»I refuse to be pessimistic«
My current research revolves around topics that I have been passionate about for many years. Growing up in a small town, I roamed the woods, caught frogs, and watched Heinz Sielmann’s Expeditionen ins Tierreich (Expeditions into the Animal Kingdom) for as long as I can remember. Although my involvement in nature conservation started at a young age, today I try to maintain a more neutral perspective. Global diversity loss is a huge concern for me. However, I think it is difficult to judge certain processes that contribute to this problem – such as some agricultural methods – because they also produce goods that are essential to people’s lives. It is important to strike a good balance. As a scientist, I want to produce knowledge that helps decision makers and other key members of society make informed decisions.
I am astonished at how little we know about the critical relationship between humans and nature. In Europe, when we decide to cut subsidies for intensive farming, but the consumption of agricultural products either remains the same or increases, then this means that deforestation rates will increase in countries like Brazil, Argentina, or Paraguay, because we need to import more soybeans for animal feed, for instance. Thus, in my project funded by the Einstein Foundation, we examine agricultural expansion and intensification processes at the global level and investigate their impact on biodiversity loss in different international regions. It is critical to have knowledge about these types of feedback processes, in order to align our resource consumption with goals for ecosystem protection.
If you talk to people who have been working in the field of conservation biology for some time, you will not meet many optimists. For decades, ecosystems have faced mounting pressure, which has already led to the loss of different species and incredibly unique landscapes. At the same time, we have learned that there are a wide range of options to get our consumption to line up with conservation targets. Especially now that I am the father of two children, I refuse to be pessimistic, even though our society needs a much more fundamental transformation than anything that currently seems possible. With my research, I want to contribute to a better understanding of the impact of our activities on biodiversity and therefore find pathways to a more sustainable future. I am convinced that we will be able to achieve this transformation.
Credits: Pablo Castagnola