Category Archives: Biodiversity

Webinar: Indigenous and Religious Views on Animals and Nature

Webinar Wednesday April 14 6.30-8.30 pm CET

Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. In this webinar, we will discuss past patterns and future pathways with representatives of various indigenous cultures and religious beliefs. Learning from them about our relationship with animals may be a way we can begin to address the sustainability challenges we see today.

This webinar is free of charge, but you need to register by sending an email before 10th April to marjolijn.staarink@vu.nl. The link for the webinar will then be sent to you in due time.

Program

18.30-19.15 Introduction and movie ‘Animals Are Running Away From Us’ by Pim Martens

19.15-19.30 Ruth Valerio – Canon Theologian Rochester Cathedral

19.30-19.45 Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq – Kalaallit Shaman from Greenland

19.45-20.00 Jayasinhji Jhala  – Hindu Prince

20.00-20.30 Discussion and Q&A

Animals Are Running Away From Us – Indigenous & Religious Views on Animals

New Documentary!

Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. In this documentary, I discuss past patterns and future pathways with representatives of various indigenous cultures and religious beliefs. Learning from them about our relationship with animals may be a way we can begin to address the sustainability challenges we see today.

The Green Deal: what are its implications for animals and nature?

Workshop summary: The Green Deal: what are its implications for animals and nature?

In January 2021 a workshop The Green Deal: what are its implications for animals and nature? was organized by  an Erasmus+ Jean Monnet project RELAY. The workshop examined the policies behind the Green Deal in relation to the role of Nature and Animals in our Society and discuss the Green Deal’s shortcomings with regard to the “voiceless” members of the European society and of the regions beyond the EU that might be affected by Green Deal-related policies. By doing so, the central question of the webinar was: “What are the current issues with regard to the ‘true’ sustainability goals the Green Deal should pursue and what actions are required to give animals and nature a more prominent role in the Green Deal debates?”

Workshop “The Green Deal: What are its implications for animals and nature?”

This is the first thematic workshop within RELAY project.

Introduction workshop by Pim Martens & Ceren Pekdimir

‘The atmosphere is warming and the climate is changing with each passing year. One million of the eight million species on the planet are at risk of being lost. Forests and oceans are being polluted and destroyed. The European Green Deal is a response to these challenges. It is a new growth strategy that aims to transform the EU into a fair and prosperous society, with a modern, resource-efficient and competitive economy where there are no net emissions of greenhouse gases in 2050 and where economic growth is decoupled from resource use. It also aims to protect, conserve and enhance the EU’s natural capital, and protect the health and well-being of citizens from environment-related risks and impacts. At the same time, this transition must be just and inclusive. It must put people first, and pay attention to the regions, industries and workers who will face the greatest challenges.’ (The Green Deal).

This workshop will discuss how ‘The Green Deal’ is tackling this issue and give a ‘voice’ to the voiceless. It will examine the policies behind the Green Deal in relation to the role of Nature and Animals in our Society and discuss the Green Deal’s shortcomings with regard to the ‘voiceless’ members of the European society and of the regions beyond the EU that might be affected by Green Deal-related policies. The central question of the webinar will be: ‘What are the current issues with regard to the ‘true’ sustainability goals the Green Deal should pursue and what actions are required to give animals and nature a more prominent role in the Green Deal debates?’

Venue: This workshop will take place online via Zoom. Please make sure to register for updates and information on how to connect. 

Registration:  Please follow this link to register. The deadline for registration is 18 January.

Together in an Ever-Changing World

An online course: register here!

We understand your desire to make changes for people, animals, and the planet

Like you, we care about our home, planet Earth. About the wellbeing of people and animals and the conservation of species, and we know the challenges of balancing all these goals.

We combine stories, science and practical experiences with compassion and creativity to create an empathetic sustainable, and caring community. 

This seminar is organised by Sabrina Brando from AnimalConcepts & PAWS, Irma Verhoeven from Earth Charter International, Pim Martens from AnimalWise, and Manila De luliis from World of Walas.

The connection between people, animals, and the planet is too important to ignore 

Join us on 23 January 2021 to explore your individual and our collective opportunities to act for people, animals, and the planet!

