Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: For a sustainable and biodiverse future

In August 2021, the United Nations Intergovernmental Group of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC) published a report that, after analyzing more than 14,000 scientific articles, found that this phenomenon is widespread, rapidly advancing and intensifying. We are already experiencing the consequences of global warming of 1 ° C, and for this reason, the report urges limiting it to 1.5 ° C, for which it is necessary to reach a zero emission in 2050 . If no action is taken and the rate of greenhouse gas emissions is maintained, by 2100 warming may be between 3 ° C and 4 ° C. The consequences would be more than catastrophic.

Meanwhile, life continues to occur in a cycle that it would be naive to call infinity. Biodiversity is the wealth that sustains all life on the planet, and we, the inhabitants of the Earth, use it to prosper. But it is only men and women who, on a daily basis, face decisions that, in the short and long term, cumulatively or punctually, impact this network. From the micro-use public transport or car; buy or not new clothes, recycle – even the most global, people, companies and governments must bear costs, but what does not change is the fact that, without adequate quality of ecosystems, their productive capacity for human benefit it looks and will be severely limited, affecting generations to come.

With this objective in mind, the CMPC Chair for Biodiversity and Sustainable Development was recently created within the framework of Endowment UC . “This chair is very important for several reasons. In the first place, it highlights a really substantive issue in the University’s Development Plan for the coming years, and puts it from a research format, of the in-depth training of our students and of the contribution to the country. Second, we have this commitment from CMPC to collaborate with the endowment of the university through the hiring of professors who develop this subject.. And the endowment of the university means an endowment fund that looks to the future. We are working on diversity and sustainability, but also on the long-term sustainability of the institution, therefore, I think these two aspects go together perfectly well in this chair ”, stated the rector Ignacio Sánchez after the launch of this initiative, the last December 7.

On the same occasion, the president of CMPC , Luis Felipe Gazitúa , expressed his enthusiasm for the chair and for what this collaboration implies: “I think that we have a major brand challenge in the world, which is to combat climate change , naturally, and alsomake productive development compatible with the care of biodiversity, and I believe that the close relationship with the academy, in this case with the Catholic University, is a very important and very productive way to establish ties that allow research, search and exchange of experiences , and it also challenges us to do things better ”.

Biodiversity, a key aspect of development

Biodiversity , explains the professor of the Faculty of Agronomy and Forestry Engineering Cristián Bonacic , corresponds to all forms of life that inhabit the planet . Without them, ecosystems, and the many benefits they bring to humanity, would not exist. Sustainable development, meanwhile, implies, in simple terms, that the use and enjoyment of nature made by one generation does not deprive the following of doing the same , indicates the academic director of the chair and also a teacher of said faculty , Rodrigo Arriagada : “The concept of development is, by definition, multidimensional. ‘Development’ is not the same as ‘growth’; a country can grow economically speaking, but the latter is one more ingredient for development (…) Adding the adjective of ‘sustainability’ is that it can remain. Sustainable development is an issue of equity between generations ”.

This intrinsic link between biodiversity, sustainability and well-being has been progressively being recognized at the global level. A milestone in this regard was the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity , which is the first international treaty to cover all aspects of this issue, from the conservation and sustainable use of biological resources to access to biotechnology and security in activities related to living modified organisms. Today, the United Nations 2030 Agenda includes among its Sustainable Development Goals the conservation of biodiversity for human well-being. Likewise, in 2012 theIntergovernmental Scientific-Regulatory Platform on Ecological Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, IPBES , which fulfills a role similar to that of the IPCC in that it provides assessments on the state of knowledge of the planet’s biodiversity, ecosystems and the benefits they deliver to humanity, as well as tools and methods to protect and sustainably use natural resources. “For the first time it is understood that it is not one or the other. The protection of nature is a human responsibility ”, says Cristián Bonacic. “The benefits that nature provides are essential to face climate change and the multiple challenges, such as environmental pollution and the deterioration of the productive capacity of ecosystems to produce food.”, Adds the also veterinarian and PhD in Zoology from the University of Oxford.

