Early Career: How to Write a Good Blog Post

We would like to encourage early career researchers to produce a blog regarding their work. As well as becoming increasingly recognized as a powerful tool for disseminating and making researchers’ work more visible, they can also provide a highly accessible digest for a larger, and less specialized audience.

student-849825_1280

Guidelines:

  • Be short – around [500-800] words is an appropriate length
  • Adopt an informal, journalistic style rather than academic writing.
  • Be accessible to a less specialist audience, so any complex terminology should be explained clearly.  Simple examples, or even images, can help to provide context and clarification of terminology and research concepts.  
  • Make the purpose of the blog post clear in the introductory sentences.
  • Organize the content. Blog posts can have an overwhelming amount of information for the reader. Therefore, it can  be helpful to divide the post in subsections. Information can be organized into sections, questions, lists, or tips. To clearly organize the content, you can start with making an outline of your post. What points do you want to cover and what is the best order for it?
  • Make it clear whether or not you are writing on behalf of an institution. A blog entry can also be an opportunity to make a more personal statement about your interest in your research or work.
  • Provide references in footnotes or provide a link for readers who wish to learn more about the topic.
  • If you wish to include images from the article in the blog entry, then it is important to ensure that any permission sought should cover this additional use. Alternatively, royalty free images can be found in a number of online repositories such as Wikimedia, Commons and Morgue File.

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you want further guidance or discuss your blog post at blog@sustainablescientists.org.

 

Sustainable Industry: 5 Things You Should Stop Throwing Away

Editor’s Notes: Read what Jessica Kane, a professional blogger who writes for Econoheat., the world’s #1 leading waste oil heaters manufacturer believes we should stop throwing away.

5 Things You Should Stop Throwing Away

Many people who recycle believe they are doing all that they can to prevent unnecessary waste. Yet, unbeknownst to them, they still consign products and materials that could be repurposed to landfill while recycling materials that cost more to recycle than reuse.

If you throw away any of the following five things, it is time to stop and reconsider your options:

 

Food Bags

In the grocery bag recycling area at your local grocery store, you can also recycle certain types of food storage bags, including plastic bread and produce bags, dried fruit bags and sandwich bags. Look for the triple arrow recycling symbol on the bags. Keep in mind that, since food bags are reusable storage, you protect the environment more and prevent unnecessary waste from fossil fuel energy generation during recycling processes by reusing food bags whenever possible.Food Bags

 

Cling Wrap

Recycling centers typically do not take film-style plastic wrap. That said, you can still upcycle and reuse it after wiping food splatter off of the plastic. For example, place sheets of used cling wrap on surfaces to protect surfaces from spills when working with potted plants and soil. If you need to smooth the surface of plaster or caulk when performing a bit of home do-it-yourself repairs, wrap a fingertip with cling wrap instead of dirtying a whole glove.

Produce Mesh

Mesh bags and foam sleeves used to store or protect various types of produce are perfect for other home storage projects. For example, reuse mesh bags designed to carry tomatoes, potatoeRecycling
s and onions during the holidays to carry wrapped desserts and gifts. Foam sleeves from around pears, mangoes and other fruits are perfect for protecting your fingertips from cold canned and bottled beverages. You can also use them as packing materials to cushion fragile collectibles, glasses and plates when moving.

Wipes Canisters

Instead of purchasing plastic canisters for organizing, storing and dispensing various types of items, clean disinfectant wipes canisters when you empty them, decorate them to match your home decor and fill them with loose items. For example, these canisters work well as plastic bag dispensers because the top ring prevents you from pulling out more than one bag at a time. You can also use them to store craft supplies and disinfect combs and hairbrushes.

Towel Boxes

Cardboard boxes that hold stacked loose paper towels are also perfect for home storage. Instead of buying cardboard organization boxes, upcycle your empty paper towel ones. For example, use them in dresser drawers to organize underwear and socks. Also, prevent endless searches for specific craft tools like pencils, markers and paintbrushes by filling a paper towel box with vertical cardboard toilet paper rolls, separating and organizing the craft tools by tube.Tiolet Rolls

Almost every item that you throw away can be used elsewhere. Start out with these tips and then look with a different perspective at everything else you toss to reduce wastefulness.

