Sustainable Futures 2017.
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Who are we? The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures is an ambitious and innovative collaboration between the University of Sheffield and the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment. Our sustainability research creates knowledge and connects it to policy debates on how to build a fairer world and save natural resources for future generations.
What do we do? Research: We work across disciplines to create new ideas and technologies, which combine to make local, national and global communities and organisations more sustainable, now and in the future.
Training: We are building a global community of sustainability leaders through a PhD programme. The Grantham Scholars carry out excellent interdisciplinary research, learning the technical skills and political awareness needed to create a sustainable world. Policy: We collaborate with policymakers and
campaigners, working towards policies based on evidence, sustainable business practices and an empowered public.
Contents Research – p4 Training – p8 Policy – p12 Spotlight: Sustainable living on the Syrian border – p14
What are our priorities? Creating a sustainable future needs work from organisations and communities around the world, and will take time. Our focus is on two immediate issues:
Enough for Everyone: making sure that people everywhere have enough clean water and nutritious, safe, appropriate food to be healthy and active; as well as reliable, affordable and clean energy to meet their needs. Reducing Global Consumption: slowing the depletion of natural resources and emissions of greenhouse gases, to make sure that society’s needs are met without compromising the needs of future generations, or causing undue damage to ecosystems.
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Practical solutions, delivered with optimism. It’s customary to start these sorts of introductions with the stark realities. We know that global demand for food and energy is expected to double by 2050, and that the need for clean water will increase by 50 per cent. We’re well aware that the Earth’s population is creeping ever closer to 10 billion, and we’re more concerned than ever about the effect all of this will have on our climate and natural ecosystems. But reminding you of this will only get us so far. What we’re concerned with at the Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures is what we’re going to do about it. The Grantham Centre was founded in 2014 through a multi-million pound donation from the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, boosted by funds from the University of Sheffield itself. Since then, we have built a PhD training programme to inspire a new generation of sustainability advocates. These Grantham Scholars learn from some of the University of Sheffield’s best scientists and social scientists. Like all Sheffield postgraduates, they become great researchers, but they also get the skills and opportunities to put academic solutions into practice by working with policymakers, businesses and communities. Over the next few pages, you can read more about our Grantham Scholars and their supervisors. Whether they’re examining crops in laboratories, studying socio-political structures, organising events or speaking at United Nations conferences, they are all helping the world to understand the challenges we face, and the ways we can overcome them. Like everyone, I worry about the planet I will leave behind for future generations, but knowing about the work that goes on across the University of Sheffield every day, I am filled with optimism. Professor Anthony Ryan OBE Director, Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures
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Research The Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures is powered by some of the most esteemed researchers at the University of Sheffield. These expert scientists, engineers and social scientists have made major discoveries, and they supervise the research projects that our PhD students, the Grantham Scholars, are working on. The Grantham Centre brings together these individuals, and the departments and research centres they are based in, to foster new collaborations between disciplines, and across the worlds of academia, industry and policymaking. Our research community spans ambitious postgraduates, to enterprising academics, to Fellows of the Royal Society.
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Jeremy and Hanne Grantham, and Ramsay Ravenel from the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment visited the Grantham Centre to meet University of Sheffield researchers and Grantham Scholars. As part of the trip, Professor Duncan Cameron led a tour of the controlled environment facilities used by the P3 centre.
Understanding climate change and reducing its impacts are essential to creating a sustainable world. These challenges underpin much of the research that our Grantham Scholars are working on. For example, Monica Ortiz is developing a statistical model to predict how climate change will impact wheat production in Europe, and Matthew Hethcoat is supervised by Professor Shaun Quegan, leader of the European Space Agency BIOMASS project that will use satellite and radar technology to create a 3D map of the world’s forests.
The University of Sheffield’s huge expertise in plant and soil science is triggering new ideas about how agriculture can feed the world’s growing population in an environmentally sustainable way. Can we reduce fertiliser use by harnessing soil microbes at the same time as recycling waste from food chains? Can we design new systems for growing food in deserts and other areas of the world that are normally hostile to plants? Can we breed crops that use sunlight and water more efficiently?
