Jeff Harvey's Oration

Oratie Jeff Harvey
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Jeff Harvey's Oration

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Ecology, nature conservation and scientific advocacy: a personal journey

Humanity faces many daunting challenges in the coming decades in order to reduce poverty and create social justice while at the same time ensuring that the health and vitality of our ecological life support systems are maintained. Nature generates conditions (colloquially known as ‘ecosystem services’) that emerge over variable spatial and temporal scales that permit humans to exist and to persist. Yet over the past century the expansion of the human enterprise has led to an extinction rate that is 100-1000 times greater than natural rates and which threaten the integrity of natural systems.

The human ecological footprint has grown, with developed nations alone consuming more natural capital than the planet can sustainably produce. Despite this, the dominant socio-political and economic ideology (based on supposedly free markets and private enterprise) continues to simplify nature and to concentrate wealth in ways that further will rebound on human civilization. The mainstream corporate media’s coverage of environmental issues often reflects this, with scant attention paid to ways in which the human footprint and poverty can be reduced, or threats such as climate change can be mitigated. Moreover, the influence of think tanks and other organizations on public policy is deflecting our attention away from serious threats to the environment.

The inaugural lecture by NIOO researcher Jeffrey Harvey (Department of Terrestrial Ecology), at the VU University on Thursday 11 September, focused on all of these areas, and offered ways in which powerful vested interests can be challenged.