Why is society failing to halt biodiversity loss?

By Joern Fischer

Leuphana University Lueneburg recently held a ‘Sustainability Summit‘. The plenary sessions were recorded on video — including a presentation by me on the question Why is society failing to halt biodiversity loss?

The slides of the presentation are available here: http://www.slideshare.net/joernfischer/leuphana-sustainability-summit-joern-fischer-2012

The presentation was recorded and can be viewed here:

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2 thoughts on “Why is society failing to halt biodiversity loss?

  1. Hi Joern,

    Great presentation and topic! I notice that your German accent is getting stronger though ;). Also, you might be interested to know that Hugh circulated your TREES article on Academic’s obsession with quantity. I thought it was cool that he forward your article to the group here. Notably, however, he didn’t agree with your postulate. I’m not sure how he can disagree, except that he, himself, says that he does not judge scientists by the quantity of their pubs, but by their quality and innovation. If you want his full comments, I can email to you. ,

    I’ve been thinking, I would like to write a short letters-type paper about how conservation advocates’ failure to use social norms to support their cause is harming our society and environment further. I thought you might be an interesting person to bounce some ideas off and potentially collaborate on the paper if you’re interested. Hope you are well.

    Best,
    Kara

  2. Hi Kara,

    First, interesting to hear re: Hugh. I am happy to believe that he, himself, judges people by what he perceives to be quality output.
    However, our paper did not just say that the quantity of papers was what people got judged by — but rather, that an overall obsession with quantity in our scientific culture is a problem. This does include dollars earned, students supervised, etc — there are many incentives to do more, more, more — regardless of the consequences. If in some people’s labs there are no consequences because “infinite growth” is managed superbly … well, that’s great. But I don’t think that’s the norm. Most places, as they grow, face trade-offs, and high among those are work-life balance, time for family, and interpersonal relationships within lab groups. Not everyone has to agree with this; but if empiricism is worth anything, I have had a large number of people email me out of the blue and agreeing; even some who have large research groups! So I stick to my guns, and firmly believe there is a concerning trend here.
    Regarding your second point — I can’t say so much because I’m not quite sure what you mean by social norms in this context. I guess you mean the “use your towel again because your neighbours do” type stuff? That, indeed, is something we had ever so briefly included in our review paper, and I think it would be worth investigating this further — Cialdini and others have worked on this (this may be relevant, haven’t checked it properly: http://csi.gsb.stanford.edu/room-viewpoint ).
    Hope all is well, and thanks for the feedback (minus the German accent part)!
    Joern

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