 

 

In Layman’s Terms: The Ant Mill Phenomenon – Why it’s Important to March to the Beat of a Different Drum

Editor’s Notes: NESSE Member Simon writes about the phenomena of the ant mill, and describes how we can use it to take a step back and think about the impact that our behaviour, as humans and researchers, is having on the world. 

This video shows the phenomena of an ant mill spiral. It was first described 1910 by the Harvard Professor William Morton Wheeler in his book “Ants – Their Structure, Development and Behaviour”

(You may need to head over to YouTube to view the video)

He wrote – “I have never seen a more astonishing exhibition of the limitations of instinct. For nearly two whole days these blind creatures, so dependent on the contact-odor sense of their antennae, kept palpating their uniformly smooth, odoriferous trail and the advancing bodies of the ants immediately preceding them, without perceiving that they were making no progress but only wasting their energies, till the spell was finally broken by some more venturesome members of the colony.

Paul Watzlawick uses this example in his lecture ‘When the solution is the problem’ to describe its link to climate change. He says that animals, but also humans, have the disastrous characteristic of stubbornly holding on once successful, or at least adequate, solutions, even in the case of changing environmental circumstances, in which these solutions are not longer appropriated.

Jared Diamond shows in his book ‘Collapse’, how societies like the Mayas, Greenlandic Vikings or the population of the Easter Island failed. “One common characteristic of such failing was that in the moment, when they realised that the living conditions became precarious, they intensified their strategies, which have been successful so far.” (Harald Welzer)

In our example above, the ant would start to run faster, akin to how we would behave. We accelerate the economic system after a crises, if the oil becomes scarce, we drill deeper with higher risks for the environment, we intensify our agriculture and fishery, or try to increase the efficiency of the resource use. Why don’t we change our behaviour and adopt to an environment with limits in space and time?


We can’t solve the problems that are caused by a growing economic system with even more growth of that economic system. This causes a societal tunnel vision.

As an ant in an ant mill, we have to stop and make a break, we have to look around and observe what is going on. We have to think about where we want to go and what we really need. As human beings with conscience and the freedom of will, we can resist those instincts, like greed, which trap us in such a circle, but we have to be aware and make use of these abilities.

Instead of decoupling natural resource use and environmental impacts from economic growth, we should think about decoupling human well-being from economic growth.

Green Curriculum: Five Reasons Why Studying STEM Provides Students for a Sustainable Future

Editor’s Note: Read five reasons why Kyle Martin from Florida Polytechnic believes that studying STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) prepares students for a sustainable future. 

Tomorrow is full of ambiguity; Technological advancements, climate uncertainty, clean water, food shortages and a global population nearing 8 billion are all on the horizon. This begs the question: How will universities prepare the next generation of students for a sustainable future? From hands-on collaboration to cross-disciplinary curriculum, here’s how we believe STEM education is championing a sustainable tomorrow.

  1. Hands-On Learning

STEM majors have a balanced mix of hands-on and traditional lecture-style learning. The blend of hands-on with traditional lectures encourages students to apply classroom material to real-world scenarios. From multi-functional workstations and technology incubators to 3D printing labs (some labs even use polylactic acid, a sustainable, sugar-derived polymer sometimes used in reusable plastics like cups and cutlery), students have access to technology that empowers them to put their ideas to the test and solve the world’s most pressing challenges.

  1. Sustainability-focused Coursework   

In addition to hands-on learning, STEM programs actively incorporate sustainability into the curriculum. At events like the Industry Partner Summit, for instance, professionals, researchers and academics collaborate to develop new course material. During these summits, discussions typically cover emerging discoveries and challenges, policy updates, and tools and tactics that can be included in sustainability course curriculum. Summits occur annually to ensure students are learning the most up-to-date, relevant knowledge, thereby ensuring they gain the proper skills to be successful in their sustainability-focused careers.

