Tonight at 7:45pm in the Winchester Discovery Centre, I will giving the talk: Are we doomed? Is our civilisation headed for collapse? It’s taken me some time to realise that this is what most of my research is really about. In an abstract sense it’s about how far can you push a system before it fails, do you get any warning its going to fail and then once it does how can you recover it. But I’ve become increasingly motivated to situate these question in the real world. Our world – planet Earth. Rather than being morbid or depressing, I think these issues are fascinating and actually quite empowering. Ultimately, it’s about deciding what sort of planet we want to live on. What sort of a planet do we wish others to live on. If you are in town and can spare an hour, then come along. I predict there will be some significant disagreement with what I have to say from some people.
It’s Nobel Prize week, with awards for Medicine and Physiology, Physics, Chemistry, Peace and Economics being announced over the next seven days. We will discover who will win the literature prize later in the month.
While a Nobel is not the most lucrative accolade in academia – it “only” awards US$1.2m whereas since 2012 the Fundamental Physics Prize has paid out US$3m per recipient – it is easily the most recognisable and prestigious. You may be the most highly cited scholar in your field, have a small army of postdocs and a shelf full of books discussing your theories, but adding “Nobel Laureate” to your CV reaches the parts other accolades can’t.
The first prizes were awarded in 1901, five years after the death of Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel, who in his final will bequeathed the majority of his considerable fortune to the establishment of the a foundation that would award prizes to: “those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.”
The Nobel Foundation has previously made awards within the area of sustainability – most famously the 2007 peace prize jointly awarded to Al Gore and The IPCC. But if the foundation is primarily tasked with rewarding those individuals and organisations that have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind, then a Nobel Prize for Sustainability should be central to that aim. Continue reading