Professor David Beerling FRS, who leads the Leverhulme Centre for Climate Change Mitigation at the University of Sheffield, supervises three Grantham Scholars. Other Grantham Centre supervisors include Dr Donatella Zona, who is carrying out pioneering research that is increasing our understanding of methane emissions from arctic permafrost, and Professor Edward Hanna, who has identified changes in weather systems over Greenland that are linked to extreme weather patterns over northwest Europe, such as the UK’s unusually wet conditions in the summers of 2007 and 2012.
These sorts of questions have inspired several of our Grantham Scholars’ research projects. Between them, James Thackery, Peter Venn, Nick Moody, Hannah Sewell and Chris Dutton are studying various aspects of plant development to produce the crops needed for a sustainable agriculture system. Professor Julie Gray, who is supervising Chris and Hannah’s projects, is essential to this progress, as she leads important investigations into how plants can use water more efficiently to become more resistant to drought. At the same time, Emanga Alobwede is studying how algae can help restore nutrients in soil, and Angesh Anupam is developing a computational model for soil management. A newer Grantham Scholar project is being supervised by Professors Duncan Cameron and Tony Ryan: their PhD student Harry Wright is working on a polymer foam-based artificial soil, to feed into a desert agriculture project the Grantham Centre is embarking on with Sohar University in Oman.
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Grantham Supervisor Dr Matt Johnson was awarded one of the Society of Experimental Biology’s President’s Medal at the organisation’s 2016 conference in Brighton. Matt, right, was given the plant section prize in recognition of his work on the molecular machinery of photosynthesis. He is part of a 40-year story of world class photosynthesis research at the University of Sheffield, following Professors David Walker, Peter Horton and Neil Hunter, all elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society.
Accessing food Using resources efficiently is only one piece of the sustainability puzzle – how they are distributed is another problem Grantham Scholars are tackling. Cecilie Dyngeland studies whether an anti-poverty initiative in Brazil has improved access to food for the poorest Brazilians, while Fiona Graham has devised an environmental impact score system, to understand how shop and café customers can be encouraged to make more sustainable food choices. Fiona is supervised by Professor Michelle Holdsworth, who is studying whether healthier diets can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as disease. Professor Peter Jackson, as chair of the SheFF research network, is leading further studies of the food system. He supervises Grantham Scholar Patience Muchada and recently published Anxious Appetites, an examination of food scares and other phenomena that affect our relationship with what we eat.
Industry collaborations University of Sheffield researchers are also helping businesses operate in a more sustainable way. Projects include:
• Mapping the environmental impact embodied in a
wheat-to-bread supply chain with international agricultural services provider Agrii, and a major UK miller and bread baker Researchers: Professors Lenny Koh, Peter Horton and Duncan Cameron, Richard Bruce and Liam Goucher
• Establishing sustainable and ethical rubber production
for the manufacture of tyres with a leading motor manufacturer Researcher: Dr David Edwards
• Making new types of concrete using nanofibres from,
for example, food waste, in collaboration the major UK paving slab manufacturer Marshalls Researcher: Professor Luca Susmel
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Grantham Scholar Matt Hethcoat was given the prize for Best Oral Presentation by an Early Career Scientist at the National Centre for Earth Observation’s Annual Science Conference in Warwick.
We work closely with our partner sustainability teams at the University of Sheffield. The researchers behind these groups are mentors to many of our Grantham Scholars and are coming up with innovative new solutions to sustainability challenges. P3: The University of Sheffield’s centre of excellence for translational plant and soil biology. Led by Professor Duncan Cameron and Professor Jurriaan Ton, who design projects that connect ground-breaking research and state-of-the-art facilities with industry partners. Visit p3.sheffield.ac.uk
SheFF: A network of scientists, engineers, social scientists and health researchers, chaired by Professor Peter Jackson. The group’s focus is on how food is produced, distributed and consumed, and how these processes can be improved to build a secure and sustainable food system. Visit foodfutures.group.shef.ac.uk
Energy2050: More than 120 academics and 250 PhD students working on new
sustainable energy technologies, with an industry and policy focus. Led by Professor Mohammed Pourkashanian, Head of University Energy Research. Visit energy2050.ac.uk
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Training Our community of PhD students, the Grantham Scholars, take part in a unique training programme. They are guided through their research by their supervisors, while the Grantham Centre provides courses, workshops and opportunities to help them become sustainability advocates. The Grantham Scholars learn how the policymaking process works, the part that researchers can play in it, and how to take part in sustainability debates in the media to make a positive difference.
