Environmental Challenges

Available to watch on-demand now

For years scientists have warned us that environmental problems, which are the consequence of human activity, represent a danger both to our health and that of the planet.  From global warming to air and water pollution, waste management and protection of biodiversity, the world faces many human-induced challenges.

In this collection, leading experts share the science and history behind these issues and give insight into what we can do to cope with, or reverse, these existential threats to our home.

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DatesAvailable to watch on-demand now
Talks structure30 minute lecture20 minute Q&A

5 talks in this Garden Series



Science & Nature
Geography & the World
Can we build a climate-resilient world?

Climate change is resulting in ever-more intense weather events of all kinds, from heat waves and forest fires to hurricanes and floods. If extreme weather becomes the new normal, can we survive it? And if so, how? Read more

Jonathon Porritt

Keele University

Jonathon is a British environmentalist and writer, and the Chancellor of Keele University in the UK, with nearly 50 years of work under his belt in the field of sustainable development.

Jonathon's journey into his field all started with a little book: Blueprint for Survival, published in January 1972. In Jonathon's words, "It was (and still is!) a wonderfully succinct summary of the bleeding obvious: that the combination of year-on-year increases in the number of human beings, plus year-on-year increases in economic growth, cannot possibly be reconciled with the limits of a finite planet."

Since then, Jonathon has dedicated his career to understanding and advocating for the environment as the co-founder of Forum for the Future, the UK's leading sustainability charity, and the Chair of the British Government's Sustainable Development Commission until 2009.

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Human Biology & Medicine
Society & Politics
What is the future for our children?

Prof. Anthony Costello discusses his decades in public health. How has social, economic and health development affected the health of our planet? Read more

Prof. Anthony Costello

University College London

Anthony Costello is Professor of International Child Health and Director of the UCL Institute for Global Health. He trained as a pediatrician and has expertise in maternal and child health epidemiology and programmes in developing countries.

His areas of scientific expertise include the evaluation of community interventions on maternal and newborn mortality, community mobilisation through women's groups, the cost-effectiveness of interventions, community and social life saving treatments for maternal and newborn mortality in the poorest populations, and links between sustainable livelihoods and nutrition. He is currently exploring the health effects of climate change in south Asia and Africa.

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Science & Nature
Geography & the World
Where does the oxygen we breathe come from?

The oceans absorb nearly 1/3 of our carbon emissions; they are literally the world's lungs. How does the sea 'breathe', and why does it do it? Read more

Dr. Veronique Oldham

University of Rhode Island

Veronique Oldham is a trace metal chemist, who studies the flow of energy in our oceans. Hailing from Canada, Veronique has always had an interest in the environment and the oceans, and her career began during an internship at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences. There, she met her would be PhD advisor, and moved to Delaware to pursue research on manganese and iron chemistry in environments ranging from the coastal ocean, to deep sea hydrothermal vents.

Following her PhD, Veronique accepted a Post Doctoral Scholarship at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, the largest oceanographic non-profit organization in the world. There, she examines metal cycling in the coastal ocean, deep sea methane seeps, and in Antarctica. For the last two years, Veronique has been an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island's Graduate School of Oceanography. She runs a trace metal lab, and is working on examining metal cycles along oxygen gradients in the Gulf of Mexico; the formation of particles in the Southern Ocean; and the bacterial formation of solids for wastewater remediation.

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Science & Nature
Society & Politics
Food Futures: Could new plants solve a food crisis?

Agriculture has been at the centre of civilisation for thousands of years. However, when we shop for our food, have you wondered about what developments have led to the food getting on our plates. Read more

Dr Jordan Dowell

University of California, Davis

Dr Jordan Dowell works on describing the evolution and ecology of how plants deal with pests, pathogens, and more importantly each other.

A core focus of his work has been describing the genetics underlying plant chemical diversity, and how a subset of this diversity is used to convey information about pests and pathogens to neighbouring plants through volatile compounds, or compounds that can float through the air under normal conditions.

In furthering our understanding of plant interactions, Dr Dowell hopes to tap into this plant communication network to increase sustainable agriculture by getting plants the information they need quickly to protect themselves.

Jordan is originally from Las Vegas, Nevada where he worked in the nightlight industry before heading back to academia after his bachelors. Outside the office, you will likely find him camping and hiking around the USA. His friends would probably describe him as outgoing and passionate.

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Science & Nature
Geography & the World
Why does the world need sharks?

Sharks are often one of the more misunderstood creatures of the sea, for years demonised by movies. This talk explores why sharks are in fact an essential part of the ocean's ecosystem and how our own future is dependent on saving them. Read more

Dr. David Shiffman

Arizona State University

Dr. David Shiffman has loved sharks since childhood. He is an interdisciplinary marine biologist who studies threatened sharks and how to protect them. He is interested in the sustainable management of marine and coastal resources, and how the science related to how these topics are communicated.

He received his Ph.D. in environmental science and policy from the University of Miami. He is an award-winning expert in public science engagement whose writings have appeared in the Washington Post, GIzmodo, Scientific American, and a monthly column in SCUBA Diving Magazine. 

He is also the author of Why Sharks Matter.

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