Manchester’s Industrial Past (and Sustainable Future)


Manchester’s tallest building, the Beetham Tower

Manchester is a continuing transformation. It may no longer be the workshop of the world but it certainly influenced modern-day capitalism and politics.

 

I have always been fascinated by the industrial revolution that began in Manchester. Commerce and trade bustled more in Manchester than in any part of the world. Manchester was the epicenter that rocked the world back then. The Guardian once wrote. “What Manchester does today, the world does tomorrow.”

I set foot in this city in the autumn of 2010. That Britannic bohemian mood was palpable in the air and I can almost feel the metallic vibe of  its industrial revolution. And yet, the urban blight and pollution that characterized that era are barely visible today. Forward-looking architecture punctuates the skyline with environmentally designed buildings that are made even more stunning with their avante garde vs old world structure. What I saw is a city moving forward in a sustainable manner.  

 

Leaving an Indelible Mark

Booth Street West became my second home in Manchester. It houses the business school of the University of Manchester where I attended classes. The historical role of business and its relationship with society produces quite different articulations of the sustainable development agenda. We were taught that a credible business reputation does influence the interpretation of sustainability and therefore, the appropriation (or non-appropriation) of resources to make it happen (or not).

Two University of Manchester scientists, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, have won the Nobel Prize for Physics in recognition of their “groundbreaking experiments” with graphene, a two dimensional material.

A month after I joined the university, professors Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics for their work on the graphene, which at just one atom thick is the strongest material known to man.

The university now has 25 Nobel laureates under its belt. For the first time in living memory, this red brick university has more Nobel Prize winners on its staff than either Oxford (which has none) or Cambridge (which has two). Nobel winners who teach at the university are former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz and Sir John Sulston who cracked the DNA sequence of the nematode.

Autumnal leaves signalling the coming of winter

 

Seasons and Lessons

Like the changing of the seasons, Manchester is a continuing transformation. It may no longer be the workshop of the world but it certainly influenced modern-day capitalism and politics. Manchester is demonstrating that a toxic past can be washed away and replaced with a cleaner future.

Oxford Road cuts through the main sections of the University of Manchester
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