Edinburgh Science Festival 2020: Sparking ideas for sustainable futures

Edinburgh Science Festival 2020: Sparking ideas for sustainable futures

The festival's 32nd edition to tackle the challenges of climate change and celebrate Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters

As temperatures reach record-highs across the world, extreme weather events increasingly become the norm and population growth strains our natural resources, the reality of the climate crisis has never been more clear, or more overwhelming. But with uncertainty comes new possibilities, argues the Edinburgh Science Festival, as they unveil the details of their 2020 programme, which strikes an urgent, yet optimistic view on how we can overcome the global climate challenges that we face. The festival will see 250 events take place at 34 city centre venues across Edinburgh from 4–19 April.

Edinburgh Science Festival 2020: Sparking ideas for sustainable futures

Taking on the theme of 'elementary' for their 32nd edition, the festival's dynamic roster of talks, workshops, performances and children's events will explore the many complex facets of the climate emergency through the ancient classifications of earth, fire, water, air and aether. Topics will include biodiversity and ecology (earth), clean air and pollution (air), energy and climate policy (fire), marine biodiversity and water security (water) and the role that tech and the digital world can play in envisioning and seeking out new opportunities (aether).

The festival's environmentally-minded programme will also be celebrating two landmark events: the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, which is generally regarded as the start of the modern environmental movement; the 30th anniversary of the 'pale blue dot' image of Earth taken from space; and Scotland's Year of Coasts and Waters 2020, which will explore our country's relationship to these life-giving coastlines and seas.

Edinburgh Science Festival 2020: Sparking ideas for sustainable futures

Luke Jerram: Gaia

Highlights include the interactive exhibition Pale Blue Dot over at the National Museum of Scotland, which takes audiences into the mysterious depths of the ocean and considers how we can protect these vital marine ecosystems. Portobello Promenade will also be hosting the large-scale photography exhibition Into the Blue, extolling the beauty of Scotland's coastal landscape and examining the threats they face. Audiences can also head over to Dynamic Earth to marvel at Luke Jerram's massive scale model of planet Earth, titled Gaia, which is still 1.8 million times smaller than our actual home.

Prepare your appetites for the welcome return of Gastrofest, serving up another slate of sociable food science events. Learn about the rise of veganism in Eat Shoots and Leaves, sample a selection of drinks inspired by Scotland's shores in Coasts and Cocktails, celebrate the tattie in 8,000 Year Old Love Affair and raise a dram to the uisge beatha in Whisky and Water – with tipples included, of course. On a more sobering note, Where is Your Next Meal Coming From? will challenge audiences to consider how climate change is threatening global food security, and what we might be eating in the future.

Edinburgh Science Festival 2020: Sparking ideas for sustainable futures


If we are to bring about a better, more equitable and sustainable future for all, creative minds must envision it first, and thus the Edinburgh Science Festival has also programmed a series of events highlighting the importance of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, maths) learning. Summerhall will be hosting a group contemporary art exhibition, titled Syncrasy, and featuring works by Beverley Hood, Victoria Evans and Sneha Solanki which fuse together science, technology and art to encourage different ways of perceiving the world around us. Also at Summerhall, Bright Side Studio's Elemental will whisk audiences on a journey through a digital world of alchemy, magic and science. Meanwhile, artist and activist Dr Roman Viguier will be leading people on The Carbon Walk, wherein participants will bring a 5kg bag – the equivalent of 3.5 hours of the average carbon footprint in the UK – to the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, wherein the bags will come together in an installation representing one tonne of carbon dioxide.

Unfortunately, misinformation and fake news often obscure our ability to make positive change for society and for our planet. The festival's line-up of expert speakers and thinkers seek to champion rational thought and the value of evidence, with events such as geneticist and broadcaster Dr Adam Rutherford's talk on How to Argue with a Racist; dispelling online (and unfortunately, increasingly offline) hysteria around vaccinations in Truth About Vaccines; how a re-think of the working week would be better for both ourselves and the planet in The Four-Day Week; and how rampant consumerism in the fashion, food and electronics industry is imperilling our planet in Consume. Discard. Repeat.

Edinburgh Science Festival 2020: Sparking ideas for sustainable futures

credit: James Horan

There's plenty in store for the wee ones as well, with the return of hands-on science workshops for all ages at Experimentarium at the Pleasance. Edinburgh will also be overrun by our Jurassic forebears with a dinosaur-themed Easter weekend, featuring drop-in dino crafting, a reptilian egg hunt, fossil excavation over at Dynamic Earth and a performance of Jules Howard's new show Prehistoric Beasts and How to Know Them. City Arts Centre will once more become the festival's official family hub, with the welcome return of activities such as Blood Bar and ER Surgery, as well as new workshops Ocean Constructors and Imagination Playground.

A key event of the festival, the Edinburgh Medal will this year be presented to Indian environmentalist and activist Sunita Narain. Her Edinburgh Medal Address in the Council Chambers will be a rallying call for climate justice, equity and how combating climate change is a fight for the very future of humanity everywhere.

Amanda Tyndall, Festival and Creative Director at Edinburgh Science, says of the 2020 edition of the Edinburgh Science Festival: 'We share our planet with almost eight billion people and the collective environmental challenges we face have never been greater or more complex. As the custodians of planet Earth we have responsibility to ourselves and to future generations. The climate crisis is the defining local and global challenge of our age and as will be one of the great disruptors of the 21st century, radically reshaping how we live, work and play. But with disruption and uncertainty comes possibility… and with possibility comes hope. This hope is the elementary message at the heart of our 2020 Science Festival programme.'

Edinburgh Science Festival, various venues, Edinburgh Sat 4–Sun 19 Apr. Find out more at sciencefestival.co.uk

Edinburgh Science Festival

Hands-on science for families in venues across the city with a programme ranging from the entertaining to the controversial and, of course, the icky. The theme for 2020 is Elementary with events focusing on earth, air, fire and water, plus fifth element 'aether'.

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