Erik Matthysen / Full Professor

University of Antwerp / Ecology, Evolution, Biodiversity

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

All around the world biodiversity decreases at an alarming rate through habitat destruction, fragmentation, pollution, exploitation. This is not always obvious to the general public who often associate nature with wildlife that thrives after recovery from persecution. But at the same time, the less visible biodiversity of plants and insects is plummeting in our fields and gardens. In other parts of the world, chunks of wilderness the size of European countries disappear each year. My main concern is that every new generation may take this trend for granted and irreversible losses will be accepted as normal. Even more, by stripping the planet of biodiversity and natural resources we may ultimately make our life on this planet unsustainable. No insects in our gardens is bad enough, lack of food or clean water is much worse.
So aside from studying and teaching about these problems, I try to change. I bike to work, take the train whenever possible and eat less meat. In my department I started a CO2 compensation plan for flights. But yes, I still fly for work and personal travel, though I enjoy it less than before. I once thought my generation would be the first and last cheaply travelling around the world, but new generations grow up with subsidized citytrips, and politicians telling them there is no reason to give it up.
What we need is a serious move to an economy where consumption of resources is charged with its true environmental cost. We should not count on tomorrow’s technology invented by today’s youth to solve problems we are shelving. We need better affordable alternatives for transport, not just to relieve the highways but to reduce emissions for emissions’ sake. The same is true for unsustainably produced food flown across continents. Let everything we consume have its fair price, and if this forces everyone to consume less, I’ll join with a smile. Smart economists should be able to find a way to make this happen. Just like evolutionary biologists, they should know all too well about the “tragedy of the commons”: individualistic exploitation of a common good rarely if ever leads to the best solution for all.

Originally posted 2018-04-25 15:09:45.