  1. Revamped Facilities

Today’s cutting-edge STEM classrooms create a collaborative environment where issues of global sustainability can be addressed. Classrooms that were once stuffed with desks and chalkboards are now open-concept design that facilitate group presentations and brainstorming discussions. Conference style tables and technology-equipped stations replace standard desks, fostering group projects, problem solving and teamwork. Instead of chalkboards, whiteboards and dry-erase markers fill classrooms to encourage student visualization, ideating and project road-mapping.

  1. Soft Skills are Sharpened

In order for STEM students to excel in environmental-focused careers, they need opportunities to develop non-technical skills in addition to mastering core curriculum. As a result, many universities are ramping up requirements for STEM students to enroll in soft skill-focused courses. From public speaking to managerial classes, many of the nation’s top engineering colleges are offering up courses that prepare students for the business side of sustainability.

  1. STEM Education is Pivotal to a Sustainable Future

Sustainability is the future, and STEM education is the key to getting there. With a hands-on curriculum, innovative technology and a holistic approach to learning, STEM education is necessary for preparing the next generation of sustainability experts.

Kyle Martin - Author - Pic.jpg

Author Bio: Kyle Martin brings 11 years of storytelling experience to the content coordinator position at Florida Polytechnic University. In this role, Martin develops original content showcasing the University experience as a way to attract new students and faculty. He also lends editorial direction to University departments launching new projects and campaigns.

 

Beyond Benign and the Green Chemistry Commitment

Editor’s Note: This week’s blog post is written by Beyond Benign‘s Mollie Enright and Alicia McCarthy about the Green Chemistry Commitment. Mollie is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign, Inc. and Alicia is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) program. We would like to thank the team at Beyond Benign for writing this piece for our blog.

 Background to Beyond Benign

Beyond Benign was founded in 2007 as a non-profit organization by Dr. Amy Cannon and Dr. John Warner with the aim to cultivate a national and international “Community of Practice” and to bring green chemistry to pre-college and higher education. Our mission and vision is based on a holistic approach for providing solutions to the environmental problems our society faces by inspiring the next generation of scientists to become responsible chemists that can design and incorporate green, sustainable technologies.

This unique educational approach produces materials and trainings that are audience driven and address multiple learning styles from primary school through graduate school. We believe in providing resources that are free and publicly available online so anyone can have access to quality materials on sustainability and green chemistry. We hope to inspire college students to use green chemistry to innovate a sustainable future. The three main areas of focus within the organization are pre-college curriculum and training, community engagement, and higher education. The Green Chemistry Student Outreach Fellows’ Program and the Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) Program are two ways our organization addresses those areas in partnership with higher education institutions.

Sustainable Outreach

Our Green Chemistry Student Outreach Fellows’ Program trains college students in communicating green chemistry concepts to the public using hands-on activities inspired by cutting edge industrial innovations. Undergraduate students are trained in green chemistry and are coached in communicating chemistry concepts to diverse audiences. The students encourage a positive message to future scientists that they can bring change and develop a safer and sustainable world through chemistry.

Fellows’ are given the option to create an outreach or research project based off their experience within the program. This academic year, two scholarships will be awarded to students within the Fellows’ program to participate and share their project at the 21st Green Chemistry and Engineering Conference in June 2017. By bringing their projects to a professional conference, students can connect with the larger green chemistry community and can network with peers and faculty to share resources and gain opportunities.

1Beyond Benign Program Manager Mollie Enright leads our Outreach Fellows program and is pictured here talking with local high school students about the challenge of ocean plastics.

Throughout the academic year, the Outreach Fellows reach hundreds of students and community members through fascinating, hands-on activities to showcase innovations, and opportunities in green chemistry. During interactions with the students and public, the goal of the Fellows’ program is to not only empower consumers to make more educated choices, but to encourage students to explore a future career within the STEM field with curiosity and passion.

