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Science communication is key to a resilient planet

Reflections on Planet Under Pressure: a major international conference focusing on solutions to the global sustainability challenge

By Michèle Antoine, Chair, Ecsite’s Nature Group More than 3000 people met in London from 25 to 29 March to engage dialogue between international scientific researchers and a wide range of other stakeholders working for global sustainability. Three thousand others followed the conference through web streaming. Planet under Pressure (PuP) is an official lead-up event to Rio+20.

The first United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, gave all segments of society a clear blueprint for protecting the planet. Twenty years later, we can see that actions have not been delivered and the planet is in greater peril.

As strongly emphasized by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in his filmed speech during PuP conference: “Climate change, financial crisis, food, water and energy insecurity threaten society and human well-being…Policy makers failed to count on scientists. Scientist’s advice is sometimes unclear and controversial…[but] Ri +20 is a big opportunity to build Policy–Science interface.”

Scientists have heard this call. All the evidence they gather demonstrates that humanity and its behavior are putting the planet in jeopardy. Scientists understand the natural boundaries of the planet and its critical thresholds. They can describe, most accurately, the complex system in which we live. But scientists also know that disseminating their expert knowledge is not going to be enough to preserve our planet. There is an urgent need to act – to make society an effective steward of the planet.

Scientists have a duty to communicate scientific thinking on sustainable development and work on science-based solutions. But science alone is not enough. Bridges have to be built between researchers, policy makers, stakeholders and citizens. New partnerships for sustainable social equity, environmental quality and green economy, which are naturally interconnected, have to be developed. These connections between natural sciences and social sciences will require energetic research and cooperation. The end results will be better-informed policy makers, stakeholders and citizens which, of course, translate to concrete action and behavior change.

We – science communicators – have a major role to play in this paradigm shift. We know that the complexity of global climate change science can disempower the average person, but we know we have what it takes to deliver science to the people. With knowledge, we can collectively build a resilient planet for resilient people.

Visit the Planet Under Pressure conference website: www.planetunderpressure2012.net/


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