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Cambridge Zero Climate Change Festival reaches widest possible audience





The third Cambridge Zero Climate Change Festival took place over three days at the weekend, delivering an astonishingly varied programme.

Cambridge Zero Climate Change Festival panel in the Guildhall includes Cambridge Zero engagement manager Antoinette Nestor, second left. Picture: Keith Heppell
Cambridge Zero Climate Change Festival panel in the Guildhall includes Cambridge Zero engagement manager Antoinette Nestor, second left. Picture: Keith Heppell

Sponsored by the Cambridge Independent, the hectic schedule saw 54 individual events taking across the city and online from Friday to Sunday. Visitors could cherry-pick the topics they wanted to find out about. Broadly speaking, these included:

Science: Topics included ‘Passive cooling in a Heating Up World’; a panel discussion on ‘Ocean-based Carbon Dioxide Removal (CDR) and its Implications for the Sustainable Development Goals’; and a talk on ‘Mobilising mycologists worldwide to conserve underground fungal networks’

Nature: ‘The Wildlife around the fields of Nine Wells’; ‘Exploring the basic science of weather and climate’; and a Botanic Gardens tour with Wolfson's head gardener

Food: Themes included ‘How to make plant based diets accessible to all’; ‘From the Ground Up’; and ‘How do we feed the world?’

Politics: Events included ‘Where Are the Women?’; ‘Can we sue our way out of the climate crisis?’ and the closing panel, ‘Inequality and Exclusion in the face of Climate Change’

Local: ‘Plants and Climate Change Trail at the Botanic Gardens’; a Shade in Cambridge podcast titled ‘Why Climate Justice is Racial Justice’; and ‘Cambridge City Council’s approach to tackling climate change and achieving net zero’.

Other events include ‘The case for fossil-free research’; ‘In It Together’, a new board game; and ‘Just So? Traditional stories and traditional climate knowledge’.

On Sunday the programme titled ‘Climate action in the Cambridge Community’ took place at Guildhall. On the bill were speakers from Cambridge Carbon Footprint, Transition Cambridge, Camcycle and Cambridge Sustainable Food.

At the Cambridge Zero Climate Change Festival in the Guildhall, people play ‘In it together’, a climate change game. Picture: Keith Heppell
At the Cambridge Zero Climate Change Festival in the Guildhall, people play ‘In it together’, a climate change game. Picture: Keith Heppell

Proceedings were rather adult-oriented until a child asked the panel: “Can children get involved?”

Ann Mitchell of Cambridge Sustainable Food gave a passionate response.

“Yes,” she said, “and children are wonderful ambassadors, you are very important, so talk to your friends and your family and make sure they know what is best for you to eat and the other thing is - learn how to cook because that is the best answer you will have.”

She added that “the problems we have cannot be solved by more of the same thinking that got us to this point”.

Charlotte Synge of Cambridge Sustainable Food, who followed, wants everyone to get outside more.

“Creation is far more important than consumption,” she said, and explained how Transition Cambridge’s Empty Common Community Garden, off Brooklands Avenue, works. Permaculture and facilitating an animal friendly habitat is a big part of the success they’ve made of the land they have. Even the roof of the buildings is plant-based.

‘In it together’ - a climate change game. Picture: Keith Heppell
‘In it together’ - a climate change game. Picture: Keith Heppell

“We’re responding to climate change in a creative way,” says Charlotte, adding: “This not a hippy thing, it’s a survival thing – to create the conditions for life.”

Someone who does get outside more is Simon Lacey of the Fen End Community Farmers Group, which took on a small plot “in a field on the edge of the Fens” in 2018 in a bid to “grow food healthily”.

Food grown organically survived the summer conditions relatively well thanks to its ability to retain water more effectively.

“We produced a huge harvest where others struggled,” Simon noted – but the story is not just about yield, “it’s also about people”.

“We work together and talk together, we share grief, and come to terms with life as it is. The challenges we face also bring opportunities. There are gains a well as losses You might feel overwhelmed by problems but a key part of the response to food security and change is community and communication – communication between people and also between people and nature.”

Outside the chamber were stalls, including Transition Cambridge and Cambridge Doughnut Economics. An animated team at the Doughnut Economics stand presented the theory, which shows how what we consume must be within certain parameters, and if we bust out of the parameters we’re in trouble. Needless to say, most of the key parameters – CO2 emissions, clean ocean targets, reforestation goals – are all hopelessly in the red.

The Cambridge Doughnut Economics action group are front, Paul Paxton; middle Pamela McLeman; right Ruth Lambert; and top, Jeremy Johnson. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Cambridge Doughnut Economics action group are front, Paul Paxton; middle Pamela McLeman; right Ruth Lambert; and top, Jeremy Johnson. Picture: Keith Heppell

Elsewhere, author Cindy Forde spoke about her new book, ‘Bright New World’, which was produced in association with Cambridge Zero. Other events on Sunday afternoon included a tour of Botanic Gardens.

Dr Antoinette Nestor, engagement manager, Cambridge Zero, said: “We were delighted to see how the whole festival came together over the three days. The international opening session with speakers from indigenous communities in Northern Chile and Northern Australia was enriching and very powerful. Overall, we reached out to communities we had not had a chance to reach out to before. The session on climate change and religion, for example, reached full capacity and the fact that it was at the Cambridge Central Mosque was a great achievement.

“The two sessions organised by Cambridge City Council also ensured we reached out to local communities in Cambridge and were able to learn how each group is developing their own strategies to make our communities better and more resilient to the changes brought about by climate change.”



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