Hay on Earth is a sustainability-focused series of events at Hay Festival. At the Hay on Earth Forum each year we explore current issues, new developments and technical advances.
At this year’s Forum we bring you four events focusing on the future of food. This full day ticket gives you entry to all four events:
Who picked your Fairtrade banana? Where do all the wonky carrots go? And if we’re being encouraged to eat five-a-day, just how much damage are we doing to the world we live in through food miles? We all know that as a nation our mental health is in crisis. But a crucial part of the solution – what we eat – is being ignored. Gray, author of Avocado Anxiety and Other Stories About Where Your Food Comes From, tracks food from farm to fruit bowl, unpacks the dilemmas we face in trying to eat well and ethically, and helps us discover the impact that growing fruits and vegetables has on the planet. Psychologist Wilson, author of Unprocessed: How the Food we eat is Fuelling our Mental Health Crisis, reveals the role of food and nutrients in brain development and mental health. They talk to Hay Festival’s Sustainability Director Andy Fryers.
Jake Fiennes is on a mission to heal the land we’ve destroyed, and change the face of the British countryside. The conservation manager at Holkham in Norfolk, one of the country’s largest historic country estates, has taken a radical approach to habitat restoration and agricultural work, which has brought back wetlands, hedgerows, birds and butterflies over 25,000 acres of land. He takes us through the farming year and the natural cycle of the seasons, and delivers a manifesto urging us to rethink our relationship with the natural world before it’s too late.
The way we consumed food changed during the lockdown, and has continued to evolve as we face new challenges with our food supply. Is food globalisation still viable in an uncertain age of dramatic geopolitical realignment, climatic and environmental peril and colossal challenges to food production and distribution? We urgently need fresh, innovative and sustainable ideas to address such existential threats.
Louise Gray is author of Avocado Anxiety and Other Stories About Where Your Food Comes From; Ian Rasmussen is a senior lecturer at the University of Chester and a Slow Food Member; and Bryce Evans is Professor of Modern World History at Hope Liverpool University. They discuss the Welsh concept of Milltir Sgwar – square mile – which promotes belonging to and being immersed in a small community. Are we bold enough to revert to a more localised approach to food production: a square meal on a square mile?
British farming is in crisis: we import a greater proportion of our food than we used to, our countryside suffers more than ever from agriculture-related pollution and biodiversity loss, and farming is a major contributor to climate change. Does technology, from high-tech, precision, smart, vertical or underground farms to lab-grown alternatives to ‘natural’ food, have the answer? And if so, could tech bring down the curtain down on 5,000 years of British agriculture? Our panel of experts – Welsh hill farmer and TV presenter Gareth Wyn Jones, author and journalist Mark Lynas, sustainability expert and author of The Solutionists: How Businesses Can Fix the Future Solitaire Townsend, and environment journalist and photographer Martin Wright – discuss whether a rewilded Britain is a feasible vision, or the worst kind of ‘techtopian’ fantasy, and if there’s a happy medium for farmers and consumers.
Roma Agrawal’s best known feat is London’s towering Shard, so it’s fair to say she knows a thing or two about engineering. As a writer and broadcaster, she also knows how to explain complicated concepts clearly. Join her as she discusses the complex feats of engineering she deconstructs in Nuts and Bolts: Seven Small Inventions That Changed the World, and how they all rely on seven fundamental inventions: the nail, spring, wheel, lens, magnet, string and pump. Together, these inventions have enabled humans to construct stunning buildings, communicate across vast distances, and even explore other planets. You’ll leave marvelling at simplicity behind some of the most powerful and spectacular inventions of our time. Agrawal talks to Georgina Godwin, journalist and Books Editor for Monocle 24.
Ever wondered how science becomes fiction? Join Sherlock and Doctor Who writer Steven Moffat and These Days author Lucy Caldwell in conversation with physics professor Rob Appleby as they discuss Collision: Stories From the Science of CERN, a unique collaboration pairing a team of authors with physicists at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. From the possibilities of interstellar travel using quantum tunnelling to first contact with antimatter aliens, the trio talk about exploring these scientific steps through fiction and essays.
Jenny Radcliffe learnt the art of breaking and entering from her family, and is now a professional burglar for hire and con artist. As a social engineer, she uses psychology, stagecraft and charm to gain access to some of the most exclusive properties in the world, exposing their security weaknesses. In People Hacker, Radcliffe reveals how her working class upbringing and femininity in a male-dominated industry helped her become a sought-after social engineer, and shares some of the dangerous situations she’s found herself in, from the back streets of Liverpool to the mansions of gangsters in the Far East. You won’t make a security mistake again after hearing her speak.
The Covid-19 pandemic was a life-changing and terrifying event, with the world engulfed by panic and the search for a vaccine. But in Foreign Bodies: Pandemics, Vaccines and the Health of Nations, historian Simon Schama shows how the world has survived similar pandemics before in this new history. Covering smallpox in London, cholera in Paris and plague in India, Schama takes us on a journey of terror, suffering and hope through the eyes of a cast of characters including doctors, patients, scientists and more, centering on Waldemar Haffkine, a gun-toting Jewish student in Odessa turned microbiologist at the Pasteur Institute. Join Schama for a thrilling and inspirational story of people winning in the toughest of times.