2Young Einstein’s Science Club visits Beyond Benign annually as part of the Outreach Fellows training day. Students are pictured above exploring a hands-on activity on the dying of fabrics.

Beyond Benign’s outreach program is a model for how students take on the role of a green chemistry ambassador. Their outreach and influence goes beyond the community and can reach their own chemistry department to join in the commitment to integrate green chemistry principles into chemistry education. The Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) has several student-led initiatives among the signing institutions of how students assisted their department in greening their labs and experiments through research and outreach.

Growing a Green Chemistry Community

The GCC is a consortium program that unites the green chemistry community around the shared goals and common vision to grow chemistry departmental resources; expand the community of green chemists; and improve connections with industry for more student opportunities and collaboration. By signing onto the GCC, colleges and universities are identified as schools that are committed to continual progress in the implementation and adoption of green chemistry student learning objectives. The signers agree that upon graduation, chemistry majors should have proficiency in the following essential green chemistry competencies: 1) Theory: Have a working knowledge of the Twelve Principles of Green Chemistry, 2) Toxicology: Have an understanding of the principles of toxicology, the molecular mechanisms of how chemicals affect human health and the environment, and the resources to identify and assess molecular hazards, 3) Laboratory Skills: Possess the ability to assess chemical products and processes and design greener alternatives when appropriate, 4) Application: Be prepared to serve society in their professional capacity as scientists and professionals through the articulation, evaluation, and employment of methods and chemicals that are benign for human health and the environment. These student learning objectives are implemented in different ways within each of the signing institutions in accordance with their green chemistry experience level and department resources.

By having a platform for communicating with the signers, the GCC has a unique opportunity to track the progress of signers and identify common roadblocks many departments and student initiatives face when trying to incorporate green chemistry and toxicology into their curriculum and activities. Working groups and partnerships are utilized to create a resourceful network for creating and sharing new tools and models. One major area all GCC signers are very interested in is how to teach toxicology for chemists. Beyond Benign has observed four different models of adoption within chemistry programs: 1) department seminar expert speakers; 2) student-led resources; 3) stand-alone courses, and 4) integration within existing courses.

3Dr. Amy Cannon (far right) pictured above with regional green chemistry college faculty members.

Partnerships with diverse organizations like NESSE, the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3), and MilliporeSigma are important to the growth of Beyond Benign. These connections help develop and provide free resources and tools that can benefit all socio-economic educational institutions and communities. Beyond Benign is coming up on their 10th year in 2017, and we look forward to expanding our goals for chemistry education as our organization advances forward.

 

About Mollie and Alicia

Mollie Enright holds a B.S. degree in chemistry from Gordon College. She is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign, Inc. At Beyond Benign, Mollie leads all community outreach programming and equips volunteers to lead sustainable science outreach events through the green chemistry outreach fellows program. In her role, Mollie also supports all pre-college programming for Beyond Benign and seeks to equip teachers with the resources they need to bring green chemistry and sustainable science into their classrooms.

Alicia McCarthy holds a B.S. degree in Environmental Health from the University of Massachusetts Lowell and in the second year of her M.S in Occupational and Environmental Hygiene. She is currently the Program Manager for Beyond Benign’s Green Chemistry Commitment (GCC) program. Alicia’s role is to communicate with potential and current GCC signers to address needs and celebrate successes among chemistry departments and students to further the goal of creating a community network of green chemists. By developing annual, flexible goals with schools, Alicia tracks the progress of specific learning and research objectives among the GCC signers and utilize their accomplishments as models for other schools.

This blog post was edited by Didi Van Doren

 

 

 

18 Tips for how to Have an Eco-Friendly Christmas

Editor’s Note: Get prepared for the festive season by reading our 18 tips for an eco-friendly Christmas.  This blog post was written by Go Green’s Katarina Lajtban. Go Green is a site providing guidance for sustainable living and environmental news around the world that inspires readers to take action. Katarina create web links and online paths that enable future readers to find the Go Green site, follow the news and learn about important environmental issues to take action towards a more sustainable living.

