Science for the Earth


'Science for the Earth' began in Cambridge in 1992 when three idealistic young science students, Tom Wakeford, Tim Lenton and Tom Crompton, got together and conceived the idea of creating a Forum for concerned scientists to use their different disciplines to focus on science's potential to both benefit and harm the Earth and its inhabitants. The success of the first Forum lead to three more equally successful annual Forums in Cambridge, organised by groups of students including Tim Lenton, Tim Foxon and Lucas Rodwell, and a book called "Science for the Earth" edited by Tom Wakeford and Martin Walters (Wiley, 1995).

The first Forum was held in October 1992 and consisted of a stimulating range of talks and workshops, including a provocative talk by Lynn Margulis on the implications of the Gaia hypothesis entitled "A 'pox' called Man".

The second Forum in February 1994 featured talks on a wide variety of subjects from gaia, ozone depletion, earth systems and economics to politics. Crispin Tickell, former British Ambassador to the U.N., outlined the political implications of scientific advances and for the need for scientists to 'raise their heads above the parapet' in alerting politicians and the public of new dangers, and Aubrey Meyer, of the Global Commons Institute, passionately arguing of the dangers of economic cost-benefit analysis.

The third Forum took place in March 1995 and focused on conservation and biodiversity and on communicating ideas to the public. Jeremy Leggett, Scientific Director of Greenpeace, described the controversies surrounding the climate change debate and the slow progress being made in alerting the public and financial institutions, such as the insurance industry, to the potential dangers.

The final Forum, held in February 1996, looked at sustainability and scientific responsibility. Philip Webber, chair of Scientists for Global Responsibility, described new concepts of sustainability now being applied under Local Agenda 21. Aubrey Meyer, director of the Global Commons Institute, gave the moral valuation of human life that had been proposed in the recent negotiations of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

These Forums were organised and put on by students and young people, with grateful help and assistance from Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR). Many of the organisers of the Forums are now active members of SGR.