A whistle-stop tour of the current state-of-the-art in AI, from ChatGPT to deepfakes and self-driving cars. Its complex models, immense amounts of data and computer power represent the biggest hurdles in the pursuit of AGI (artificial general intelligence) and explainable, robust systems. As AI technologies become increasingly prominent, their certification is paramount in protecting humanity. A discussion on how these systems work, why they work, what they do and where they are currently flawed with Matthew Hopkins, a machine learning engineer, and David John, a data scientist at Airbus.
Imagine walking back in time through 500 million years. What would you see, smell, hear and feel in the worlds before ours? Palaeontologists Halliday and Brusatte, in conversation with science journalist Vince, take us through the story of life on earth, weaving together history and science. Halliday’s Otherlands: A World in the Making shows us the ecologies that survived and those that didn’t make it, and offers a new appreciation of the world that we are making now. Brusatte’s The Rise and Reign of the Mammals: A New History, from the Shadow of the Dinosaurs to Us looks at our mammal forebears and tells the stories of scientists whose fieldwork and discoveries underlie our knowledge.
Learn about the simple changes you can make to lead a longer and healthier life, as Professor Rose Anne Kenny shares her pioneering research from 35 years of experience at the forefront of ageing medicine in her book Age Proof: The new Science of Living a Longer and Healthier Life. She shows us that 80% of our ageing biology is within our control, and distils scientific theory into practical advice that we can apply to our everyday lives, looking at the impact that food, genetics, friendships, purpose, sex, exercise and laughter have on how our cells age.
Vallance became a familiar face to many during the pandemic lockdowns, offering jargon-free knowledge and reassurance to the public at a time of uncertainty. He talks to doctor and journalist Clarke about why we should collectively and persistently care about science, advocating for citizens to demand that the government always consider science all the time. Vallance was the government’s chief scientific adviser and national technology adviser until April this year. He had a prominent role during the pandemic and has led the enhancement of science, technology and innovation capability within government.
There are few people better placed than Kate Bingham, Ilan Gur and Patrick Vallance to look at the future of the NHS and the role of science. As chair of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, Bingham was responsible for making sure the Covid-19 vaccine was administered as fast as possible to as many people as possible, a task she recounts in The Long Shot. Ilan Gur is CEO of Aria, a research and development funding agency working to further the UK’s world-class research capacities and supporting transformative science to change the way we live. Vallance served as the government’s chief scientific adviser until April this year, and became a familiar and reassuring face to many during the Covid-19 lockdowns. As we discuss and debate the future of the NHS in its 75th year, the trio look at how science must be central to any future systemic design of the NHS, and why it should be a central principle influencing how the NHS develops in the future to meet the needs of contemporary society.
Welcome to the world of seaweed, one of the most versatile plants on our planet both for biodiversity and human use. Critically important in the natural world as a diverse habitat, seaweeds also are tremendously versatile; their uses range from food to clothing and an alternative to plastic, as well as being key to coastal protection and fisheries enhancement. Vincent Doumeizel, senior advisor for United Nations Global Compact, director food programme at Lloyd’s Register Foundation and author of The Seaweed Revolution, leads an interactive showcase with some of the world’s best seaweed specialists.
Dr Jim Down, a consultant in critical care and anaesthesia at University College London Hospitals, brings us to the very heart of the intensive care unit with stories about patients including a poisoned Russian spy and the victims of a terrorist bomb, a major rail crash, Covid and an Ebola-like virus. Delving into ethical conundrums such as what gives life meaning, how much suffering is too much and, in a cash-strapped NHS, who should get to decide, he describes the quietly heroic work of doctors and nurses on the ICU, and explains with unflinching honesty the toll working there eventually took on his own mental health.
The authors of The Science and Art of Dreaming explain the psychology and neuroscience of dreaming. They describe how dream-sharing increases empathy between people, and explore art and surrealism. Mark Blagrove is a professor of psychology at Swansea University specialising in the study of sleep and dreams. Julia Lockheart set up the Metadesign Research Centre at Swansea College of Art and in 2016 began an art science collaboration with Blagrove.
In Nomad Century, science writer and broadcaster Gaia Vince – the first woman to win the Royal Society Science Book of the Year Prize – presents an urgent investigation of the most underreported, seismic consequence of climate change: how it will force us to change where – and how – we live. With every degree of temperature rise, a billion people will be displaced from the zone in which humans have lived for thousands of years. But the reality is that huge swathes of the world are becoming uninhabitable. Vince, in a rousing call to arms, describes how we can plan for and manage this unavoidable climate migration while we restore the planet to a fully habitable state. She talks to Tom Bullough, author of Sarn Helen.
Fifty years of genetic engineering have brought us to the brink of a profound and disturbing future, and Cobb, in conversation with Rutherford, is here to explain how, why and why we should care. Looking at 50 years of discoveries around genetics, and placing them into context, Matthew Cobb weaves the stories of science, history and culture to shed new light on our future and look at the benefits and threats new genetics poses. Cobb is professor of zoology at the University of Manchester and the presenter of the BBC radio series Genetic Dreams, Genetic Nightmares. Adam Rutherford is author of Control: The Dark History and Troubling Present of Eugenics.
Our planet is in peril, and we can no longer dodge the arrival of disastrous, all-pervasive, climate breakdown that will come as a hammer blow to global society and economy. Bill McGuire, professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, offers a post-COP26 perspective on the climate emergency, acknowledging that it is now practically impossible to keep this side of the 1.5°C dangerous climate change guardrail, and presenting a blunt but authentic picture of the sort of world our children will grow old in, and our grandchildren will grow up in.