The role of the university inpromoting sustainable productionJoel A. Tickner, ScDUniversity of Massachusetts LowellJoel_tickner@uml.edu
University researcher has a responsibilityto support sustainable productionn University has knowledge and resourcesnot available to the general publicn Public university uses public funds andthose funds should be dedicated toimproving the public goodn Researchers are both researchers andcitizensn We have a responsibility to train a newgeneration of change agents
We implicitly take sidesn “Once you are a scientist, which means as soon as you systematicallyask questions about the universe, you take a political side. There areinfinite questions that you could ask about the universe, but as onlyone scientist, you must necessarily choose to ask only certainquestions.n Asking certain questions means not asking other questions, and thisdecision has implications for society, for the environment, and for thefuture. The decision to ask any question, therefore, is necessarily avalue-laden, social, political decision as well as a scientific decision.”n Mary O’Brien, Bioscience, Nov93, Vol. 43 Issue 10, p706
Why should academic researchers supportsustainable production effortsn “ Being a scientist should not preclude you from alsoacting as a scientifically knowledgeable, active citizenin controversial democratic processes. From whoseranks should citizen activists be drawn if not fromscientists?n It is eye-opening for a scientist to participate in thepublic political processes of our country that surroundenvironmental and public health issues. However,even if you choose not to participate, you are takinga side.”
How should academic researchers supportsustainable productionn Work with public interest groups – those needingresources and supportn Undertake relevant projects to support sustainableproductionn Serve on a local or national committee or taskforcesupporting the public interestn Devote time and resources to advocacyn Train students to be strong change agents andengage them in the political process.n Just remember: “You only lose your objectivity ifyou lose your objectivity”
Benefits of “taking sides”n "One of the chief privileges of man is to speak up forthe universe" (Maclean, 1992). That is quite aprivilege.n You will be able to feel that you have paid somethingback to the world that has supported you: the air,the forests, and the sea. You will have earned yourchance to live in a democracy.n “What do they, the air, forests, and sea need you todo as a scientist, as a scientific citizen, as a person,to ensure their survival? They need you to speak upfor the universe. They need you to side with them, inthe public interest.”
Goals of Chemicals Policy andScience Initiativen Transform Science, Policy and Marketsto effect a transition to safer chemicalsand productsn Achieved through research and“strategic engagement”
Examplesn Exposure to chemicals and childhoodcancern Toward Tomorrown Clean Techn Chemicals policy reformn Green Chemistry and Commerce Council
Lessons learned from engaging in publicinterest research in sustainable productionWorking with communities:§ Need to help advocates develop positive andforward-looking messages and projects.§ Need to help advocates develop anunderstanding of the abilities and limitationsof science.§ Need to spend time with communities understudy.§ Need for open communication/listening.
Lessons learned from engaging in publicinterest research in sustainable productionBuilding capacity within academia:§ Need for strong institutional support.§ Need for funding for public interest work.§ Need for defensible, “objective” research butclear about “biases”§ Need for students, faculty, and staff withpolitical and technical experience andunderstanding.§ Need to take care in making commitments,becoming overwhelmed
Conclusionsn Critical need for public universities to support publicinterest sustainability research, providing incentivesand backing.n Important to train a new generation of changeagentsn Public interest sustainability research can be bothextremely rewarding and challenging.n Academic technical and research support is essentialfor sustainability advocacy and for public interestorganizations to have the capacity and toolsnecessary to democratically participate in decisionsregarding science and technology.