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Building a sustainable future: 'Combine the forces of natural and social sciences'

The United Nations has declared May 22 the International Day for Biological Diversity. A moment of global reflection on everything on Earth and its indispensability. Anthropologist Marja Spierenburg stresses the importance of the interaction between natural and social sciences in addressing sustainability issues.

Solutions to biodiversity and sustainability often look to scientists. But they are not the only ones working on sustainability. Many social scientists are also working on the issue. Marja Spierenburg is Professor of Anthropology of Sustainability and Livelihoods at the Institute for Cultural Anthropology and Sociology of Development. It is important to look at sustainability problems not only from a scientific point of view, but also from the point of view of how people think and act. If we want to change something, we should not only look at climate targets, for example, but also understand why people make certain decisions.

Fencing people out – Private wildlife reserve in South Africa

Effective sustainability strategies

Spierenburg believes it is important to make sustainable products and choices available to all sections of the population, and that this can lead to quick wins. She also believes it is necessary to look critically at the consumption patterns of affluent people, who often have a disproportionate ecological footprint. Says Spierenburg: 'The social sciences, including psychology and anthropology, have a crucial role to play in understanding this behaviour and the social structures that underpin it. This understanding is essential for developing effective strategies to promote sustainability.

White paper

On the occasion of International Day for Biological Diversity the collaborating universities of Leiden, Delft and Erasmus present a new paper on the link between climate change and biodiversity in Naturalis. A number of scientists have been interviewed, including Marja Spierenburg.  The message of the paper is: 'Scientists call for biodiversity protection to combat climate change'. All interviewees mention this from their own field of expertise. The paper is also the start of a new collaboration on climate and biodiversity in the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus context.

The theme of this year's UN Biodiversity Day is 'Building a shared future for all life'.

The paper can be downloaded at the LDE website

Text: Iris Klapwijk
Banner: Evicting people living with biodiversity - visiting the Tugen Hills, Kenya with evictees

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