Series 14 – 2021

The Debates are on Saturdays from 11.00am and will take place on Zoom. An invited speaker talks for about 30 minutes, followed by another 30 minutes for questions and discussion. The Zoom meeting will remain open for a further 30 minutes for small groups to meet in breakout rooms if they wish. The debates will also be streamed live on Facebook

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Dates for 2021 
January 23rd
February 6th
February 27th
March 13th
March 20th
April 10th
May 15th
June 12th

Saturday 23 January 2021:
Why a ‘wooden’ Northumbrian landscape will spell a brighter future.
Paul Brannen, Chair of the North East of England Nature Partnership

To adequately address the climate crisis and biodiversity loss we must radically change how we build and how we use our land. For example, we will need more trees including commercial forestry, onshore wind, solar farms, taller buildings, agroforestry, restored peatlands etc. This will mean rural landscape change on a scale that will surprise and alarm many. Why this is necessary and what rural Northumberland may look like in 30 years’ time is the subject of this talk.

Paul Brannen is a member of the Executive of the North East of England Climate Coalition and Chair of the North East of England Nature Partnership. He is a former Member of the European Parliament where he sat on both the agriculture and environment committees. Paul has previously worked for Christian Aid, Common Purpose and the Anti-Apartheid Movement.

Saturday 6 February 2021:
Climate Crisis: Young People’s Perspectives on Their Future.
This debate provides a platform to young local climate activists who have participated in the Friday School Strikes, marches, workshops and climate groups. They will articulate their feelings, hopes and fears for the future of the planet and what needs to change.
This debate has been facilitated by Tynedale Transformed. (

Tynedale Transformed is part of the Transformed Network initiated by The World Transformed.  It is about imagining radical change towards a fairer and sustainable future – and making it happen. And it’s about doing it together. We want local, regional, national and international voices, tackling topics that affect us all here in Tynedale.

Saturday 27 February 2021:
What can the pandemic teach us about a good society?
Helen Salisbury, Honorary Senior Clinical Lecturer, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, University of Oxford

Helen will reflect on responses to the Coronavirus around the world and what has contributed to their relative success or failure. She will examine the contradictory ways in which the virus has been both a uniting and a polarising force in our society and look forward to some of the medical and political lessons we could learn from this year’s events.

Helen Salisbury is a GP in Oxford where she also teaches medical students and junior doctors. She is a weekly columnist for the British Medical Journal and also answers readers’ medical queries in Take a Break magazine.  She stood as a parliamentary candidate for the NHS Party in 2017 and remains a member.

Saturday 13 March 2021:
Power to the people – Shaping UK climate policy through deliberative democracy.
Gwen Buck, Policy adviser, Green Alliance

The UK government has committed to a goal of net zero by 2050. How can processes such as citizens’ assemblies and citizens’ juries help us to get there?

Gwen Buck is a Policy adviser at Green Alliance, where she runs their Climate Leadership Programme. She covers both climate and trade policy and has written about the use of deliberative democracy, such as citizens’ assemblies in policy making.  Gwen joins Green Alliance from the Green Party where she coordinated the activities of the leadership team and worked at the highest levels of the party.

Link to Gwen’s presentation here

Link to video referred to in the talk is here

Saturday 20 March 2021:
The Future of Humanity Depends on the Size of our Population.
Simon Beard, Academic Programme Manager and Senior Research Associate in the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk, Cambridge University

For several hundred thousand years Homo Sapiens was a perfectly successful species. We exploited our own evolutionary niche within thriving ecosystems. With the advent of language, agriculture, cities and other technologies, human numbers began to increase rapidly, but at significant cost to our health, wellbeing and biosphere. In the 21st century we are reaching a point where this process has become totally unsustainable. It is time for us to choose: can we find a way to once more live within our ecological limits, or will we have to transcend the very notion of a biological species?

Simon Beard is Academic Programme Manager and Senior Research Associate in the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, and a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker. He has a PhD in philosophy and has twice stood as a parliamentary candidate for the Liberal Democrats.

Saturday 27th March 2021
Democracy – fact or fiction? The upsides of down and opportunities in crisis.
Peter MacFadyen, founder of Sustainable Frome and  a Director of Frome’s Renewable Energy Co-op.

Peter MacFadyen  Gardener, social activist, grandfather and undertaker.
Peter is a founder of Sustainable Frome and  a Director of Frome’s Renewable Energy Co-op. Through these he better understood both the missed opportunities and potential of local government, leading to his role in initiating Independents for Frome (IfF), the group of individuals whose take over of Frome Town Council is the focus of Flatpack Democracy. Peter chaired key committees and served as both mayor and leader of the council.  He did not stand again in May 2019, instead writing Flatpack Democracy 2.0 to complete the legacy of experience sharing.

Saturday 10 April 2021:
No Climate Justice – No Peace.
Molly Scott Cato, Professor of Green Economics, Roehampton University

The coronavirus has challenged our sense of security in fundamental ways but this is only a foretaste of the radical insecurity brought by the climate emergency. Tragically, both these crises have impacted much more strongly on the poor, both in the UK and across the world. What would real global security and global justice look like? A process of awakening to our history of oppression and colonialism can help to bring us answers – and a lasting global peace.

Molly Scott Cato is Professor of Green Economics at Roehampton University. Between 2014 and 2020 Molly represented South West England in the European Parliament where she worked on sustainable finance, regenerative agriculture, and trade policy.

Saturday 15 May 2021:
Housing as  a Human Right.
Tony Cain, ALACHO Policy Manager,

The Scottish approach to quality and affordable housing is quite different from the English one. In the context of his experience in Scotland, Tony Cain will take a human rights approach to provision of affordable housing, in the context of the European declaration on human rights and the UN right to adequate housing.

Tony Cain is the Policy Manager for the Association of Local Authority Chief Housing Officers. His career includes work in both central and local government and the Scottish Housing Regulator. His previous post as Head of Housing and Customer Service with Stirling Council included strategic control of customer service, equalities, internet communications and advice.  He has also worked on secondment to the Scottish Government, developing policy in relation to private sector housing.   Tony is a member of Shelter’s Scotland Committee and of the First Tier Tribunal Housing and Property Chamber.

Saturday 12 June 2021:
Has the United Nations a future?
Paul Rogers, Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University

In an era of pandemics and impending climate breakdown, has the United Nations got a role to play in steering us to a more sane, peaceful and fair world, or is it part of the problem?

Paul Rogers is Emeritus Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University and international security advisor to Open Democracy to which he has contributed a weekly column for twenty years.  He has lectured at Britain’s senior defence colleges for 35 years and is also a long-time member of CND.

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Video recordings and details of previous series of The Hexham Debates can be found at