A week of Oxford thinkers

One of the wonderful things about living in Oxford is that there are so many amazing thinkers that either live here or pass through, and you can hear them talk and join in debates in all sorts of wonderful venues across the city.

This week I listened to GEORGE MONBIOT talk about his new book OUT OF THE WRECKAGE at the Newman Rooms. George was talking about how we might be able to bring people together to tackle issues of inequality and environmental damage that threaten our futures, by pointing out the simple truth that human beings are not simply driven by competition with each other, but that we have very strong instincts to co-operate and be altruistic. If this can be our new identity, then maybe we can stop shoring up our self belief with brands and consumption, and gain self respect and confidence in acts that will help others.

I also went to a talk at The School of Geography and the Environment by Food Systems expert TIM LANG. Tim was beamed in from London on this occasion, although last year I had the opportunity to hear him speak at the Methodist Church on Woodstock Road. Tim was also talking about how we communicate effectively to people, and "nudge" them towards eating healthily for themselves, and (happily as it seems to be the same thing) for the planet.

On Saturday morning I went to the Norrington Room at Blackwells Bookshop and heard ROMAN KRZNARIC (pronounce all the letters and you pretty much have it) talk about his new book CARPE DEUM REGAINED. Carpe Deum means "seize the day". The "regained" bit is about recognising that the term has been hijacked to mean a number of different things, some of which suggest a rather selfish approach to life. Roman's ideas abutted with George's in a potentially useful way. If we can relish our life today with an eye on our responsibilities towards others, we might live more fulfilled lives. 

On Monday I went to the University Museum of Natural History and heard WILL STEFFEN, an American chemist give a wonderful, far reaching and far sighted talk about climate change and other challenges we face. His graphics showed so clearly how since 1950 we have really been throwing the planet out of its normal slow cycles of change.

So I have a number of new heroes, albeit conscious of the white male bias of the selection on offer!