Climate change and conservation to the fore as Edinburgh Science Festival reveals 2022 line-up
The return of the Edinburgh Science Festival in its Easter holiday slot for the first time in three years will see events, exhibitions, talks and workshops staged at 13 sites across the city.
A series of special events will be staged to mark half a century since the British scientist, engineer and inventor James Lovelock published the ‘Gaia theory’, which sees the Earth as a self-regulating system of organisms interacting with each other and their surroundings.
The revolutionary oceanography work of the Scottish scientist and naturalist Charles Wyville Thomson – one of the first marine biologists to describe life in the ocean depths – will be celebrated at a exhibition on marine science at Our Dynamic Earth, alongside a special event exploring how the pioneering Scottish mathematician scientist James Clerk Maxwell has influenced 21st-century technology.
The festival will feature an outdoor exhibition on Portobello promenade on Scotland’s “wild spaces” and the flora, fauna and people who can be found there, and an interactive show on The Mound precinct on the impact of the “climate of consumption” on the planet.
Workshops for young people on the world’s endangered species and underwater landscapes will be staged at the City Centre, which will see all five floors taken over by the festival.
The festival’s prestigious Edinburgh Medal honour will be awarded to the Ugandan wildlife conservationist and veterinarian Dr Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka.
Other special guests include Professor Sheila Rowan, Scotland’s former chief scientific adviser, who will appear with the physicist, author and broadcaster Professor Jim Al-Khalili.
Climate historian and author Alice Bell, who describes herself as “part-time historian of the apocalypse, part time campaigner for a better future”, and American science author Mary Roach, who will be exploring the “conflict” between humans and animals, will also feature.
Scotland's first female astronomer royal Catherine Heyman will be part of a programme, with women making up more than 50 per cent of the guest speakers.
Two years after the science festival fell victim to the Covid pandemic, its programme will offer the chance for children to become “disease detectives” and immunologists for a day by making their own vaccine with the help of 3D printing.
The festival will also feature events on how engineers, economists and planners can prepare for extreme weather incidents, and an exploration of what the cities of the 22nd century may look, function and feel like.
The National Museum of Scotland will be hosting an exhibition exploring the powers and pitfalls of “big data,” which will be open after hours for an adults only event featuring DJs, pop-up bars and specially-created activities. The festival will be launched with an adults takeover of the City Art Centre, its flagship children’s venue.
Speaking at the festival’s launch at the museum, science festival director Simon Gage said: “The festival exists to put science and technology into the public domain and the forefront of the views of people. Nothing has done that quite as spectacularly as the pandemic.
“What it has revealed for me and many others is the incredible strength of science and technology in Britain.
“Science has saved us over the last two years. When we went into the pandemic people said a vaccine would take 10 years – it only took 10 months, but that didn’t happen by accident, it happened because of the scientific base that has been built up.
“As we go into this festival, I think we need to remind ourselves about the valuable role that museums, visitor centres and festivals play in inspiring this generation and future generations.”
Creative director Amanda Tyndall said the festival, which will be staged from 9-24 April, wanted to lead a “green revolution” with its forthcoming programme.
She added: “We will be focusing on revolutionary approaches on everything from personal to planetary health, with an unashamed emphasis on the urgency of tackling the climate crisis.
“The 2022 festival will explore life forms, life cycles, revolutionary science and technology ideas and solutions to global challenges.“We will accompany it with a heartfelt call for a truly radical shift in attitudes and behaviours of individuals, organisations and nations to combat the climate crisis and protect the delicate interconnected life cycles and biodiversity of the planet.”
"We encourage everyone to join us this April for a thoughtful yet joyful celebration of the role that science and festivals play in our lives – sharing the joy of discovery, celebrating the human spirit and shedding fresh light on the key issues shaping our future.”
Scottish culture minister Neil Gray said: “We’re proud to support the Edinburgh Science Festival’s return to live events with this imaginative and educational programme that celebrates science in all its different forms. This year’s focus on revolutionary ideas, particularly in relation to finding solutions to climate change, couldn’t be more timely.
“The festival is a highlight of the Easter holidays and there is something here for everyone, especially children and families. As we embark on our culture recovery from the pandemic, I would urge people to support our world-class festivals by attending this fantastic programme of events.”
Donald Wilson, culture convener at the city council, said: “This Easter, the Edinburgh Science Festival will once again transform the city into a celebration of science and technology.
“The unique mix of art, design, photography and interactive exhibits included in the festival programme make science and the revolutionary concepts being explored both accessible and entertaining.
“The packed programme offers fascinating talks with professors, pioneers, and experiments to entertain and educate all ages.
"As a council, we continue our support of the science festival and I’m delighted that our own City Art Centre will again be transformed into a packed playground of discovery for even the youngest scientists and pioneers.”