Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Why I am happy to teach about ecology

Today, I will be teaching the first class in the Big Questions in Science course at Amsterdam University College. In this course, we deal with all the major areas of biology, and we try to focus on the ‘big questions’, which are often in those areas where science and society meet. The first class about ecology is a wonderful opportunity to talk about the importance of taking care of our environment.

In this class, I usually talk about the Lake Victoria disaster, which is a disaster story with a twist. We first focus on the disaster story as it is usually told, then go into the science, which shows the story is more complicated than it seems, and finally move to the management of the ecosystem, which shows that not only the biology is complicated, but the social side of it is as well. In the end, I hope to paint a more complete picture of all the things that go into taking good care of our environment.

Personally, I am very happy to be able to teach about this subject, because I think it is very important that we take good care of our environment, as well as of the people that interact with it. As a Catholic Christian, I think that God has created our planet for us to be our home, but has given us the task to take good care of it, and the task to take good care of each other. Both of these dimensions are intimately related to each other: we cannot take good care of people without taking good care of their environment, while we also cannot take good care of the environment and leave the people that live in it out of the equation, or even try to get rid of them. Only by paying full attention to both people and environment can we establish the wonderful harmony between the human being and creation that God has intended.

Interestingly, the Vatican has over the last years shown with deeds that the Church values the environment. They have for instance installed many solar panels, which have resulted in its being called “the greenest place on earth”. Pope Benedict has also been called “the Green Pope” for this reason, while Pope Francis is seemingly preparing a pastoral letter (encyclical) about the environment issue. So the environment and its inhabitants are important for the Church. All the more reason for me to be happy to be able to teach about it!

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