The brilliant impact of the Birmingham 2050 Scenarios Project to date
Nearly two years ago, I wrote a blogpost about why The New Optimists Forum took food as its topic for the Birmingham 2050 Scenarios Project.
I’m pretty used to good things happening as a result of putting scientists and other well-informed people in a room together, especially if you give ’em tasty food and an important topic to bend their minds upon.
Ideas tumble out, analysis of what’s been said reveal yet more interesting stuff and then . . . new shiny things emerge.
Take the Birmingham Food Council, a fledgling organisation as I write this but soon to fly as an independent legal entity with the backing not just of the New Optimists but even more importantly, the City Council, Public Health, Birmingham Med School, the Sustainability Forum and many others.
Take, too, spin-off growingbirmingham.org and the unleashing of community food growing on the socio-political agenda of the city . . . with all its human warmth and conviviality, soil under-the-fingernails and the interest of infants as well as many hundreds of adults involved here in the Big Dig.
Professor Chris Elliott, for example (see right). He’s Director of the Institute for Global Food Safety at Queens University, Belfast and is leading the DEFRA’s Elliott Review into food supply networks, set up as a result of the horsemeat scandal — and wants the New Optimists and the Birmingham Food Council to contribute to their deliberations.
Add in, too, Professor Tim Benton’s invitation to the Global Food Security meeting in London last year, and the interest of the likes of Dr Rafael Ramirez at Oxford Said Business School and the Oxford Martin School.
Sure, we were fortunate that the Library of Birmingham opened this autumn — and that they want to put science and scientists at the heart of intellectual debate in the city. So we’re planning with them how we can make that happen. Watch this space for something like Five Minutes With regional scientists and live streaming of scientists in conversation . . . and that’s just for starters.
We’re also close to submitting an Arts Council bid with Clare Edwards and Dan Whitehouse of the MAC to create multi-media ‘stories from the future’ developed by young creative people in the city, recruited through Ideas Tap.
This is all part of how we communicate the scenarios work to the next generation. We think the arts a pretty good way of engaging lots of people. After all, “narrativium“, the stuff of Discworld, the element upon which humans run. (New Optimist Jack Cohen and mathematician Ian Stewart writing with Terry Pratchett suggest in The Science of Discworld II: The Globe that we’re not homo sapiens aka “wise men” but pan narrans, the storytelling ape. It’s easy to agree with them, eh.)
And we’re busy planning topics for the New Optimists Forum over the next year, based on what we’ve learned so far with ‘food’ as our subject matter. All that is the subject of the next blogpost . . .