Thinking Big, a two-day forum that aimed to address some of the pressing matters for the future such as climate change, water scarcity and food security, was held in the Garret FitzGerald Chamber during the 8th and 9th of November.
The project, which was arranged by UCD students, focused on highlighting the potential problems future generations will be forced to address, with a series of workshops and talks organised over the Friday and Saturday to help spread this message. The UCD Office of the vice-president for Innovation subsidised the event.
Co-ordinator Eoin O’Flaherty spoke about how he felt the event was received saying, “[The event] increased awareness and inspired people to think long-term.” O’Flaherty also praised the vice-president for Innovation for both their financial input and advice during the organising of the conference.
19 speakers attended the event, along with a public crowd of 100 on the Friday and 60 on the Saturday. Notable speakers at the event included Dr Tom Arnold, chair of Constitutional Convention and board member of the Mary Robinson Foundation, who spoke about climate justice.
Professor Frank Convery, President of the European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists and Chairman of UCD Earth Institute, also spoke at the event and broached the topic of water scarcity and its availability for future generations.
Co-founder and partner of Alexa Capital and Adjunct Professor of the Imperial College London, Gerard Reid, flew in from the UK for the event. O’Flaherty said that Reid’s event was one of the best showcased over the two days. “[He] spoke about embracing the digital energy revolution which is fascinating, basically how technology is allowing us to be much smarter about energy and much more efficient.”
O’Flaherty, an Economics and History student, was keen that the event would go against the current trend of short term thinking and ignoring the pressing matters that will affect future generations.
“Current thinking in the media and by politicians is short-term. It’s about the sound bite or the next election and whatever happened a week ago is forgotten. This event was about trying to make people realise the real challenges are five, ten, 20, 50 years down the line.”
Speaking about the topics Thinking Big addressed, O’Flaherty felt the event had a “great synergy” and that all topics covered easily complemented each other and that the group was able to achieve their goal whereby “people were coming out of the event inspired to research and think further.”
O’Flaherty expressed a desire to see a similar event held next year, but admitted it would rely on interest from students to go ahead. “We’ll have to see who is up for it next year. I can certainly see it happening and it would be fantastic. The committee were fantastic, particularly over the last few days. We kept coping with little problems.”