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Forty years of Leiden environmental science

They were called 'annoying brats', the group of campaigning scientists who in 1978 founded what is now an internationally acclaimed ecological research institute. Their stories and those of the current staff of the Institute of Environmental Sciences are described in the book 'Forty years of Leiden environmental science'.

Ed Olivier
11 June 2018

Taking action

From reprimands from the Ministry of Education to small skirmishes to preserve the Hortus botanicus in Leiden. In the eyes of the administrators, they were 'annoying brats', the scientists who took many actions in the 70s to save the world from destruction. They took action against the construction of a motorway through the dunes of Meijendel and an eastern variant, the Leiden runway. In 1978, the activating scientists set up the Center for Environmental Sciences.

Valuation and threat of cancellation

Probably contrary to what the administrators had once expected, the center now is a full-fledged research institute. In 'Forty years of Leiden environmental science', Ed Olivier takes the readers on a journey through the enthusiastic and turbulent history of the CML. A history with on one moment international appreciation, the other moment the threat of closure.

In the past 40 years, the institute has provided leading ecological research with a major impact on society. For example: CML did groundbreaking work with the life cycle analysis, a method that determines the environmental impact of products. It also  provided an accessible and transparent online pesticide atlas that maps the environmental impact of pesticides on surface water. CML is also active outside the Netherlands in developing countries such as Cameroon, the Philippines and Kenya.


To this day, the researchers are still asking themselves the question whether or not their work is scientific enough. Since it's start, CML has been a pioneer in the field of industrial ecology, interdisciplinary working and socially relevant research and education. While some researchers demanded more socially relevant lectures and collaborations between disciplines in the 1970s, it is currently a requirement from financiers such as the European Union.

Book presentation during symposium 40 years of CML

The book 'Forty years of Leiden environmental science. The history of the Leiden Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), 1978 - 2018 ' is presented during the symposium on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the CML, on 28 June in the Stadsgehoorzaal in Leiden. In the morning, well-known veterans and celebrities from Leiden University present stimulating presentations, and the book presentation takes place. In the afternoon Joris Luyendijk, Bas Eickhout and Klaas van Egmond give their views on the theme Sustainability in a post-fact society endangered by populists.

programme & register for symposium

Early photo of CML taken at the Rapenburg. Left: Helias Udo de Haes, who later became Professor of Environmental sciences.
Research into the vegetation of ditch sides.
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