Yesterday did not look like the best day to be stuck inside – the weather was gorgeous in London and if you’ve lived in the UK for a few years you know you must make the best of it! – but Parliamentary Links Day seemed worthy. The setting was great (Portcullis House, right opposite Big Ben), the list of speakers impressive and the topic – Science and global security – very timely. So was I disappointed? I don’t think so…

portcullis-house

The room was filled (to bursting) with Lords, MPs, Doctors and Professors – and one or two mere mortals too – who were there to celebrate the largest scientific event of its kind on the parliamentary calendar. Brief introductions from Dr Brian Iddon, Member of the Commons Select Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills, and Professor Dave Garner, President of the Royal Society of Chemistry, got the ball rolling followed by the keynote address from Hilary Benn MP. He touched on many topics, from climate change to water shortage or the need to reconcile environmental impact with economic development, but it is perhaps his opening remark that best summarises the challenge that as a society we face: a global crisis of sustainability.

Lord Rees, President of the Royal Society, went next tipping solar energy as his “best bet” for a successful source of renewable energy and was quickly followed by representatives of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Physics, the Institute of Biology, the Royal Society of Chemistry and the Geological Society of London who delighted us with a wonderful variety of attention-grabbing scientific presentations.

Last but not least came the politicians: Adam Afriyie, Shadow Minister for Innovation, Universities and Skills – and who has written a comment piece for the July issue of Chemistry World so keep an eye on it! – Phil Willis, Chair of the Commons Committee on Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills, and Professor John Beddington, Government Chief Scientific Adviser and Head of the Government Office for Science. All three delivered very eloquent speeches defending science’s rightful place, which is at the heart of the political agenda.

My favourite talk however, was Professor Beddington’s, who put global population growth and urbanisation at the centre of what he called “the perfect storm”, where we ask ourselves:

-can we feed people?

-can we cope with the demand of water?

-can we provide enough energy to maintain population growth and economic development?

-can we tackle these issues while we try to adapt and deal with climate change?

Many different questions that, at the moment, have one simple answer: “only time will tell.”

Bibiana Campos-Seijo

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