not just for Manchester, for the whole of the country.

John and Hannah share and explore their personal perspectives in this ‘in conversation’ style event.

The Northern Powerhouse: where are we now?

Posted on: November 3rd, 2022 by mlpEditor

The Northern Powerhouse launched over a decade ago, to boost northern economic growth and to rebalance the UK economy. But where are we now?

The government doesn’t talk much about the Northern Powerhouse now, preferring the broader ‘levelling-up’ concept.  But the challenges, and the opportunities, remain. We can’t recreate the old industries. We have to somehow re-invent and re-invigorate areas that have suffered long term economic decline. And it’s not going to be easy.

From here in Manchester, reaching out to Liverpool in the West and Leeds and Sheffield in the East, we have a population of about 8 million.  This is not too dissimilar to London. Could this area become an integrated single market for producers and consumers, with spin-off benefits for the whole of the North?

Lord Jim O’Neill is one of the Northern Powerhouse’s original architects and a major contributor to its early successes. In this talk, he names six individual challenges that have to be solved: education; skills; devolution; business connectivity; transport; and technology infrastructure.  And he is clear that all six will need to be solved if the Powerhouse objectives are to be achieved. So, is the government serious?

 

Interview with Professor Alice Larkin

Posted on: August 15th, 2022 by mlpEditor

Q: To begin, could you briefly describe your motivations behind entering climate science?

A: I was a keen star gazer as a child, and enjoyed maths, so ended up studying physics with astrophysics. I always also had a great passion for the outdoors. So, when thinking about future careers, I was keen to apply my skills to focus on this planet, rather than the ones I would star gaze as a child. I chose to do a PhD in climate modelling, which linked up my two interests, as the study was about the sun’s natural variability – how the solar cycles influenced the composition and circulation of the atmosphere.

Q: Starting at home, what do you believe are the day-to-day changes people can make to help combat the climate crisis?

A: Firstly, having a think about the kinds of things you typically do. We are all different. Some people will spend more time travelling either at home or abroad than others. Some may find they like their home to be a very warm environment, others cooler. Others may be fans of shopping, always wanting the latest gizmo. Different people’s lives will have different amounts of greenhouse gases associated with them – so using one of the available online carbon calculators to firstly understand which elements of your life might be making the biggest contribution, is a useful start. It is also the case that on average, the more disposable income you have, the higher your emissions will be. For example, most people don’t fly much, but some fly a lot. Flying is the most carbon intensive thing most of us do as individuals, so if this is you, then the quickest way to make a big dint in your emissions is to reduce the number of times you fly, and/or the distance you travel.

“Flying is the most carbon intensive thing most of us do as individuals, so… the quickest way to make a big dint in your emissions is to reduce the number of times you fly.”

But it isn’t all about individual action. We all live and work in communities and wider society. We influence each other’s choices and decisions. This might be through inviting someone to a hen party overseas, or simply having a chat about how you travel to work. It might also be that you have influence in your job – so teachers can influence pupils, I can influence students and staff etc. If you are in a position that has influence within an organisation, you may also be able to develop or support policies that cut emissions. This can be very powerful – not just thinking of ourselves as individuals is key to radically cutting emissions on a large scale.

Q: Do you feel enough is being done to combat the damaging effects that flying has on the climate? Is the industry evolving – or is it the responsibility of the consumer?

A: No, not enough is being done. We are practically still in the position we were in when I started researching this in 2003. Technologies to cut CO2 in aviation are few and far between, and with aircraft lasting 20-30 years, progress and change will always be slow. Consumer pressure is very important. Not just in relation to reducing our own flying activities, but also influencing policymakers to make difficult decisions, such as stopping the expansion of our airports, or bringing in prices such that the pollution that is produced by aircraft is taxed more fairly. At the moment there are exemptions on fuel used for international flights.

“Consumer pressure is very important. Not just in relation to reducing our own flying activities, but also influencing policymakers to make difficult decisions, such as stopping the expansion of our airports.”

Writing to your local MP shouldn’t be underestimated. Matters that voters contact MPs about do have traction, and it doesn’t take many letters on the same topic to prompt further discussion in parliament.

Q: What are some of the more shocking statistics that you think people should be aware of in terms of the damaging effect that flying has on the environment?

A: Travelling on a long-haul first-class flight can be over 130 times worse in terms of CO2 emissions than travelling by international rail. Most people compare sources of emissions in terms of CO2, but aircraft cause more warming than other modes due to other emissions released at altitude. Estimates vary on how much more damaging this is, but estimates are that 3 times more warming has been caused by aircraft than would have happened if the only emission was CO2.

Q: The damage flying has on the climate is widely publicised – whereas the effects of shipping perhaps less so. How do the two industries differ in relation to negative impact on the environment, and which industry is making greater progress in terms of safeguarding our future?

A: This is a difficult question – I could write a long essay here!

