Solutions within science
Cambridge student and Exeter School alumnus Mike Twomey (2007 - 2014) gave two talks to the Sixth Form on Tuesday 12 December.
Mike is in his third year reading Natural Sciences at Churchill College Cambridge. He ran a question and answer session with twelve Lower Sixth pupils studying Physics and Chemistry about science subjects at university and particularly Cambridge. He then gave a presentation to over 30 Geography and Biology Sixth Formers on The Future of Food.
Mike used his experience from Yale University Summer School in the USA that he attended in 2017 supported by a grant from the Old Exonian Club.
Mike looked first at problems of persistent pollutants in the food chain including weed killer residues and radioactive isotopes, showing how new-born babies were especially vulnerable. He then showed how modern methods of producing palm oil used in many foods are both unsustainable and damaging to rain forest ecosystems, the climate and human health.
He went on to illustrate the way that discarded plastic food packaging can release hazardous chemicals into the food chain as it degrades very slowly and said how nanotechnology may provide some solutions.
Mike concluded by demonstrating the huge environmental impact of increased livestock rearing around the world caused by the rapidly increasing demand for meat. This directly leads to more deforestation, increased methane production (a potent greenhouse gas) and issues concerning the widespread use of antibiotics.
In answer to questions, Mike showed how scientific advances could provide solutions to some of the world’s food problems, but that political, economic and social systems would also need to change.