For his part, Piergiorgio Di Giminiani , PhD in Anthropology from University College London and associate professor at the UC School of Anthropology, argues that biodiversity is a concept that has an extreme ascendant at multiple levels for the human being: “In the beginning there is a material value; Without a minimum of protection of biodiversity, many economic activities will not be sustainable. But even more important is that biodiversity explains the variety of the world at all levels, social, cultural, economic . Without having a conception of the need to protect it, we are denying the biodiversity of human experience, of society, of many elements ”.

Hence, the gaze is set today onhow to promote the conditions that allow this wealth to unfold at a general level and not in, as it used to be, to protect only certain species. Di Giminiani points out, for example, that wetlands used to be dried up to make room for agriculture; Today, on the other hand, a consensus has been reached that they must be safeguarded because it is recognized that they create conditions for the existence of multiple forms of life.

Knowledge to live
In caring for the environment, the whole of humanity is involved: each person, each company, each government, each organization, leaves a mark on the environment, and for that impact to be positive, key aspects emerge, such as knowledge, education and collaboration. . ” The knowledge that is needed to make decisions about sustainable development is quite sophisticated and complex , because it has a high scientific-technical component, as in climate change, and a high ethical and moral component,” says the professor at the Institute for Development Sustainable Francisca Reyes. In this sense, the doctor in International Relations from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, explains that the academy has several central and irreplaceable roles in this matter. One of them, naturally, is the generation of knowledge. Dr. Reyes explains that, at present, we not only know what is happening and why, but we have also been able to develop innovation and alternatives for change that offer the hope of achieving a better relationship with the environment. Without the innovation that emanates from knowledge, for example, energy matrices would still be exclusively anchored in fossil fuels. In the same way, the study of nature-based solutions, that is, those natural systems or processes used to help achieve social objectives,Up to 30% of the climate mitigation needed by 2050.

But there are two other inseparable aspects of university work that need to be paid attention to: education and the exchange of knowledge with society . “Knowledge is the master key, but without a doubt education is very necessary, because these challenges are deeply anchored in micro decisions that are made at the individual level; They are not decisions that can only be made by a group of managers or scientists, they require changes in the behavior of human beings at the individual level. Education then seems to be a key element. Lastly, I thinkA great challenge is for the scientific community to be able to become more actively and permanently involved with the different levels of society that require information to make decisions, and very centrally are those who make decisions at the executive and legislative levels , for of course ”, the teacher says.

Cristián Bonacic and Rodrigo Arriagada agree, for their part, that interdiscipline and collaboration is also essential when addressing this issue, aspects that the CMPC Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Chair wants to highlight, which will include the hiring of a professor . “Biodiversity conservation is not only a biological discipline, but requires knowledge of the social sciences, philosophy, ethics and economics . I am very optimistic that a working group on biodiversity conservation can be createdwith the academics who are already in the university who can host and support the work of this new academic who is integrated under the logic of an endowment ”, says Bonacic. Arriagada, for his part, highlights that this model, together with conceiving a new way of collaborating between the university and the company, will establish a place of collaboration within the university: “The chair will also produce that space for academics from other faculties to we can sit down and think together about complex socio-environmental problems ” .

For his part, Pedro Bouchon , Vice-Rector for Research at the Catholic University, highlights that this type of initiative contributes topromote “conversations between the private world, academia, between the State, also of course in interaction with civil society , and in this way to understand what the development needs are; from these conversations, to generate actions, possibilities, to be able to understand as a university how we have to be reacting to the demands of the population ”.

The CMPC Biodiversity and Sustainable Development Chair is part of the UC Endowment , which seeks to expand the work of the Catholic University, giving it sustainability over time. The endowment, or endowment fund, will be used to promote research and academic development on campus, as well as to deliver more and better scholarships to students who require them. This initiative is joined by the Antofagasta Minerals Water Sustainability Chair and the Entel Digital Transformation Chair , which seek to strengthen the multidisciplinary research carried out at the Catholic University in matters related to water management and climate change, and the digitization process. , respectively.

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