On October 14, 2021, the Institute for Environmental Sciences, in partnership with the Faculty of Science, the Section of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the Department F.-A. Forel for Environmental and Aquatic Sciences, organizes a conference: Mother Nature as Economic Mentor.

As a prelude to the Dies Academicus of the UNIGE, this lecture will be given by Prof. Louise Vet, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Emeritus Professor in Evolutionary Ecology (WUR).



Ecology is about the household - thus the economy - of nature. This old family business, in which we are only the youngest employees, has generated quite a bit of knowledge and innovations with its more than 3.5 billion years of R&D. Millions of years of evolution, adapting to many changing environments, have led to an astonishing diverse, circular, and resilient system. There is no waste in nature; cycles are closed with input from solar energy and diversity is leading.

In contrast, our own linear ‘take-make-waste’ economy is destructive, which takes its toll: material shortages, climate crisis, and loss of biodiversity and well-functioning ecosystems that we, as humans, are part of and dependent on!

The only possible road to sustainable development is one of symbiosis between ecology and economy where we translate ecological principles to human practice. Mother nature is therefore increasingly seen as an inspirator, advisor and point of reference for our new sustainable economy. How we can follow her example is a challenge and asks for more than scientific knowledge.

As scientists we must work together with the wider public, farmers, land managers, companies, decision makers. I will plea that leadership, communication, and especially positive advocacy will be vital to reach our goals of sustainability and biodiversity recovery. In fact, it's a must if we want to keep this planet habitable for all organisms, including the most invasive species ever, called Homo sapiens.

- Prof. dr. Louise E.M. Vet