Christophe Desmet / FRS-FNRS Research Associate

Liege university

The translation of this testimony was generated automatically by a translation program. Thanks for your understanding.

I am a Biologist by education and vocation. As such, I have always been a keen observer of nature in my area (Liege, Belgium). I am deeply worried by the relentless erosion of biodiversity (insects, birds, plants, …) that I have witnessed over the last 30 years. The destruction of natural habitats is truly appalling. Try spotting “forests” or “uninhabited areas” in Western Europe using satellite views, and you will appreciate that only minute, indented areas remain of unexploited terrestrial habitat. By training, I am also an Immunologist in the field of respiratory diseases. Thorough clinical and preclinical studies indicate that our Western lifestyle is a major culprit in the current “epidemics” of respiratory diseases such as hay fever and asthma. Altogether, our current way of life is degrading the health of our entire habitat, as well as our own.

On our modest scale, my family is trying to reduce its impact on the environment by progressively adopting new habits: we have one car that we use parsimoniously (and intend to abandon totally in the near future), we live in the city in a semi-detached house that we have renovated and insulated, we commute by public transportation, we have become almost a 100% vegetarian and buy mostly organic, unprocessed local food, we banned far-away holidays and prefer European goods whenever possible, and so on…

Even though it saves us considerable amounts of money, adopting a more sustainable lifestyle requires time (travelling, cooking, shopping, takes longer), energy (changing habits can be hard), and may lead to feelings of social “downgrading” (no fancy cars, no latest hi-tech appliances, no exotic holidays, …). I therefore fear that social conformism will keep favoring unsustainable habits. Lobbying through the medias and in politics is also a strong brake against change. I reckon that strong science-based political action needs to be taken to enforce sustainable practices in the general population. This will likely not happen without a mix of unpopular decisions and coherent incentives. Most importantly, people will need a “narrative” that will convince them that change is needed, desirable and most of all, fair.

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