Climate change: how to pack a punch at meetings

Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.

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Scientists are keen to lower the toll their work takes on the planet (see, for example, O. Hamant et al. Nature 573, 451–452; 2019). At a recent Harvard conference on sociology and climate change, Hannah Holleman — a sociologist at Amherst College in Massachusetts — offered us a gentle reminder of how our research is embedded in everyday practices (see

In her memorable opening statement, Holleman drew attention to the debt we owe to the native peoples whose traditional homelands are now occupied by the university, the natural resources used to build the venue, the production of sustenance for the event, and the fossil fuel needed for us to convene. She pointed out that the organic materials used would return, as waste, to the land.

This unusual opening to an academic discussion landed a strong emotional punch. It was a powerful reminder — even for scholars who are well informed and deeply committed to solving the biodiversity and climate crises — of our shared responsibility and accountability. It used mindfulness as a way to amplify the urgency of that message. This approach could bear further exploration at other meetings on climate change.

Nature 577, 472 (2020)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-020-00134-0

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