During the holiday season, there is a world-wide skyrocketing trash output and in America alone, there is about a million extra tons of garbage every week. From food shopping to gift shopping and decorating, you can literally see the amount of trash increase in your own home. There isn’t any question that the holidays are a magical and fun time for those who celebrate.

What’s better than attending parties, buying and giving gifts, cooking up your best dishes, volunteering and sharing in a sense of community? There isn’t any other time of the year quite like it. The spirit is contagious because gratitude is a wonderful feeling. However, we all want to do our part to have a more eco-friendly Christmas. Here are some tips to help you celebrate the holidays in a greener way.

High angle shot of Christmas Presents wrapped in eco friendly craft paper ina a wire shopping basket. Horizontal format on a rustic wooden table.

High angle shot of Christmas Presents wrapped in eco friendly craft paper ina a wire shopping basket. Horizontal format on a rustic wooden table.

Decorating
1. Use food as decoration. It can be eaten at the end of the day, meaning there will be less waste to deal with but even if there is, it is biodegradable. Since food is a big part of the holidays, it can be used as table centerpieces. Think persimmons, cranberries and even pinecones.
2. Use LED lights. Looking at Christmas tree lights can be spellbinding; it is a sight to behold. Even for adults, Christmas tree lights evoke warm and fuzzy feelings. So this year, switch to LED holiday light strands. They consume 70 percent less energy than incandescent ones. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Energy–it costs just $0.27 to light a six-foot tree for 12 hours a day for 40 days! In comparison, it costs $10 for incandescent lights for the same duration. Fun fact: Did you know the first Christmas trees were lit up with candles? Talk about a fire hazard!
3. Stay away from inflatables. These decorations are fun, but they can cost around $2-$9 per month in energy costs. You can limit your energy use by displaying decorations such as ribbons, wreaths and other decorations that don’t consume energy.
4. Use extension cords. Some decorators use string lights to lengthen holiday displays. All that does is consume more energy. It’s eco-friendlier and more energy-efficient to simply use extension cords.
5. Use automatic timers. Don’t leave your lights on all night. No one will notice them when everyone is asleep. Set the timers to turn them off when you hit the sack.

 
Preparing food
1. Buy local produce as much as possible. For starters, the food will be fresher and taste better. Plus, they require less transportation–which, helps to conserve fuel and reduces carbon emissions. Look for local farms that produces turkeys, hams, cornish hens and chickens or the proteins of your choice.
2. Use glass or ceramic pans for the oven. These types of pans heat faster than metal ones. Thus, you can set the temperature 25 degrees lower than the recipe suggests. You also want to stay away from disposable pans and disposable plates, plastic flatware, and Styrofoam cups. This is the time of year to bring out the good china and cloth napkins. They are easy to wash and can be reused repeatedly. In addition, they take up little storage room until next year. When it comes to beverages, serve them from pitchers or gallon jugs instead of individual bottles or cans.
3. Use a slow cooker. For side dishes and small meals, slow cookers, microwaves and toaster ovens are much more energy-efficient than the oven.
4. Keep the oven closed when cooking. Why? Ovens lose a lot of heat when opened and then use more energy to heat back up to the right temperature. It’s better to turn on the oven light and look through the window.

 
Shopping
1. Look for gifts that are eco-friendly. Ask a retail associate to help you. If you are shopping online, it is as simple as typing “Eco-friendly gifts” into your search engine of choice.
2. Look for energy-efficient electronics. Many of our loved ones would like electronics for holiday gifts. Search for the items that promote energy efficiency. A quick note: laptops require 50 to 80 percent less energy than a desktop.
3. Buy ENERGY STAR® appliances. Just look for the logo, as it is easy to find. These models can decrease energy usage up to 40 percent.

