For Willem Schinkel, professor of Sociology, taking part in the climate march is a no-brainer: “Whether you study or work at EUR: we all live on a planet whose resources are being exploited. I hope that this protest will add fuel to the fire and show that change is necessary, to use a rather inappropriate metaphor.”
Schinkel sees the nature of the problem in unbridled capitalism, which is the basis for the exploitation of raw materials and the pollution of the planet. “I’d like to see our university changing its role in this: we are currently educating a capitalist elite, which will then work in industry and contribute to that exploitation and pollution. That needs to change.”
The professor hopes that there will be more scope in the bachelor Sociology for the theme of climate change but is glad that there is room in the master Engaging Public Issues to address the subject from the social sciences.
Jaïr van Nes is doing that programme and is glad about the critical theoretical approach taught in the master. “Partly thanks to my study, I now know more about how social subjects like climate change are framed. Companies like Shell like to claim that climate change can’t be prevented and is very complex, whilst making conscious choices that ruin ecosystems.”
Flying to conferences
Justine van de Beek, who is doing a PhD at the Erasmus School of Health Policy & Management, sees plenty of scope for improvement in the academic world. She is amazed, for example, about the air miles notched up by scholars: “We have a massive climate crisis, yet scholars are constantly flying to conferences abroad. When I discovered that, I was surprised to see so little awareness, particularly in a group who you’d expect to be more aware. In other areas, I think we do well: we are increasingly moving towards offering a vegan range on campus. However, I’d like to see us including the role of sustainability more in our own research.”
During the climate march, many different groups were represented: from the grandparents for climate to groups of anarchists, and from political parties to the trade union FNV. One of those groups was the healthcare block, consisting of doctors, nurses, mental healthcare workers and medical students.
Final year medical student Juliette Mattijsen was one of them. At Erasmus MC, she promotes education about the relationship between climate and health. “Climate change sometimes seems far away, but it’s about you, me, your loved ones. Climate change makes people ill. I hope that this protest will make that more tangible. We must fully include health in climate policy.”
According to Juliette, the university could play an important role in that: “We must obviously give a good example, by improving our own sustainability and reducing emissions. But we academics must also be prepared to take a political stand and include the consequences of climate change on health in the medical programme. We must do everything we can to avert this crisis and not give up on that one and a half degree warming: the climate crisis is also a health crisis.”