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'Big Dilemmas' students take instructions from Nick Baker on a Severn Estuary fieldtrip.

Student think tank tackles Big Dilemmas for sustainability

A group of Exeter students presented their findings of an interdisciplinary study of ‘The future of renewable energy in the UK’ to an audience of over 100 academics, students and community stakeholders.

The symposium was the second public event that was organised by the Annual Fund sponsored ‘Big Dilemmas Project’.

The project brings students, academics and stakeholders together in a think-tank to tackle complex sustainability issues.

Keynote speaker Martin Wright, Associate Director of the influential Forum for the Future and Editor in Chief of Green Futures, preceded the presentations with a response to the current political landscape with regards to renewable energy and energy security. He also reflected on the mindset that is required to work towards a sustainable future.

Martin, an Exeter Alumnus, said: “When I was a student at this University 30 years ago, I was an angry environmentalist, painting 'doom and gloom' scenarios and pointing my finger accusingly at people who wouldn't take action. But if the last three decades have shown us anything, it's that sending people on guilt trips just doesn't work.

“If we want to move towards a sustainable society, we need to win hearts and minds. We need to change the narrative and promote optimism, entrepreneurship and innovation. The students who are participating in this project are doing just that.”

Drawing lessons from the recently ‘shelved’ Severn Barrage tidal energy project, the presentation included the themes of ‘Energy Policy & the Business Case’, ‘Ecosystem Services’ and ‘Public Engagement’.

The Big Dilemmas project also marks the first official curricular collaboration between students from University College Falmouth and the University of Exeter. A group of graphic design students have produced high quality information graphics to make the data behind the research accessible to a broad audience.

The project will continue next year focussing on a different sustainability dilemma. For more information contact: h.sjerps-jones@exeter.ac.uk

Date: 24 March 2011

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