Category Archives: Climate Change

A South-African Perspective on Climate Change and Health

Climate change presents an unprecedented international and urgent health threat to sustainable development, human health and survival, thus placing human lives at risk. All health professionals have a duty to advocate for action at all levels to mitigate and adapt to climate change and can or should play a critical role in mitigating and reducing risk. However, the global health sector has been slow to recognise the impact of climate change upon health.

Interview findings indicate that South Africa, as a country and people, will be particularly vulnerable to climate change and its consequential health effects, food security and overall impact on livelihoods, particularly affecting the poor. Overall, participants held the view that the predicament in access to healthcare is set to overwhelm present and prospective generations within the South African context.

Responses to climate change, whether by mitigation of its effects or adaptation to them, will require strong and effective intersectoral organisation efforts within government at all levels, along with interdisciplinary research. A proposal to centralise climate change action within the national departments or to form a South African National Department of Climate Change, which reports directly to the president and parliament, has been made. As the aspect of climate change and public health intersects with virtually all other facets of government, such an initiative may go a long way to increase collaboration across borders.

Read the full paper here: Dos Santos, M., John, J., Garland, R., Palakatsela, R., Banos, A., Martens, P., Nemukula, B., Ramathuba, M., Nkohla, F. & Lenyibi, K. (2022). Climate change and health within the South African context: A thematic content analysis study of climate change and health expert interviews. African Journal of Primary Health Care & Family Medicine, 14 (1).

Organizations, learning, and sustainability

Effects of climate change are being observed at an increasingly alarming rate across the world. Each year we see more severe flooding, droughts, bushfires and heatwaves, and recent studies show that unless we change our current practices these events will continue to worsen. Finding meaningful solutions to sustainability challenges requires companies and other actors to broaden their thinking, go beyond organizational boundaries and engage more with their stakeholders. However, broadening organizational perspectives and collaborating with diverse stakeholders involves inherent political and process-related tensions stemming from a resistance to change, competing motivations, lack of trust, and disciplinary-specific language.

Current research has focused on disciplinary-specific approaches to learning for sustainability. Our review aligns with calls from prior research for cross-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches to sustainability. It offers a deepened understanding of the challenges organizations and multi-stakeholder initiatives face when learning for sustainability, including entrenched power relations, and traditional decision-making and value structures. We introduce ‘reflexive complicity’ as a conceptual lens for understanding the slow progress we see in societal responses to sustainability challenges. We argue that in order to overcome these challenges and realize meaningful sustainability outcomes, more critical reflexive learning is needed on what motivates engagement with sustainability from academia and practice. Shifting how we motivate business and management research on learning for sustainability, in a way that prioritizes sustainability outcomes over firm performance, could allow for more engaged and transdisciplinary research collaborations and bring us a step closer to understanding how to embed critical reflexive learning processes into businesses. Similarly, breaking patterns of reflexive complicity from key actors in businesses could also see a shift toward more radical and long-term responses to sustainability in practice.

Read the full paper here: Feeney, M., Grohnert, T., Gijselaers, W. & Martens, P. (2022). Organizations, learning, and sustainability: a cross-disciplinary review and research agenda. Journal of Business Ethics, 364.

The earth is running away from us

Fireplace Talk on Environmental Policy and Regulation

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. However  ‘animals’, ‘nature’ and ‘sustainability’ are not often mentioned together in Environmental Policies and Regulations. The reason is likely to be found in the fact that the sustainability debate has been hijacked in recent years by industry and governments. Their view regarding sustainable development significantly has been subordinate to the dogma of economic growth with little regard for animal welfare and concerns for nature.

For example, The European Commission speaks about protecting Europe’s natural capital and resources. However, we also need to acknowledge the value of nature for its own sake, instead as a mere means for human flourishing. Although we as humans may be privileged in our capacity to respect autonomy and flourishing, the autonomy and flourishing that we must respect is not limited to humans. Moreover, protecting Europe’s nature for it’s own sake is perfectly compatible with human flourishing. Perhaps it is even true that in the long term we will show incapable of protecting nature as a resource for human wellbeing, without at the same time recognizing nature’s intrinsic value.