I am not Greta

Almost every scientist recognizes this. Having devoted much of your live to perform research on a specific issue, but not being able to get the message outside the academic walls. This holds for the more fundamental sciences, but even more so for research on more complex issues, like climate change, poverty, biodiversity loss, financial-economic crisis, and the current corona pandemic.

Isn’t it funny, that a society that pays lots of money to universities and research centres, that does value teaching and research done at these places highly, but then dismisses the results of these institutes if it is not ‘handy’, and perhaps a little too vague?

Of course, many scientists are to be blamed as well. Being so caught up in their own scientific square centimetre, they are unable to communicate the main message of their research to others. Stimulated by the perverse publication system that only accounts for peer-reviewed publications , people outside academia are only left with scientific papers. Not very useful I would say.

Universities have responded to this through the start of new fields of research, such as sustainability science, focusing on research collaborations among scientists from different disciplines and non-academic stakeholders from business, government, and the civil society. The idea behind this is that we all need to work together in order to address sustainability challenges and develop real solutions.

From a scientific point of view, this is fine. But what about the point of view of moving forward to a more sustainable world?  Does this not oblige scientists to take more responsibility, especially at times when many signals in nature and society are red? Or do we (scientists) continue to discuss the rules under which ‘sustainability science’ needs to be operated? Do we continue discussing adjustments to current, not-sustainable systems instead of changing them? Do we continue to discuss the circular economy, but forgetting to discuss the unsustainability of the economic growth paradigm?

Experts should step out of their ivory towers to get involved more actively in the social debate. So it is about time for many more scientists to become scientivists. Scientivists are people that are engaged in scientific research, but also try to promote, impede, or direct societal change (the ‘activist part’). Scientivism can take a wide range of forms, from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, to economic activism, such as boycotts, etc. Scientivists should also take responsibility to transform the often, not-sustainable universities they are part of. It is also good to realize that there are different  species of scientivsts

Albert Einstein – Uitvinder relativiteitstheorie | Historiek

In a first form, the scientivist acts as a public intellectual and his or her scientific work and social involvement are largely separate from each other. Albert Einstein’s commitment to world peace and civil rights provides a good example. None of those things have much to do with physics. However, Einstein felt that he (like any citizen) had a role to play in the moral and social debates of his time. As a well-known scientist, he also easily found his way to the media.

In other cases, scientific research is the direct starting point of activism.Rachel Carson’s fight against DDT provides a good illustration of such science-driven activism. As a biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Carson had access to data that demonstrated the harmful effects of DDT on animals and humans. She then started an active campaign against the use of DDT with her well-known book Silent Spring.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-2.png

Jane Goodall is another scientivist in this category. Goodall is best known for her study of chimpanzees. She found that it is not only human beings who have personality, but that chimpanzees are capable of rational thought and emotions as well. She also saw behaviors such as hugs and kisses in the chimpazees she observed. Later on, she became a global leader in the effort to protect chimpanzees and their habitats.

In a third mixture of science and social involvement, the ideals do not arise from scientific work but precede it. A good example here is conservation biology as propagated by Edward Wilson. This field of science assumes that the protection of species is a good thing, and calls on science to organize that protection in an efficient way. This also shows that science is not always neural or objective. Conservation biology is not neutral, but it can provide objective criteria for efficient protection.

Einstein could appeal to a critical sense, great reading, and moral awareness – but none of these are, of course, exclusive qualities of the scientist. By the end of the day, we are all  – like Greta – concerned people who see that our current path is not sustainable. We also know – like Greta – that there are good alternative futures and we are willing to fight for it – in any way we can.

I am not Greta – but you do not need to be a Greta to make a difference. Greta has shown that everybody can make a difference. And this movies will show it again.

See also (in Dutch): Een taxonomie van de wetenschapsactivist and The meaning of academia in times of environmental crisis.

Maastricht University Weekend Course Human and Animal Relationships and Interactions (HARI)

6-7 March 2021 (Weekend Course) (1 ECTS)

Register here.

Though we live with them, eat them, love them, and wear them, we give very little academic attention to the roles of animals in society. The underlying theme of the course will be re-evaluating our understandings of animals and gauging the individual and collective responsibilities that we, as humans, must negotiate with non-human animals.

