Cabot Institute blog

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Monday, 18 June 2012

Big Green Week - Patterns of change

As part of our contribution to Bristol's first BIG Green Week, we wanted to put on a public event that got people discussing both Cabot's research and the interdisciplinary approach we take.  We came up with an event called 'Patterns of change', where we asked people from across Cabot's research areas of science, social science and engineering to tell a story of how something they study is changing across space or over time.

A wide remit, which led to a fascinating and far-ranging evening of presentations and discussion.

Professor Jonathan Bamber spoke about his work on the diminishing 'frozen planet' and implications for sea level rise. Professor Kathy Cashman spoke about the awesome havoc volcanoes wreak on the human and natural environment and the ways people have come to live with their eruptive neighbours. Professor Colin Taylor spoke about a new way of looking at resilience to natural hazards that needs not only strong buildings but strong relationships between people and 'learning communities'.  Finally Professors Wendy Larner and Bronwen Morgan tackled the way that individual stories, rooted in particular places and contexts, can provide us with the real, grassroots knowledge and models we need to effect change in our world.

We also tried a bit of an experiment - interspersing the presentations with short clips from the films Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi.  These provocative and visually arresting films try to capture something about the world we have built, how it is changing, and the relationship between the developed and developing worlds.  I tried to choose clips that would tie in with the presentations, but the films are so varied and juxtapose so many different images that it was difficult to make seamless transitions between the clips and the presentations.

We ended the evening with questions from the audience, and this being Bristol, they were thoughtful and provocative.  People applauded the broad approach of Cabot, but questioned the extent to which we, as researchers, can and should be advocates for change.  Others raised questions about local schemes such as the Severn Barrage and about distributed energy generation.  The feedback from the audience was generally very positive - "interesting, informative and thought-provoking".

If you have any further comments or questions don't hesitate to leave them below.

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