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Come to Next Gen Earth and think big – by Jude Eades

Thursday 1st June 2017

As one of thousands of Oxford residents who cycles across the city to work every day, it really frustrates me to see the number of commuters who still insist on driving (or queuing) along our beautiful but heavily polluted streets.

Air pollution in Oxford is a huge problem, despite promises of a congestion zone and more electric car points – I can smell it as I pedal up Parks Road and taste it as I try to dodge the buses on George Street. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we lived in an electric city, where vehicles ran only on battery power; where the transport infrastructure supported a total ban on cars in central areas; and where we would all take ownership for improving the city’s pollution levels for the sake of our children’s’ health and the health of the planet.

This all sounds a bit preachy, I know, but the fundamental message is that we, as a city, need to acknowledge that we are the pollution problem and we are the pollution solution. Climate change isn’t going to go away and every time we jump into a fossil-fuelled car to do the school run or to get to work quicker, we contribute to the harmful gases contaminating our lungs, our city and our world.

Following that thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to take the Charles Dickens’ Scrooge approach and look at what might happen if we don’t change our behaviours. What will happen to planet Earth if we keep pumping it full of manmade toxins like those that fill Oxford’s air? What can we learn now from modelling the future? Well, perhaps Science Oxford’s upcoming immersive eco-show Masters of Disaster: Next Gen Earth might be able help with that visualisation.

It will be part of the programme at the Oxford Green Week festival – a city-wide festival (10th – 18th June) which uses culture, creativity and community to inspire local people to take action on climate change. Oxford Green Week is a celebration of all things good and green in our city, and an opportunity to show how we can all save money and be happy whilst being kind to the environment.

At Masters of Disaster: Next Gen Earth, we are going to give you the power to control our planet’s destiny, to find out how our actions now will affect the future. How would you save the next generation of town and gown from environmental catastrophe? Guided by a panel of experts and armed with live voting pads, this audience-led show invites you to make choices about the methods for mitigation and adaption (get on your bikes!) that could save our ecology, oceans and food resources from devastation. As time fast-forwards, find out what marine biologist Steve Rocliffe, ecologist James Bullock and food scientist John Ingram think your decisions will do and explore the potential futures for Next Gen Earth.

I’m hoping that events like Masters of Disaster and festivals such as Oxford Green Week –which think big – might encourage more of us to think small: to think about how our own individual choices and behaviours can profoundly affect the environment around us. In the meantime, being a cyclist in a polluted city, well I’ve just bought my first family set of pollution filtering cycle masks. It’s not a sexy look but feels like a necessary change when so many won’t make any changes at all.

By Jude Eades, Director of Communications

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