They both have quite a similar impact globally in terms of CO2. But one is principally used for leisure and by a small proportion of the population. Whereas the other is principally used for freight, and serves people all over the world with food, energy, manufactured goods and raw materials. In terms of options to cut emissions, shipping has many more options available, including slowing down – which may sound odd, but actually with just modest speed reductions, CO2 emissions drop significantly. Shipping now has a target to cut CO2 by 50% by 2050. This isn’t sufficient to align the sector with the Paris Climate Agreement but is more ambitious that the aviation sector, which continues to rely on offsetting schemes and action by industry but without a sector-wide agreed target.

Q: What are you currently researching and working on? Are there any exciting projects you’d like to alert us to?

I’m current focused on shipping more than aviation.  We are quantifying some of the impacts of fuel changes on ship patterns, as well as further work on how to decarbonise ships using wind propulsion with route optimisation. Another project I’m involved with is trying to see what role ammonia or hydrogen might have as a shipping fuel, and whether or not connections between fuel supply chains for aviation and shipping might influence each other.  I’d like to be working on more projects but unfortunately, most of my job is focused on more managerial tasks as the moment – as Head of the Engineering School. As such, I rely heavily on a great team of researchers in the Tyndall Centre in Manchester to keep me up to date.

Thank you to Alice for taking the time to answer our questions.

“I danced here on other peoples’ dreams”

Posted on: August 15th, 2022 by mlpEditor

How can we build a more diverse, respectful and inclusive society?

Award-winning author, journalist, broadcaster and academic, Professor Gary Younge, shares his personal journey. From growing up as a child in a single parent home to becoming an author and professor.

He reflects on the collective struggles of those that have gone before him. And how it was only through those struggles that opportunities were created for others.

Gary writes:

The diverse, inclusive, respectful society that we wish to build does not exist yet; it is constantly in the making.  We are in some senses closer than we were; although what is gained in one quarter is often conceded in another.  But in almost every sense we are not even close to where we need to be.

The COVID pandemic laid bare both our vulnerabilities and potential.  It exposed the inequalities and precarities that are the fault lines of societal unrest and global inequities.  It has also made the case, as no politician can, that there is such a thing as the common good, that we have a collective responsibility for our common wellbeing and that we are capable of adapting to meet the challenge. We all suffered and we all made sacrifices; we did not, however suffer or sacrifice equally.

But in order to build that diverse, inclusive, respectful world we must first imagine it.  That is precisely what oppressed people have been doing for centuries as they fought for rights that seemed impossible and a world they could not see.  Whatever diversity, inclusivity and respect we have attained thus far has not been the inevitable product of decency, natural evolution or time and tide; it is the product of struggle by generations of people who waged battles they were unlikely to win for a world they did not know was possible.  People who fought not because victory was plausible but because not fighting ensured defeat.

That is also the story of my own unlikely journey from a single parent migrant home to being an author and professor.  But while it is my personal story, it’s not just my personal achievement.  It was the collective struggles of others that have gone before me that made that journey possible.  That suggests that there are myriad other journeys, yet to be made to destinations unknown, that we can make possible through our struggles today.

We can choose our future

Posted on: August 11th, 2022 by mlpEditor

Would you change your flying habits or aspirations to combat climate change?

Anthropogenic climate change is the greatest challenge that humanity has ever faced.  Yet the fact that we know humans created this challenge can be empowering. It means that we have some control over how much future climate change we will all need to adapt to.

In richer countries, our per person emissions are very high and will need to be cut significantly. Our choices also have an influence over others’ futures, where per person emissions are very low. And these tend to be places where climate impacts will be most keenly felt.

Professor Alice Larkin’s talk focusses on the scale of the climate change challenge and why it matters that we make different choices now.  In particular, it will use aviation and shipping to highlight some of what needs to change, and how to influence it.

Change your diet: the easiest way to help reduce your climate impact

Posted on: August 11th, 2022 by mlpEditor

Food production causes about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions.  And this is rising as the world’s population increases and becomes more affluent. This talk explores our potential for change.

Professor Sarah Bridle has been studying dark matter and dark energy for the last 20 years. But when her children started school she began to think about our own planet in the next 20 years and beyond.  Sarah learned about climate change in depth, for the first time. How it threatens worldwide food production, and how food causes about a quarter of all global warming.  She wanted to know how much each of her food choices was contributing, and why.

Sarah delved into the academic research literature and summarised the results in simple charts.  The charts make it easy for the non-specialist to see the impacts of different meal options. They show that some easy food switches can reduce food greenhouse gas emissions by 90 percent.

Most of us make many food choices every day. By changing these we can significantly reduce climate change caused by food, and free up land that can be used to help reduce climate change overall.

MCR History Talks: Health

Posted on: July 28th, 2022 by mlpAdmin

Jessica White and Adam Waddingham from the University of Manchester discuss the history of health in Manchester.

Joining them is Andrew Seaton. Andrew is a PhD Candidate in Modern European History at New York University.  He is a political and social historian working on topics related to the history of science, technology, environment, and medicine.

Jessica and Adam are also joined by Will Ranger from the Living Wage Foundation.  Will is a Manchester based community activist and campaigner who specialises in the political and social history of the city.

This podcast was produced by Jessica White & Adam Waddingham for The Manchester Lit and Phil in July 2020.