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David Midgley from Zero Carbon Yorkshire, Dr Anna Watson from Friends of the Earth, Dr Matthew Cotton from the University of Sheffield, Dr Alix Dietzel from the University of Bristol and Tracy Carty from Oxfam at Acting Together Against Climate Change, a panel discussion organised by Grantham Scholars Emma Stevens, Sally Faulkner and Anton Eriksson.
Each year, our first year Grantham Scholars have organised a series of public seminars on a range of sustainability topics. These have included discussions on whether red meat can be a sustainable food source, what the future of clean energy might look like and how communities can fight climate change. Students have invited speakers from major companies and charities with a stake in sustainability: from vegetarian food firm Quorn, to global aid organisation Oxfam.
Our PhD students get lots of opportunities to find out how sustainability works in practice. They have visited agriculture experts at Agrii to find out about challenges in farming, and Quornâ€™s processing plants to learn about alternatives to meat. Some of our students have completed internships and met with Parliamentary policymakers, and Grantham Scholars have joined the University of Sheffieldâ€™s delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
Watch videos from our events at grantham.sheffield.ac.uk/seminars
Grantham Scholars Emanga Alobwede, James Lambert, Angesh Anupam and Tinashe Mawodza visiting Agrii in Essex.
Grantham Scholars Niall Bradshaw, Emma Stevens and Patience Muchada with Grantham Industry Engagement Fellow Richard Bruce on a visit to Quorn.
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The Food Footprints exhibition at Bank Street Arts, which second year Grantham Scholars organised in collaboration with The Art House for the University of Sheffieldâ€™s Festival of the Mind.
Grantham Leadership Programme Through the Grantham Leadership Programme, our PhD students can become champions of causes they care about. Grantham Scholar James Thackery came up with the scheme, and he is one of several PhD students who have picked a subject to campaign around. This gives our students the chance to put their expertise and advocacy skills into practice, and contribute to the debate in areas such as genetic modification, crop diversity and technology in agriculture.
Festival of the Mind The University of Sheffield brings together researchers and artists for Festival of the Mind, a bi-annual programme of academic and creative collaborations. Second year Grantham Scholars organised an exhibition at Sheffieldâ€™s Bank Street Arts, using pottery produced by local charity The Art House to get gallery visitors thinking about more sustainable approaches to food production. The students also hosted an afternoon quiz in Sheffield city centre, to explore perceptions and misconceptions around what it means to produce food sustainably. Find out more at grantham.sheffield.ac.uk/fotm
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We offer our students lots of different training courses so they can become expert researchers, equipped to face the challenges of creating a sustainable world in practice. Some examples of the sessions weâ€™ve run are: Communicate with Confidence Creative Media (Filmmaking) Parliamentary Impact and Engagement Success on Screen Working with the Media
From different countries
Based in University of Sheffield departments
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Policy The challenges of sustainability cannot be solved by researchers alone. But what the Grantham Centre community can provide are the tools and knowledge that allow policymakers to put sustainable solutions into practice. We work with politicians, civil servants, think tanks and government organisations to help shape policy so that individuals and communities around the world have the opportunity to live in a more sustainable way.
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United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change The Grantham Centre and Energy2050 have led the University of Sheffield’s delegation to the annual United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. At the 21st Conference of Parties in Paris, researchers connected to the Grantham Centre spoke on a range of topics, including low carbon technologies, conservation of ecosystems, population decline in the Asia-Pacific region and economic diversification. At our event on sustainable agriculture, we launched our first policy briefing note with a busy and lively discussion about how the global food system can adapt to climate change. Find out more at grantham.sheffield.ac.uk/cop21
Briefing note: A sustainable model for intensive agriculture
Professor Tony Ryan chairs a discussion at COP21 with the UK Champion for Global Food Security Professor Tim Benton, Professor Steve Long FRS from the University of Illinois, Professor Duncan Cameron from the University of Sheffield, Professor Debra Davidson from the University of Alberta and Professor Michelle Holdsworth from the University of Sheffield.