This course will also explore and consider the different types of relationships between animals and humans in contemporary society from e.g. a historical, social and linguistic perspectives. Topics include companion animals, animal communication and emotions, animal-assisted therapy.

At the end of this course, students should able to:
• exhibit strong critical thinking skills in their study of the interactions between humans and nonhuman animals and of the roles of nonhuman animals in human society.
• synthesize interdisciplinary information as it relates to anthrozoology.
• identify strengths and weaknesses in arguments regarding human and nonhuman animals.
• construct a written, evidence-based argument on a HARI topic.

Furthermore, the students will:
• Understand different perspectives regarding animals
• Understand the state-of the–art of animal emotions and animal communication

This is an interdisciplinary course, so open for all students with a genuine interest in critical animal studies and how we, as humans, interact with them.

Scientivists urgently needed!

Almost every scientist recognises this picture. Having devoted much of their lives to perform research on a specific issue, but not being able to get the message outside the academic walls (and it’s not only the government that’s ‘out there’). This holds for the more fundamental sciences, but even more so for research on more complex issues, like climate change, poverty, biodiversity loss, financial-economic crisis, and the current corona pandemic.

Of course, many scientists are to be blamed as well. Being so caught up in their own scientific square centimetre, they are unable to communicate the main message of their research to others. Stimulated by the perverse publication system that only accounts for peer-reviewed publications (and not so much for more understandable messages), leaves people outside academia with only scientific papers. Not very useful in the public arena.

But still. Isn’t it funny, that a society that pays lots of money to universities and research centres, that does value teaching and research done at these places highly, then dismisses results of these institutes if it is not ‘handy’, and perhaps a little too vague?

Academia has responded through the initiation of new fields of research, such as sustainability science, focusing on research collaborations among scientists from different disciplines and non-academic stakeholders from business, government, and the civil society. Not so much for the fundamental sciences, but for the earlier mentioned ‘complex societal issues’ humanity faces today. The idea behind this is that we all need to work together in order to address sustainability challenges and develop real solution patterns.

Well, that’s a step in the right direction. However, being good scientists, this idea of ‘sustainability science’ is becoming formalised rapidly. And  – although classified by concepts such as post-normal, mode-2, triple helix, and other science paradigms – it still are ‘scientific’ classifications. With other words, it is being ‘bounded’ by similar rules that apply to other sciences as well.

From a scientific point of view, this is fine. But what about the point of view of moving forward to a more sustainable world? Does this not oblige scientists to take more responsibility, especially at times when many signals in nature and society are red? Or do we (scientists) continue to discuss the rules under which ‘sustainability science’ needs to be operated? Rules that probably will be ‘dismissed’ by the other stakeholders if it suits their purpose?

It is about time for many (more) scientists to become scientivists. Scientivists are people that are engaged in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge (the ‘science part’), to promote, impede, or direct societal change (the ‘activist part’). Scientivism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, to economic activism, such as boycotts, sit-ins etc. Scientivists are not afraid of interfering with legitimized procedures and official politics when science shows this would be needed.

On the other hand, scientivists must be aware that their actions may increase the risk of scientific results inappropriately being used into social discourses and in the media. This might lead to situations where, for instance, researchers find themselves unwittingly “supporting” an application of the generated knowledge they might strongly disagree with.

It is, therefore, not a ‘job’ (as for most of us ‘being a scientist’ is), but rather an ‘attitude’. An attitude that may be urgently to move forward to a more sustainable society. As in this era of social media, opportunities for scientivists will increase as we speak, there are no reasons not to join…unless you do not have that attitude…

(Published earlier (in 2012) by Pim Martens and Jan Rotmans)

See also (in Dutch): Een taxonomie van de wetenschapsactivist and The meaning of academia in times of environmental crisis.

Our sustainability challenges: climate change, health, and animal well-being

The lecture by Prof. Pim Martens, given Monday June 15th

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life, and our relationship with our natural environment and the animals within has changed dramatically. This has led to various outbreaks of vector-borne and zoonotic diseases – with COVID-19 as the hard lesson learned (or not?). In this lecture, Pim Martens, Professor of Sustainable Development at Maastricht University, will discuss the complexities and connections between our own well-being and that of the animals with whom we live, and global environmental changes like climate change and biodiversity loss.