Jan Willem Erisman reinforces Leiden’s environmental research as new professor of Environmental sustainability
How can we best deal with the current problems caused by the human impact on the nitrogen cycle? How do we make the transition to a sustainable society? As of 1 September, nitrogen expert Jan Willem Erisman will be working on these questions at Leiden University: he will exchange the Louis Bolk Institute for the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) and become professor of Environmental sustainability. ‘It is essential to reason from the perspective of science and fact.’
Farmers' protests, a lowered speed limit, and debate after debate: ‘The nitrogen problem clearly shows how difficult it is to find a good balance between economy and nature,’ says Jan Willem Erisman. According to him, knowledge and cooperation in many different areas are needed to arrive at a well-founded nitrogen policy. ‘The most obvious, of course, is knowledge about nature and biodiversity, and the influence human activity has on them.’
But also knowledge about, for example, satellite observations, the social aspects surrounding the issue and practical knowledge about what does and does not work as measures in the sectors of agriculture, energy, mobility and industry. Furthermore, the interaction between science and politics plays an important role. Erisman: ‘In other words: quite a task for the coming years. In these kinds of issues, it is essential to reason from the perspective of science and fact. In Leiden, I would therefore like to set up a new nitrogen research programme that can contribute to new insights and concrete solutions.’
Expanding the horizon
Erisman obtained his PhD at Utrecht University in 1992 on research into the exchange of substances between the atmosphere and the biosphere. During his further career at the RIVM, Energy Research Centre of the Netherlands and as a professor at the VU University, he made a major contribution to the knowledge development about the integral nitrogen problem.
Erisman is currently the CEO of the Louis Bolk Institute, which conducts research into sustainable agriculture, nutrition and health. However, after eight years it is time for a new challenge, he says. ‘In Leiden, I will continue my research into the nitrogen problem, but I also want to expand my horizon. For example, by investigating how we should use our other resources sparingly and how we can make the transition to a sustainable society.’
CML to the next level
According to Erisman, the Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML) is a very suitable place for this: ‘The CML has been working for years on and with instruments that promote sustainability in business and agriculture. The LDE Centre for Sustainability, the collaboration with Erasmus and Delft University of Technology, offers good opportunities to make interdisciplinary scientific contributions to sustainability.’ He also looks forward to sharing his knowledge and experience in education.
Scientific Director of CML Arnold Tukker is pleased with the arrival of Erisman in Leiden. ‘He is a prominent figure in the debate on sustainable agriculture and provides top-level advice both nationally and internationally. In addition, he is enormously productive as a scientist and will immediately become one of the best-quoted scientists at our University. He can take the cluster of CML researchers working on national and global nitrogen and phosphorus flows, the impact of agriculture and food supply, and related biodiversity problems, to the next level. Furthermore, he represents a huge reinforcement for Leiden's Liveable Planet programme and the Centre for Sustainability, in particular the Greenport Hub.’
For more information see the press release of the Louis Bolk Institute (Dutch).