 
Keep the pests away
With all the cooking and sweets, you might notice a few unwanted roommates. The best way to keep bugs and other vermin out of your home is with ultrasonic pest repellents. They work remarkably well, without the damaging and harsh fumes that come with extermination. They are also much safer for our pets since they are non-toxic.
One of the most popular ultrasonic pest repellents on the market is the Crave Greens plugin, which can be found on Amazon. Although, there are many to choose from. Read the reviews and descriptions before purchasing. You want to get the most effective plugin for your needs.

 
Prefer to travel?
The holidays are for enjoying your time off. Sometimes, that calls for a travel adventure. To keep it eco-friendly, choose one of these greener destinations.
1. Costa Rica. This country is known for its eco-conscious boutique hotels. The country also has a sustainability policy which has resulted into hydro-power being its biggest source of electricity.
2. Galapagos Islands. These islands are located over 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. They are also almost completely cut off from the rest of the world. 90 percent of the islands are designated as national parks, pure heaven for nature lovers!
3. Bhutan. This country is deliberately developing tourism slowly so as to preserve their natural resources and protect their culture. They also have a set tourism tax that is returned to the communities. You will find breathtaking wildlife in its many conservation areas.
4. New Zealand. Who can forget the amazing scenery in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings’ movies? In fact, 20 percent of the country is made up of natural parks. Why not spend Christmas surrounded by natural landscapes or going whale watching?
5. Slovenia. Its capital, Ljubljana, was voted the European Green Capital of 2016. It states that it is the first European city to move towards zero waste. They have installed special bins that charge users based on how much waste is disposed. Furthermore, its city buses run on natural gas.

 
As you can see, you have many options for enjoying an eco-friendly Christmas and they aren’t difficult to follow or implement. Plus, you’ll lose the guilty conscious of having too much waste or using too much energy.

 

This blog post was edited by Daniel Ddiba.

NESSE Webinar – Reverse Photosynthesis: A Game Changer In The Industrial Production of Fuels and Chemicals

Editor’s Note: Read about our webinar, hosted at 17:00 GMT on Monday 5th December 2016 by  David Cannella from the Unviersity of Copenhagen based on an article recently published in Nature Communications. Click here to attend the webinar!

Cellulosic biomass conversion into biofuels (ethanol) had for many years led the forefront research. Today we renamed these as advanced fuels, and despite several successful industrial demonstration plant applications, little of these products reach out the society. The reason is mainly due to the market competition against fossil fuels. Seeking new and more efficient ways of converting the renewable lignocellulosic biomass with enzymes into chemical building blocks (sugars and phenols), the energy of sunlight has been applied for accelerating the activity of the key role enzyme LPMO. LPMO or Lytic Polysaccharide Monooxygenase is a redox enzyme which cut the cellulose chains via an oxidation reaction: consuming a molecule of dioxygen and with the expenses of 2 electrons it cut the cellulose chain releasing one molecule of water. Working in synergy with hydrolytic cellulases, LPMO accelerates the conversion of cellulose to glucose or if used alone produce an array of oligosaccharides. LPMO is now a key component of industrial cellulase cocktails. Here it will be presented a new way of accelerating the activity of LPMO via transferring the electrons from the antenna pigments (chlorophyllin or thylakoids) upon excitation with sunlight. Given the utilization of plant photosynthetic components (pigments) and the consumption of their products (dioxygen and carbohydrate) this technology has been called in popular terms “reverse photosynthesis”.            

David Cannella is a biotechnologist granted by the Danish Research Council for independent research (DFF), with a strong interest in sustainable conversion of biomass in valuable products and energy. Graduated at University of Rome-Sapienza, has obtained his PhD in second generation biofuels production at University of Copenhagen, Denmark where is now enrolled as PostDoc. His multidisciplinary approach to research regards a mix of biochemistry, microbiology, bioprocesses integration, analytical chemistry and lately photo-biochemistry. At today he is seeking at light powered enzymatic biomass transformation into chemicals or food additives, and at the confirmation of the so “imprecisely called reverse photosynthesis” processes happening in Nature. He has been visiting various research institutes: CTBE-Brazil, Chalmers University-Sweden, University of Rome Sapienza-Italy.

david 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Layman’s Terms: Ignition Point

Editor’s Note: On 4th November 2016, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change entered into effect. It’s aim is “to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”. Here, NESSE Member Simon Rauch describes the risk of climate change on the basis of an example from chemical reaction engineering.

