Fall Festival 2020 Workshop Reports

There are three workshops described on this page: Science & Uncertainty, BioMimicry: Nature, the Ultimate Designer, and The Anthropene Era. Scroll down to see them all.

Click here for reports of the workshops on topics related to Social Justice:

  • Climate Justice and Injustice
  • Raising Awareness – Domestic Violence
  • Dismantling White Supremacy
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Where YOU Are

Science & Uncertainty

led by John Hertz and Karen Kyker

First of all we were asked to focus on the meaning of science and then on what the word “uncertainty” brought to mind. Many of us thought of science as a set of “essential facts,” and the most popular word “uncertainty” conjured up for us was “life”.

We were then given a scientist’s definition of science which is a methodology or a tool we use to test hypotheses about the universe. The “essential facts” become true only with a probability rating. Quantum mechanics, for example has one of 99.999999%, but it is not 100%.

Keeping this in mind, we began to discuss the present situation of the COVID 19 pandemic. As is to be expected in a group of many non-scientists, we quickly veered away from science. “Science does not have all the answers,” one participant noted.  Certainly we are all able to observe science does not have the power to control all the elements at play in the world today that “interfere” with its experimentation, like politics for example. Participants with other professions brought up other issues that play key roles in the world drama today: a psychologist mentioned that there is a rebellious faction in any given population that in this case refuses to wear masks, a pharmacologist expressed concern over the speed at which vaccines are being created , an economist pointed out that the desire to make money also obstructed the goal of developing an effective vaccine. I felt we could have gone on discussing for hours. Indeed, the workshop was so engaging that many of us continued talking during the theme period on Sunday.

Thank you Karen and John for offering us this opportunity to observe once again how much fun learning in a group can be and how diverse our perspectives are.

Laura Stahnke, EUU member at large

BioMimicry:  Nature, the Ultimate Designer

presented by Mathias Baumann

Remember thinking how very nifty Velcro was, compared to the nuisance of shoe laces?  Velcro exists thanks to an observant Swiss hiker who was intrigued by the tiny hooking burs of the burdock plant.  Being an engineer, he was able to design and then patent the material in 1955, possibly a first in this field of imitating the remarkable properties of plants and animals to inspire innovations in design, a field called “BioMimicry.”

In his very informative and equally entertaining presentation, Mathias Baumann showed us some impressive examples of how plants and animals have proven to be productive sources of inspiration for humans to innovate, instead of drawing upon his limited imagination.  Rather than designing cars simply based on previous models, for example, why not look to certain insects’ aerodynamics for inspiration?  We learned that properties of the abalone have been used to create crack-resistant glass and those of the octopus, to create nimble, soft robots for underwater tasks—just two of the many intriguing examples that were shown.  Challenged to produce creative ideas, engineers, architects and designers need not look farther than living organisms.

Pamela Spurdon, UUFP (Paris)

The Anthropocene Era

by Darrell Moellendorf

With the Industrial Revolution humans set in motion a set of widespread changes to multiple systems such as the atmosphere, soil and biodiversity. The term Anthropocene Era has been proposed as a new geologic epoch to reflect this impact of human activities.

But if we set changes in motion, perhaps we can reverse them.

Darrell led the workshop through discussion of the different priorities that could be used to set targets. Do we want to focus on global justice or global prosperity, for instance? Or do we want to set aside a large part of the Earth for nature? And once we’ve chosen a goal, how will we go about achieving it?

MJ Knoester, NUUF (Netherlands)