The impact of what you eat on both your body and on the world in which we live are explored in a series of events which address everything from the sausage on your plate and the swagger of an athlete to a sustainable and equitable food supply for a world population that is likely to peak at 9-10 billion people later this century. The total amount of meat consumed across the world and consumption per head are rising as the global population and individual incomes increase. We’re all familiar with the concept of a carbon footprint but what about the ‘embedded’ or virtual water on your plate? Different amounts of water are used in food production, whether growing a plant to eat or growing a plant for an animal to eat. You can see this effect at the Meat my Planet activity at Big Ideas on Broad Street (12 October), exploring water used when making sausages and how this affects your pocket and the planet.
Just as you can lower your carbon footprint and save on your fuel bills (Science at the Shops; 20 October), you can reduce your impact on the planet and help your health by switching to Veg Power, powering up your cooking with tasty wallet-friendly protein-rich vegetable-based dishes at free workshops with Oxford University researchers and Good Food Oxford at the Oxford Academy (A Little More Veg? 21 October). And even the most committed carnivores will enjoy a three-course gourmet meal without meat, served in Hertford College, Oxford, home of the Bridge of Sighs and where pioneering environmentalist and founder of the World Wildlife Fund, Edward Max Nicholson studied (Festival Dinner, 18 October).
It pays to eat the right things if you’re aiming for peak performance, and nutrition scientist Susan Jebb, Professor of Diet and Population Health, is leading a discussion with personal trainers from the Westgate’s Buzz Gym (Protein and Performance; 16 October) on whether we have to eat meat to maintain strength and fitness. The relationships between health, protein and sporting performance are the perfect food for thought for gym bunnies, body-builders and people of all shapes and sizes. Meanwhile, over at The Wig and Pen (The Pursuit of Speed; 16 October) find out more about performance enhancement and the effects of anabolic steroids in a conversation between an athlete and an endocrinology professor.
Head to Littlemore Life Lab (Sunday 21 October) to decipher the science behind the hype surrounding fat and sugar. Consider how fats and foods can cause arteries to block and increase risk of heart disease, and also how accumulations of fat block the sewers, costing the UK millions of pounds to remove: two years ago a giant ‘fatberg’ and its removal caused disruption to traffic and businesses in Oxford. Find out about the fatty beasts beneath the street and how we can fight them on the first day of IF Oxford’s Explorazone (Oxford Town Hall; 13-14 October).
Elsewhere during the festival, step back in time with archaeobotanists, prove to yourself how certain crystal structures make chocolate taste so good, or hear from Tom Crawford. Tom is a mathematician who’s taken a leaf from Jamie Oliver’s book and is known as the Naked Mathematician. He’ll explore some of the foods you should eat to trick your brain into thinking you are full and how we can use science to make wine taste better (Everyday Science; 15 October).
Other food and environment-related events and activities during If Oxford include:
▪ Big Ideas on Broad Street
Friday 12 October: 12-6pm (free & unticketed)
A selection of hands-on activities for all ages including From chocolate to drug discovery: amazing crystals and Meat my Planet – what goes into making a sausage?
▪ 200 Years of Frankenstein – Weston Library
Friday 12 October: 1-10pm (free, pre-booking required)
Hands-on activities, talks and a Living Library of friendly experts including archaeobotanist Dr Jade Whiitlem at which you can discover how farming and humans have shaped one another.
▪ Story Time: water, water everywhere
Saturday 13 October: 3-4pm Oxfordshire County Library (free, unticketed)
Storyteller Sarah Law entertains children (aged 5-9) and their adults with science-related stories about the water cycle, watery habitats and saving water.
▪ Development: a Very Short Introduction
Thursday 18 October: 12.15pm Waterstones Bookshop (prebook; pay what you decide)
A look at how nations escape poverty and achieve economic and social progress with Ian Goldin, former vice-president of the World Bank.
▪ The Science of Sin
Thursday 18 October 7-8pm Waterstones Bookshop (prebook; pay what you decide)
Dr Jack Lewis combines the latest neuroscience research and the seven deadly sins – including greed and gluttony – to look at the science behind why we are constantly tempted to do the things we know aren’t good for us, suggesting strategies to help us better manage our impulses to improve our health, our happiness and our productivity.