The University of Cambridge Decarbonisation Network provides a forum for academics, industry and the public sector to identify accelerated routes to decarbonisation through Special Interest Groups (SIGs). To date, several events have been hosted exploring and identifying the most promising technologies that have the potential to accelerate the UK’s path to net-zero. From these previous events, it is evident that key challenges include regulations, user acceptance, behaviour change and financial incentives. At the same time, the importance of interdisciplinary research is increasingly being recognised and the fact that disciplines need to work together in tackling net zero objectives. For these reasons, the Decarbonisation Network and the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) felt it was key to host an event which provided academics from the social sciences, arts and humanities an opportunity for their voices to be heard and exchange ideas with one another. In May 2023, we hosted a joint workshop: ‘How can the arts, social sciences and humanities help us decarbonise?‘.

The panel discussion and breakout groups demonstrated the breadth of research topics within the University. Participants also discussed what makes an academic-industry collaboration successful, with several groups identifying the importance of a common language. A summary report of the event including live illustrations of the conversations has also been written.

On entry to the event, participants were encouraged to write down their hopes and fears in relation to decarbonisation. Later in the afternoon, these were used to form a co-constructed poem by participants. This exercise was led by Serena Alagappan and helped to demonstrate how English literacy and poetry can be a form of communication and entry point to bring about change:

  • Everything will get better when humans acknowledge they are animals, part of nature as well,
  • I am the rituals I share, the noticing I do, the attention I give, I am never alone
  • Collective effort is our currency
  • To compete overboard, overflowing, the capacity for empathy,
  • It makes my life more calculable in a world of uncertainties,
  • I would like to see more intention to change,
  • The clock is ticking for Earth – will we reach net-zero in time?
  • Learning to live on a Hothouse
  • Global players that don’t play ball
  • Funders with money but fewer ideas than AI
  • What we need: radical imagination, suitable design
Serena Alagappan presenting the co-constructed poem to participants.

Serena Alagappan presenting the co-constructed poem to participants.

Going forwards, the Decarbonisation Network will continue hosting online and in-person events to help raise awareness of work within the University and also establish challenges that are relevant to both academia and industry. We want to increase the representation of different disciplines to help break down disciplinary silos and build communities with representatives from different departments across the University. We would like to use this opportunity to thank those who attended the event and to CRASSH for helping with the organisation. Hopefully, this is the start of several more events to come.


Tel: +44 1223 766886