For the construction and operation of a reactor for an exothermic reaction, the consideration of the ignition behaviour is a fundamental issue. While the heat removal (WAG) proceeds linear, the heat production (WEK) is strongly non-linear. This results from the self-reinforcing effect of exothermic reactions. The higher the temperature is, the faster the reaction runs. A faster reaction produces more heat, which increases the temperature. If the heat production exceeds the heat removal, the ignition point is reached (4) and it comes to a runaway. At this point, the temperature in the reactor rises, until another stable operating point is reached (8).

untitledIn the best case, the reactor is designed for the new operating conditions. Often neglected by this calculation is the influence of the solvents, which will be in huge excess compared to the reactant. In the case of the transgression of a critical point, the thermal combustion of the solvent starts and much more energy is released. This is a situation which is difficult to handle.

I want to use my knowledge of this behaviour to describe what is happening to our planet and climate. In this case, our solvent is the carbon that is cryopreserved in form of dead biomass by permafrost. The ratios are similar. Every year, humankind emits 6.5 gigatonnes (gt) of carbon. Around 770 gt of carbon are still stored as oil and mainly coal in the ground. The entirety of all living plants contains 650 gt of carbon and the atmosphere contains 730 gt. In the permafrost soils of the northern latitudes there are assumingly 1600 gt of carbon fixed. With a rising global temperature, there is the danger that this carbon is released in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide or methane, which is even worse. This depends on the humidity of the ground.  Those emissions reinforce the greenhouse effect, whereby the process enforces itself. Additionally, the microbes produce heat during the degradation of the biomass, which increases the soil temperature.

If only a small amount of that carbon is released to the atmosphere, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change will be nullified and the 2°C limit will not be achievable. This issue is one of the tipping points of the climate and eco system, the ignition point of our planet. There are related processes, such as the ice-abledo feedback. A higher partial pressure of CO2 in the Atmosphere also contributes to acidification of the oceans, which is a big problem on its own.

The behaviour of permafrost soils concerning increasing temperatures is not investigated very well at the moment. Scientists just start to examine these processes and connections; therefore we have to deal with uncertainties.  According to the US-American geologist Laurence C. Smith, we need at least ten years to attain a solid scientific consensus. But do we have the time to wait?

A non-linear and stochastic chain of effects is one of the four characteristics of systemic risks. Those are complex, uncertain and ambivalent. The other three characteristics are related to climate change:

  1. Climate risks are global in character, it doesn’t matter where and by whom greenhouse gases are emitted. Each individual, you and me, contributes to this problem in a small amount, but combined, we cross the boundary. The negative, and maybe positive, effects occur globally.
  2. Climate risks are tightly connected with other economic and social crises phenomena. They enforce droughts, floods and famines, but also increase the possibility and potential of extreme weather events. A rising sea level endangers coastal areas. For a better overview, I recommend the Global Risks Interconnection Map, developed at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
    ( https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/01/what-are-the-top-global-risks-for-2016 )
  3. Climate risks are underestimated and do not lead to a change of our behaviour. Until the present moment, the emission increase almost continuously, together with the risk of a climate change. Those changes occur insidious, which is a problem for our perception that is evolutionary focused on sudden changes and dangers. Thanks to the cognitive dissonance reduction, we don’t have mental stress, when we violate our own moral values and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. What is your carbon foot print?

When we want to achieve sustainability, the transition doesn’t only depend on new and more efficient technologies, we also need a change of our behaviour and habitus. Otherwise rebound effects might compensate all the saving, achieved by an intensified production.