This is the third event in the Fireplace Talks on the 30th Anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty, organized by UM Campus Brussels on 12th January 2022 from 18.30-19.30 (online). Our guest speakers for the talk are Maastricht University Professor Dr. Pim Martens, and the Executive Director of the Greenpeace European Unit, Dr. Jorgo Riss.  Register here.

Urbanization and climate change likely to increase dengue risk in China

Significant land use changes have been taking place in China, particularly since the economic “Open Door” policy was implemented in 1978. Due to the development of special economic zones following this policy, the last four decades were characterized by rapid and unprecedented urbanization all over China. Meanwhile, since the first dengue outbreak in mainland China after China’s founding in 1949 was reported in 1978, China has been through dengue outbreaks of increasingly larger scales and a widening spatial distribution. Climate change, risk of imported cases, limited surveillance on dengue vectors, and increasing population migration, bring more pressure on the prevention and control of dengue in China. 

There are several pathways by which urbanization increases the risk of dengue. Urbanization could increase the risk of dengue by elevating the human-vector contacting rate, and higher distribution of Aeaegypti was also observed in urban areas. Our review identified that the regional hotspots of dengue epidemics were Guangdong Province and southern Taiwan.

The occurrence and spread of dengue result from a complex interplay of various factors such as meteorological variables, air pollutants, socioeconomic status, and demographic characteristics. Therefore, a holistic assessment based on time series analysis is needed at the regional level to prepare for future changes in climate and land-use on this important disease.

Read the full paper here: Gao P, Pilot E, Rehbock C, Gontariuk M, Doreleijers S, Wang L, Krafft T, Martens P, Liuet Q. (2021) Land use and land cover change and its impacts on dengue dynamics in China: A systematic review. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases 15(10).

KNAW commissie Planetary Health

Vereerd lid te zijn van de KNAW commissie Planetary Health die gaat inventariseren welke wetenschappelijke kennis er nodig is op het gebied van planetary health en welke prioriteiten voor kennisontwikkeling er liggen voor Nederland.

Planetary health is de interdisciplinaire benadering van het verband tussen de gezondheid en welzijn van mens en dier en de ‘gezondheid’ van de aarde. Het gaat daarbij om klimaatverandering en verlies van biodiversiteit maar bijvoorbeeld ook om grootschalige milieuvervuiling, ontbossing, erosie en andere door de mens veroorzaakte veranderingen die gezondheidsrisico’s met zich meebrengen. Die risico’s zijn onder meer infectieziekten, problemen met voedsel- en drinkwatervoorziening, migratie en conflict en mentale gezondheid.

Voor meer informatie zie KNAW website

English

Honored to be a member of the KNAW (The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) Planetary Health committee, which will inventorize the scientific knowledge needed in the field of planetary health and the priorities for knowledge development for the Netherlands.

Planetary health is the interdisciplinary approach to the link between the health and well-being of human and non-human animals and the ‘health’ of the earth. This concerns climate change and loss of biodiversity, but also, for example, large-scale environmental pollution, deforestation, erosion and other man-made changes that entail health risks. Those risks include infectious diseases, problems with food and drinking water supplies, migration and conflict, and mental health.

For more information see KNAW website

Indigenous Views on Climate Change

Indigenous worldviews can be an alternative approach to thinking about climate change. Since the system of ethics in Western thought is largely anthropocentric and therefore not as useful in addressing complex, natural situations, indigenous ethics could provide a valuable alternative.

In this movie I talk about this with Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq from Kalaallit Nunaat, Greenland shaman, Chief Phil Lane Jr. of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations, and Adam Kuleit Mwarabu, Parakuiyo Maasai leader.

Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq
Chief Phil Lane Jr.
Adam Kuleit Mwarabu

Report on The Green Deal: What are its Implications for Animals and Nature?

