Today it is clearer than ever that science has a crucial role in ensuring a safe and happy life for everyone. Governments, companies and individuals are all seeking to understand the COVID-19 virus. People are craving trustworthy information about the future evolution of the pandemic and its clinical progression, and they look to scientists for answers.
Unfortunately, this reliance on science as the foundation for decision making and action has up till now been insufficient in other domains, such as the climate- and biodiversity crises. Yet both COVID-19 and the climate crisis were to be expected. An international research organization, the UNEP, warned already in 2016 of the increased risks of pandemics due to biodiversity loss and ecological disruptions. The same is true for the climate crisis: for over 40 years scientists have been warning about the dangers of over-exploiting the Earth, but society as a whole has not responded adequately.
It is therefore more important than ever to maintain and promote an engaged form of scientific inquiry, advocating approaches that can respond quickly and rigorously to the societal challenges we are facing. Scientists are, and should be, a core part of the political debate. Scientists can offer scenarios and envisage different courses of action. They are active subjects in setting up research questions and innovative methodologies to address the unexpected situation we are in. They have the responsibility to urge and warn governments of the future effects of their courses of action (or lack of action).
However, just as virologists and medical scientists are not the only experts needed to address the challenges we face during the corona pandemic, we need a large array of expertise in order to effectively deal with the increasing social, emotional, political, ecological, and economic impact of the climate crisis and explore possible solutions. What is needed is transverse cooperation by academics from all disciplines, from physicists and ecologists to political scientists, sociologists and psychologists, in order to find more effective ways to deal with the dangers ahead.
Scientists4Future Netherlands (S4F-NL) is a platform that enables a more active role for academics in relation to all aspects of the climate and ecological crises. S4F-NL is not an organization but a distributed platform. In addition to groups that run the website, and coordinate the production of the newsletter, activity is based in virtual teams that pick up topics if enough interest, time and energy is available. In addition, there is a growing number of local groups. S4F Amsterdam is the most recent addition and we produced this months newsletter. If you are employed in any research institution in Amsterdam, you are warmly invited to join!