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Homepage / What a Mango Scientist Learned from Anthropy 23

What a Mango Scientist Learned from Anthropy 23


Anthropy 23 and the ‘Emerging Leader’ title

As a researcher, a setting like Anthropy was quite foreign to me. The conferences I have attended before were scientific/academic gatherings, where people presented data they had gathered to study a very specific problem. Ideas and perspectives are still shared, but in a different context. And so I was asking myself ‘what does it mean to be an Anthropist, and to be an Emerging Leader?’

Before I applied to attend, I looked at the Anthropy website which explained that it was a gathering of people who want to work toward a better future, a space to share ideas, and learn new ways to achieve tackle different problems. This sounded like a great space to gain insights from other fields, discover new things, but I still didn’t know what it meant to be an Emerging Leader.

The Eden Project Setting

Being a plant scientist, the Eden Project was a dream trip! I also think it was the perfect setting for Anthropy. The space is a former clay pit that has been transformed into a haven for tropical life in Cornwall, showing that what good intentions, ambitious goals, and hard work can achieve. The first thing I did in Anthropy was attend one of their tours, learning about their renewable energy sources, their biocontrol (lizards and birds that control the insect populations), and how the fruit trees impact the natural environment and the food chain.

From Doom and Gloom to A Hopeful Future

Several of the sessions I attended followed the same pattern; going from the ‘doom and gloom’ of our current state, and then all of the ideas we had to ensure a better future. What I really appreciated were the speakers who also included the positive changes that we have already achieved, and what we can build on to accomplish even more. Some speakers reflected on how consumer habits have changed, even in the face of economic adversity, as we have become more educated on how our buying habits can impact the environment.

The setting was also a strong reminder of the huge advancements in sustainable engineering that have been made in the last few decades, giving ever expanding and improving options for renewable energy. It can be difficult to look at all of the challenges we currently face and still feel hopeful that we can meet them, but in the context of what we have already achieved, we become empowered.

Different Perspectives Merging Together

One thing that surprised me was how different the perspectives of the speakers were. The panels were carefully constructed to bring experts in a single topic each with a unique background and motivation, but I was mostly surprised by how differently people approached these problems. There were some speakers who focused on positive change from within an industry, others looked at how legislation and consumer education can make changes from the outside. I was really excited to expand my network, meeting so many people involved in engineering, fashion, economics, and policy that have taught me so much in such a short time about these areas.

As with any gathering designed to create discussion, I encountered speakers with whom I disagreed. One example being that we “just have to reduce food waste by 50%”. As someone who has done a 3-year PhD on food loss and waste, within a lab group focused on this issue (with a collective 50+ years of research on how to achieve this) we wish it was that easy!

Another example was “Nobody should be eating food that has ever touched a chemical”. Now, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but ‘chemicals’ include things like water, soil nutrients, and the vegetable itself! So if you decide not to eat any chemicals, you won’t survive the ordeal…

What these examples gifted me was the opportunity to consider how to apply an academic approach to navigating the need for education and information sharing. Essentially, what it means to be an Emerging Leader.

Anthropy brings everyone with a common goal together, and it’s the younger generation, with their new ideas and perspectives, that can challenge the way things are currently done. These are the young business owners embedding sustainability within their work, new employees advocating for disability rights in front of boards of directors, and early career scientists challenging the misinformation being shared by established leaders.

Ciara O'Brian

Written By: Tammie Argent-Peters

Cranfield University Student

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