Category Archives: Climate Change

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.

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.

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.

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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 evening course health and climate change

02 November – 13 November (Daily evening class CET) (2 ECTS)

Register here.

Climate change poses serious challenges for humans around the world. Global warming is perceived as one of the biggest global health risks of the twentieth century which could have a range of effects on human health. Global warming is thought to have an impact on vector-borne disease, water-related disease, heat- and cold- related deaths, allergies, air pollution and malnutrition. The projected increases in extreme climate events such as floods, droughts, and possible intense tropical cyclones could also have wide ranging direct and indirect effects on health. Although the effect of climate change will be experienced worldwide, its impact will not be evenly distributed among people. In low income countries, climate change is believed to further exacerbate existing vulnerability to disease and food security risks, as their populations are, for instance, more reliant on agriculture, more vulnerable to droughts and have a lower adaptive capacity. As climate change can be seen as an amplifier of existing and emerging health risk, it might increase health inequalities and is likely to widen the health gap between rich and poor.

If you’d like to know more about the causes and implications of climate change, then register here for the fall evening edition for this course at Maastricht University before October 15.