News - March 9, 2017

Emancipate the right

Stijn van Gils

Not once have I encountered an ecologist at the university who is really critical when it comes to the subject of nature. Everywhere I look, I see people who are all for more biodiversity and more nature conservation. Just occasionally I wonder: isn’t it a bit odd that we are the ones who get to research exactly how important biodiversity is?

Of course we do stuff with data and all that, but you certainly couldn’t call us 100 percent objective. If someone discovers a case, for example, in which biodiversity turns out not to be important at all, no time is lost in declaring that the measuring method was wrong.

We are homogeneous in other ways too. In our circles, GroenLinks (the green left party) will no doubt be the biggest winner in the next week’s elections, followed by D66 and the animal rights party PvdD. Now of course not all Wageningers are ecologists, but the vote Wageningen-wide is not much more varied than that. In 2012 the far-right PVV got less than five percent of the votes. Here the left only narrowly missed a parliamentary majority. (For the sake of clarity, I haven’t even counted D66 as left-wing).

So let’s face it: that VVD politician who reckoned science was (too much of) a left-wing bastion is quite right. We scientists are biased, we have a one-sided worldview and our worldview influences our recommendations.

That’s a problem and I think we should do something about it. Diversity matters. And if we want more women and cultural diversity in the sciences, why not more political leanings as well? The only question is: how can we attract right-wingers to an academic career?

Wait, I think I know how: with money, lots of money. So, government: I propose a big boost to academic salaries. No, not for our sakes. For the sake of the emancipation of the right.