Sustainable Earth Conference 2017: Inspiring, Motivating and Facilitating Collaboration

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SU:Print's Science Editor, Katharine Clayton, comes to SU:Media to write about Plymouth University's Sustainable Earth 2017 Conference.

On June 29th and 30th the Sustainable Earth Institute of Plymouth University held the 2017 Sustainable Earth Conference which sought to inspire, motivate and facilitate collaboration to work towards sustainable solutions to problems which face the world. The focus this year was on communication and how individuals, groups, and companies can effectively promote a more sustainable lifestyle.

The dynamic set up of talks and activities kept the audience’s attention across the two days; the speakers provided a masterclass in communication whilst presenting their work. An interesting ‘marketplace session’ also took place where up to 6 people would present their work at the same time to their own eager audience. To choose just a few highlights is difficult, as there was such an eclectic mix of thought-provoking topics, but for those who missed out here’s my personal memorable moments:

The drug resistance topic enlightened me on how severe the consequences of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could become if left unchallenged. Economist Lord O’Neil of Gatley explained that by 2050, 10 million people per year could die from AMR, to put that into perspective currently 8.2 million people die per year from cancer yet the funding gap between these is huge. Dr Mathew Upton (Associate professor in Medical Microbiology) shared his research into investigating highly potent antimicrobial peptides (bacteriocins) for developing new drugs and how collaborating with Dr Kerry Howell (Associate Professor in Marine Ecology) is leading to the extraction of novel bacteriocins from deep sea sponges, how exciting!






















Throughout the event, the power of marketing was pushed to the forefront of everyone’s minds and how the translation which connects science and the public is essential to bring about change. This translation is at its most powerful when it involves story-telling, so the challenge is to make important problems such as AMR the new Disney Frozen. 

The academic marketplaces were great ways to showcase individuals work and invited discussion about the next steps for these projects/problems. From an app developed by 1st year marine biology students, through to photography of marine litter and of course Brexit with many more in between.

Finally, what would a sustainability conference be without climate change featuring massively? The traditional ‘we are harming the environment’ spiel however was left behind somewhat, although still true.  Climate change has progressed so far, that the most pressing issue we face now, is of our own health! This diagram (from the centre of disease control and prevention website just highlights a few health issues that will occur, not to mention all the indirect effects too.

But it isn’t too late! Change is necessary, but achievable; the three main areas that we need to focus on are reduction in water, CO2 emissions and waste. Using communication to engage audiences and incite advocacy, behaviour and social change is possible and the medicine our beautiful Earth really needs.

Here’s a link for 15 ways we could all do to be a more sustainable, there’s plenty more things out there so feel free to share your own top tips on going green!

Katharine Clayton


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