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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

System thinker: For Wolfgang Lucht, the dignity of the human being is not possible without the dignity of nature

Prof. Wolfgang Lucht is founding member of IRI THESys, Co-Chair of the research domain "Earth System Analysis" at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) and teaches at the Geography Department of the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

English Deutsch

Who are we? What do we want to be? And how do we use our freedom? Those are not only questions for a philosopher, but also for a natural scientist who is following a holistic approach in his thinking. The physicist Wolfgang Lucht is an expert in earth system analysis and since July 1st 2016, he is also a new member of the German Advisory Council on the Environment (SRU) of the German government together with six other professors from different disciplines. In the coming four years, the council will be observing the state of the environment and the environmental policy measures that were taken from a scientific point of view, they will be critically commenting on those measures, but also warn if developments are going in the wrong direction. For Wolfgang Lucht the latter is often a disrespectful treatment of nature by society. He therefore developed a personal motto for his term of office: "The dignity of human being is not possible without the dignity of nature."

Why we have to think in systems – Lucht’s position in the Environment Council

Even though the Environmental Council has not yet agreed on its focal points, Lucht already knows which issues he will put into play: "On the one hand I expect from our political leaders that the energy transition is going to be further developed with all necessary strength." In switching to renewable energy sources as alternatives to coal, gas and oil Lucht sees a pioneer project for transformative environmental policies with which an industrialised country can demonstrate that a fundamental change is possible. "On the other hand I would appreciate it if the engagements of citizens were better integrated in environmental policy making. Actors with a weak voice who have important points to raise should get more attention."

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As an expert for Earth system analysis, Lucht always thinks mankind and environment together (credits: Pixabay)

His most important matter of concern is to strengthen systematic thinking in the debate, so that the whole picture is looked at instead of singular problems. Lucht says: "We should not look at nitrogen, water and forest independently and thereby overlook their connections; we should not de-couple humans from the environment or see Germany detached from global interrelations." Environmental, social and economic aspects have to be seen together in order to develop holistic solutions.

Applied to political practice, environmental policies should not only be understood as measures for environmental protection, but as an integral part of the whole political system. Lucht is convinced that within society there is a high level of support for the concept of sustainability; however the policy has to find ways to make sustainability financially feasible. "Somebody who accepts very low wages should not be surprised about low quality food whose production often does not fulfil environmental standards." Environmental policies therefore need accompanying social-political measures, so that socially disadvantaged parts of the population are enabled to participate in the idea of sustainability – the great transformation is only possible with the society as a whole.