‘A platform where people can connect’

| Michaela Nesvarova

Scientists4Future – Twente is a new initiative founded by UT researchers. This ‘coalition of concerned scientists’ aims to support citizens and organizations in Twente with science-based information related to the climate emergency.

Scientists4Future – Twente (S4F-Twente) is a local chapter of the national Scientists4Future alliance. It was started by UT scientists Yuri Engelhardt and Evert Houwman and, after a couple of weeks of existence, involves nearly thirty researchers and students. ‘We are not necessarily an action group,’ says Engelhardt. ‘Our main goal is providing scientific information that will hopefully lead to action.’

‘Our main goal is providing scientific information’

‘We want to create a platform where people can connect and do something,’ says Houwman. ‘The issue often lies in finding like-minded people. If you are on your own, you feel powerless. With a local group like this, you feel empowered. Our main goal is to bring people together.’

Local network

Having a local initiative next to a national organization has advantages, believes (emeritus) UT professor Theo van der Meer and a ‘core member’ of S4F-Twente. ‘A national movement is abstract. Here we all know each other. There are many contacts between researchers and municipalities and companies in the region. These will flourish much better if we organize ourselves locally and combine our efforts to make real impact.’

The coalition plans to, for example, organize and give guest lessons in schools. They also want to focus on the media and on politics, to counter misinformation, and to share and explain scientific facts and considerations. ‘We have organized ourselves in circles, each focusing on a different topic,’ explains student and member Carolina Pereira Marghidan. ‘It is up to every circle to take specific actions.’

Twente-variation of the international S4F logo designed by Michelle Peters

‘Outside the scientific bubble’

S4F-Twente would also like to be active within the UT. ‘We already have a good connection with the Green Hub at the university and we are thinking of collaborating with Studium Generale to organize lectures about climate change,’ says Engelhardt. ‘But our main audience is outside of the scientific bubble. We want to stress the importance of scientific evidence to all types of decision makers, policy makers, companies and anyone we can reach.’

‘Scientists are a trustworthy source of information’

Informing people outside of the scientific community is indeed one of the primary objectives of the group. ‘It is hard for people to distinguish between the truth and fake news nowadays,’ says UT student Erik Kemp. ‘Rather than convincing people of ideas, we want to show that scientists, especially when they are working together, are a trustworthy source of information.’

The core circle of Scientists4Future – Twente on why they joined the initiative

‘I want to fight for my grandchildren’

Emeritus professor Theo van der Meer: ‘My motivation started forty years ago when I was reading The Limits to Growth. Around that time I started my career in the field of energy. I have been a scientist my entire life, I also worked as the director of the Sustainable Technology programme at the UT, and I’ve had many disappointments – the money never seemed to go to sustainable development research. Now I’m retired and funding is finally going to this research. Which is exactly what I always wanted! I struggled with this my entire life, and so when this initiative came along there was no way I couldn’t join. I love my grandchildren and I want to fight for them and their future.’

‘I don’t want to wait until I have a job to do something’

Carolina Pereira Marghidan (MSc student ITC): ‘I was learning a lot about climate change at the UT but realized I wasn’t yet doing much about it myself. I don’t want to wait until I have a job to actually do something. It is crucial to act now. I’m passionate about being part of positive change.’

‘Starting this initiative gives me hope’

Evert Houwman (researcher TNW): ‘The Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 and I thought: good, politicians finally understand and are doing something about climate change. But in 2018 nothing was happening and Greta Thunberg came, saying “I don’t want you to listen to me, listen to scientists.” I thought that scientists would speak up louder and make a difference but that didn’t happen. I was worried, I felt powerless and hopeless. I’m very worried about the future world of my children. Starting this initiative gives me hope, hope that we can achieve something.’

‘We need radical changes and we need them right now’

Yuri Engelhardt (researcher ITC): ‘There are still absolutely no signs of slowing down the increase of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. We are on the verge of reaching irreversible tipping points of damaging this planet. We need radical changes and we need them right now. As a scientist, I feel a moral responsibility to do this.’

‘Many young people want to do something, but they don’t know how’

Erik Kemp (MSc student EEMCS): ‘Yuri is someone I really trust and when he asked me to join I had to say yes. Moreover, you can see from the climate protests that many young people want to do something, but they don’t know how. I think this initiative can show them that you can make an impact by studying engineering. Engineers will be the ones solving many of the climate-related problems. This group can give them a handle on how to make real impact.’