Download the Working paper of the RELAY Workshop on The Green Deal: What are its Implications for Animals and Nature?

In 2019, the European Commission presented a policy document entitled ‘The European Green Deal’. The plan provides the basis for action plans for sustainable development in the policy areas of biodiversity, food systems, agriculture, energy, industry, building and renovating, mobility, eliminating pollution and climate action.

However, ‘animals’, ‘nature’ and ‘sustainability’ are not often mentioned together in this European Green Deal. The reason is likely to be found in the fact that the sustainability debate has been hijacked in recent years by industry and governments. Their view regarding sustainable development significantly has been subordinate to the dogma of economic growth with little regard for animal welfare and concerns for nature.

In the tradition of United Nations reports such as Our Common Future, the European Green Deal puts human wellbeing at its center. The European Commission speaks about protecting Europe’s natural capital and resources. However, we also need to acknowledge the value of nature for its own sake, instead as a mere means for human flourishing. Although we as humans may be privileged in our capacity to respect autonomy and flourishing, the autonomy and flourishing that we must respect is not limited to humans. Moreover, protecting Europe’s nature and its animals for its own sake is perfectly compatible with, and even necessary for human flourishing. Perhaps it is even true that in the long term we will show incapable of protecting nature as a resource for human wellbeing, without at the same time recognizing nature’s intrinsic value. The European Green Deal needs to include a just transition for nature and the animals within as well.

To tackle this issue, 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 policies behind the European Green Deal in relation to the role of Nature and Animals in our society were central to the discussions, as well as 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 formulated as follows: “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?”

In the Working paper of the RELAY Workshop on The Green Deal: What are its Implications for Animals and Nature? several key observations, statements and questions concerning the narrative and the discourse are addressed. In part two of this working paper, the workshop presentations and interactive debate have been summarized for further reference.

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

In Memoriam: Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen

Me awarding Paul Crutzen his honorary doctorate.
Meteorologist and Nobel Prize winner Paul Crutzen died in his hometown Mainz on Thursday 28 January 2021

Paul Crutzen was awarded an honorary doctorate on Monday 14 January 2013 during the 37th anniversary (Dies Natalis) of Maastricht University. I had the honor to act as honorary promoter. I met Paul Crutzen during lectures we both gave to PhD students at the Polytech Grenoble. I got to know Paul Crutzen as a very nice, calm and modest man. Certainly not someone who shouts his Nobel Prize status from the rooftops. As scientific friends we kept in touch over the years.

Paul Crutzen has been a source of inspiration for me. Not only as a person – in an academic world where a lot of attention is paid to the ones with the biggest mouth, he was a relief – but also in terms of his scientific endeavors. Paul is someone who transcends boundaries, who is not only concerned with chemistry, but is also concerned with social issues, such as human rights. He told me, while we had lunch together during the break of our lectures, that when doing interdisciplinary research you need to be thick-skinned. However, if you persevere, the intellectual reward and social relevance is worth it.

The death of Paul Cutzen received extensive attention in the various media. To my knowledge, this was hardly the case in the Limburg media. While the laureate, in addition to Peter Debije, is the second Nobel Prize winner with South Limburg roots (from his grandfather’s side). A brief statement appeared in De Limburger newspaper the day after his death. That was all.

Until now, Maastricht University and its magazine Observant paid no attention at all to the death of Paul Crutzen. An In Memoriam in the Observant of the honorary doctor of Maastricht University would have been appropriate. In fact – I would argue for the establishment of a Paul Crutzen Institute – which focuses on interdisciplinary research into the Anthropocene (also a concept launched by Paul), global environmental problems such as climate change and biodiversity loss. Not only urgently needed at Maastricht University, but also a fitting tribute for this endearing, great thinker.

(With thanks to the genealogist Funs Patelski, editor of the Limburgs Tijdschrift voor Genealogy, who researched the Limburg ancestors of Paul Crutzen; Dutch version in Observant)

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.