I hesitated about writing this warm recommendation of the talk by Julia Steinberger (professor in Ecological Economics) for the audience that reads the S4F newsletter. Her message, and the results from her research, lead to a pretty radical position, that confronts the widely shared idea (probably also held by many in the readership of this newsletter) that scientists should restrict themselves to delivering facts, and leave advocacy and taking actions to the politicians and possibly activist. Yet, from the talk it becomes clear that something more is needed. To cite Bill McKibben about this:
“It took me a long time to realize that the scientists had won the argument but were going to lose the fight, because it isn’t about data and science, it’s about power. The most powerful industry is fossil fuel, because it is the richest. At a certain point, it became clear that our only hope of matching that money was with the currencies of movement: passion, spirit, creativity—and warm bodies”
Steinbergers lucid talk supports this view, for instance with an analysis of the strongly interconnected and self-reinforcing interdependencies that maintain road building and the car industry. The talk makes crystal clear that the mainstream scientific approach to solving the problems of climate change is no longer tenable and concludes that we need radical transformation. Also, within the university “Business as usual” is no longer tenable. Steinberger argues that a reform of the university is needed, as described in the paper “From Publication to Public action” (Gardner et al. 2021). The talk is a rich source of books to read and contains many suggestions how to become active in way that fits your personality (Fig. 1). This talk is an absolute must fort everybody who thinks about their personal contribution and hesitates about the level of engagement that is needed. Warmly recommended!
Peter Roessingh, S4F Amsterdam.