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Expert speakers raise environmental awareness

Spotlight On Talks

Environmental debates, climate change and vegetarianism are all high on the news agenda and a series of themed talks delivered by expert speakers from the University of Manchester and Stockport Grammar staff have brought added focus to the issues.

The talks have been well attended by both pupils and teachers alike, all eager to hear why these issues are so important.

Tackling Water Challenges

Dr Bart Van Dongen and Miss Katrina Cullen from The University of Manchester visited school to give a talk on waste water management and water scarcity issues around the world. As part of the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, the team have been researching water contamination across the globe, the extensiveness of the issue and ways in which we can treat water for reuse.

Miss Cullen first spoke about water resources and supplies around the world, highlighting the lack of clean, fresh water available to us. 40% of the current world’s population is already affected by a lack of fresh water, and with 90% of wastewater discharged globally without any treatment for pollutants, the audience learnt that the issue is a major concern.

Miss Cullen then went on to discuss a new treatment for wastewater that is currently being tested for commercial use across the UK called Nyex™ that she is researching as part of her degree. Nyex™ is a carbon based substance that attracts pollutants in water that stick to its surfaces. There is still a lot of research that needs to be carried out before the substance can be used for commercial purposes, and there are a lot of similar alternatives around the world also being tested for this use, but unfortunately the cost of this research has been slowing down progression.

Vegetarianism – ethical and environmental debates

“Why should we all be vegetarian?” was the question being discussed in the first environmentally themed “Spotlight On…” talk in the library, presented by Head of Religious Studies and Philosophy Mr Swann.

Spotlight On Talks

The first talk in a two-part series on vegetarianism focused on the ethical reasoning behind vegetarianism and the famous philosopher Peter Singer’s opinions on the matter: Is it OK to eat another living creature? Where do we place the moral lines of sentience and intelligence, and if an animal can suffer and feel pain, do we have any right to cause it pain to feed ourselves?

Religious Studies and Philosophy teacher Mr Breffit continued the vegetarian theme with the second half of the series, this time with an environmental and social/religious theme.

Mr Breffit first discussed the history of our relationship with nature as a human race and culture, describing how paganism had a symbiotic and close relationship to the planet, nature and plants. Our present separation from nature has enforced the ideology that the earth is ours to use for our benefit, no matter the cost. A high in meat and dairy diet can produce around 3.7 – 6.1 kg of C0₂ per day per person whereas a low meat and dairy diet can produce around 1.4 – 4.5 kg of C0₂ per day per person, a significant reduction in carbon footprint.

Spotlight On Talks

Mr Breffit’s conclusion was that, while a strict vegetarian or vegan diet may not be completely necessary, cutting down on meat and dairy consumption could help slow down the effects of global warming.