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Climate, Ecology and Man

One of this year’s summer academies of the Swiss Study Foundation taking place in Sils-Maria, Engadine, Switzerland is dedicated to a particularly pressing issue: climate change and how it is perceived by humans. Under the guidance of Prof. Dr. Hildegard Westphal, director of the Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT), and ZMT Leibniz Chair Prof. Dr. Bettina Beer of the University of Lucerne, 13 young German and Swiss scholars from different disciplines who were selected by the Foundation will explore this complex subject.

In small groups, the Academy participants will explore topics such as the time dimension and explanation models of climate change, past and present perception of the issue, the problem of the “sinking islands” and responsibility and compensation. The final discussion will focus on a key question: How can policymakers come to decisions in view of the remaining uncertainties in the predictions?

The ZMT and the social anthropologist Bettina Beer have collaborated closely for several years. In 2011 the Center appointed her to the first “Leibniz Chair” of the ZMT. In cooperation with the ZMT she oversees a dissertation project that investigates the perception and understanding of climate-related environmental change on the Takuu Atoll in eastern Papua New Guinea. With a population of around 600 people, it is one of the atolls most endangered by environmental change.