This Grantham Centre’s policy briefing note sets out the ways that intensive agriculture practices could be redesigned to meet growing global food demands. It was launched at COP21 with a warning about the alarming loss rate of the world’s arable land, and how to combat this by applying conservation agriculture principles, combining plant biotechnology and nutrient recycling from sewage. The briefing attracted significant media coverage in The Guardian and China Daily, amongst others, and was cited as evidence in the UK House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee’s inquiry on soil health. Read the briefing at grantham.sheffield.ac.uk/engagement/policy
Our Associate Director, Professor Colin Osborne, right, spoke to MEPs in Brussels about the University of Sheffield’s groundbreaking climate change research.
Policy discussions The Grantham Centre was a major participant at A Sustainable Food Future, a conference held in December 2015 at the prestigious Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House. There, Professor Tony Ryan presented new ideas about sustainable agriculture from our briefing note. He also chaired a dinner, hosted by the Grantham Centre, for government, NGO and industry delegates who took part in a lively round table discussion on a range of issues around global food security. Tony was also added to the list of speakers for the following year’s conference, appearing alongside senior UK policymakers and influential figures from WHO, UNFCCC and major corporations, and following a keynote address from George Eustace, Secretary of State for Agriculture Fisheries. Tony has also appeared on a panel alongside the University of Sheffield’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Sir Keith Burnett, at The Energy Conundrum, a discussion held at the Royal Society in London for University of Sheffield alumni.
The Grantham Centre’s policy briefing, ‘A sustainable model for intensive agriculture’.
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Spotlight: Sustainable living on the Syrian border Our Director, Professor Tony Ryan, recently visited two settlements on the frontline of the greatest humanitarian crisis of modern times. The Zaatari and Azraq refugee camps in Jordan are run by UNHCR, the United Nations Refugee Agency, and are home to tens of thousands of people fleeing violence in Syria. Here, Tony reflects on what refugees can teach us about living sustainably. “I’ve been working on sustainability projects with Professor Helen Storey from London College of Fashion for more than a decade. We’ve exhibited designer handbags made out of plastic carrier bags in a Sheffield shopping centre, and we’ve filled a field in Edinburgh with kilts that purified the air. This time we went far from home, to meet refugees 12 miles from the Syrian border. “Our visit to the Zaatari and Azraq camps had a clear set of purposes. Helen’s latest project, Dress For Our Time, repurposes a UN refugee tent to ask important questions about migration, whereas I was looking at resource use and repurposing in conflict zones, with a specific question from the UNHCR about the design and manufacture of sanitary products. Migration and conflict are both driven by climate change, as global warming puts
pressure on food and water supplies. This pressure leads to civil unrest, and political instability leads to the refugee crisis we see today. We wanted to experience what life is really like in a refugee camp, both as a consequence of global warming, and as an investigation into how communities are adapting to the changing climate. “Resources are scarce in a camp like Zaatari, where 80,000 people are squeezed into six square kilometres. Nothing is left to waste. Now that most people live in caravans, decommissioned tents are used to provide additional shelter for belongings. The poles are used to make toys, or stockpiled alongside countless bicycle frames and other potentially useful scraps of metal.
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“Salvaging resources in this way is built into the refugees’ DNA, as they figure out how to make do with what little they have. I met one farmer who had collected pots of the salty local soil and washed it repeatedly, gradually clearing away salt crystals so he could use the soil to grow herbs. His yard was a vivid splash of green in an otherwise barren, dusty landscape. “It shows what can be achieved with limited resources and the right knowledge. As I spoke to a local refrigeration expert, I thought about the mechanical engineers back in Sheffield who could show him how to use the Jordanian sunshine to run a solar-powered air conditioning system. When I walked into a warehouse full of mattresses, no one seemed to know quite what to do with them – but my mind raced to the Grantham Scholar we’d just
recruited to help us work out how polymer foams can be used as artificial soil to grow crops. What if the knowledge of Grantham Centre researchers and the resourcefulness of Syrian refugees could be combined to give every family in Zaatari camp a vegetable plot made out of recycled mattress foam? “Make no mistake, the people who end up in these camps face daily struggles that many of us cannot imagine. But those I met embodied values that are often forgotten by those of us in more privileged parts of the world: an adaptable approach to solving problems, an aversion to waste, a sense of community. As hard as we must fight to live in a world where no one is forced to flee their home, there is much we can learn from Syria’s refugees.”
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