Climate capsule carries messages of hope to the future

A climate capsule offering hopes and pledges for the future of the planet has been buried at the University of Aberdeen's Cruickshank Botanic Garden today (Friday, 12 November).

The ceremony took place to mark the final day of the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow and was attended by University students and staff including Principal George Boyne.

Local schoolchildren from St Peter’s Primary School in Aberdeen were present for the burial of the stainless steel capsule, which was manufactured at the University’s School of Engineering.

It contains messages to the future from students, staff and schoolchildren who had been asked – ‘how would you like the planet to be in 2040?’

A message was also included from Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Rothesay, University Chancellor, who wrote: “My hope and prayer is that the inspiring efforts made by this generation of young people to fight climate change will lead to a better, more sustainable future for everyone.”

The capsule will be opened on 10 February 2040, which is the University’s 545th birthday.  As well as messages, it also includes artwork from pupils from St Peter’s Primary School and Bucksburn Academy, and vials of soil, air and North Sea water.

A corresponding digital climate capsule, which will be hosted on the University’s servers, will contain messages and pledges about climate change from University students, staff and alumni, and will be opened on the same day in 2040.

The initiative is the brainchild of Ana Payo-Payo, a Research Fellow at the University’s School of Biological Sciences specialising in ecology and conservation biology dealing with the impact of climate change.

Professor David Burslem, from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, is the University’s Interdisciplinary Director for Environment and Biodiversity and helped organise the initiative.

He said: “Young people are the key to driving change that will protect our planet for future generations, and it has been heartening to see so many of them active and engaged in COP26, including many of our own students who have attended the event as observers, facilitated by the University.

“Our climate capsule has provided another opportunity for young people, including local schoolchildren and our next generation of academic researchers, to voice their hopes for the future.

“It’s my sincere wish that these hopes are realised when the capsule is opened in 2040.”

Mark Paterson, Curator of the Cruickshank Botanic Garden, said: “It is vital to maintain native and global flora and promote the careful management of ecosystem services, and a botanic garden can be an exemplar - at a local scale - of such practices.

“It very appropriate the capsule should be located within our beautiful and peaceful 11 acre garden, which promotes an appreciation of the beauty, diversity and importance of plants, and an understanding of their role in the natural world.”

University Principal George Boyne added: “Through our Aberdeen 2040 strategy, the University has an institutional commitment to show leadership in working for the sustainable future of our planet, including a commitment to achieve net zero carbon emissions before 2040.

“The strength of our academic and institutional sustainability activities is reflected in the most recent Times Higher Education Impact Rankings, where we were ranked among the top 60 universities in the world in terms of our positive impact on society, based on our contribution to the achievement of the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”