That’s why, I want to finish with a quote by Mahatma Gandhi:
“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves”

How we can remake ourselves, will be the content of another article.

This article is mainly based on the books “Chemical Technology” by Dr. Peter Wasserscheid / Dr. Andreas Jess (source of the picture), “The World in 2050 – Four Forces Shaping Civilization’s Northern Future” by Dr. Laurence C Smith, and “Das Risikoparadox – Warum wir uns vor dem Falschen fürchten” by Dr. Ortwin Renn (sadly there is no English translation).

 

Five Trends Driving Change in Research for Development

Editor’s Note: Here, our Executive Director Jennie Dodson explains some of the recent work she has been doing for The UK Collaborative on Development Sciences (UKCDS), focussing on how five trends driving change in research for development relates to early-career scientists and NESSE.

Last year was a pivotal moment for global development. With several agreements relevant to sustainable development signed and a changing funding landscape, I wanted to understand how these may affect the sector. So over the past few months, I’ve had the privilege to speak to thought-leaders around the world to explore what changes will affect research for development over the coming decade.globe-1348777_1280

These fascinating discussions have enabled me to write and launch the UKCDS briefing ’Five trends driving change in research for development’, exploring the key drivers of change and challenges that lie ahead:

  1. A new global development landscape with a commitment to science and technology at its heart but a need for a clear global research agenda to deliver on the ambition.
  2. Uneven, but rising global investment to research and innovation leading to changing geographies of partnership and driving calls for southern-led agendas and research management.
  3. A fragmented and rapidly changing development landscape with rapid economic development, rising inequality or increasing fragility occurring in different countries that could lead to tensions in the focus of development research agendas.
  4. The potential for transformative innovation through social and technological ideas may drive funding, butavoiding hype and scaling successful ideas are imperatives.
  5. ‘Wicked’ problems and interdisciplinary research driving the need for new cultures but also challenging incentives around excellence and impact.

In the UK, new funding sources such as the Global Challenges Research Fund, Ross Fund and expansion of the Newton Fund demonstrate a desire to invest in ‘global public goods’ and support excellent research that has impact with partners around the world. It is an opportunity to conduct transformative research around difficult to untangle ‘nexus’ topics. But, it will require careful effort to respond to these drivers.

What have we learned?

We need better analysis and join-up of existing research funding in low- and middle-income countries. We need a deeper understanding of different models and pathways to ‘healthy’ research & innovation systems for inclusive economic growth and sustainable development to support the best investments by low-, middle- and high-income countries. We need to look at the incentives in funding, publishing and career progression to enable different types of impactful research to flourish. We need to identify the key areas where research can add value around ‘wicked problems’ or nexus topics. We need to improve practice in the scaling, translation and implementation of research & innovation in different contexts.

What does this mean for early-career scientists and NESSE?

Here are four areas that I think our community needs to work on to utilise the opportunities and tackle the challenges highlighted in these trends.

  1. Support new career paths in sustainable science and technology. These trends demonstrate that there will be increasing numbers of careers and funding in sustainable science and innovation. Sustainable Science careers are the jobs of the future in academic, industry and government and we need to support people to forge these new career paths.
  2. All scientists need to be trained in sustainability. We all need a broader vision and understanding of the economic, social and environmental impacts of the research we are developing. We can no longer view science as an activity separate from social, environmental and ethical implications and this needs to be integrated into our training.
  3. We have solutions. We need to demonstrate and communicate to the world that we have solutions that can create a positive, prosperous and sustainable future for us all. To make these reality we need to call for the long-term funding and policies to develop and scale these solutions to rapidly make them a reality.
  4. We need a culture change. Early-career scientists need to be at the table in science and research organisations to focus efforts on the transition to a science culture that supports open science, interdisciplinarity and tackling ‘wicked problems’.

What do you think NESSE could be doing to help move the momentum forwards more rapidly? Please, let us know!