News - February 11, 2016

Column: Moral questions

The Spot was jam-packed when Joris Luyendijk gave his talk about banking. He had a convincing message, explaining that the financial crisis was primarily due to the amoral conduct of senior bankers. And there was apparently nothing wrong with that because: ‘Everything we do is within the law so what are you worried about?’

Joris has been travelling around with this message for a year now and he says that his mailbox is full of stories from employees of listed multinationals, pharmaceutical companies, insurers and public broadcasters who say, ‘It’s just the same here too! Nobody is interested in whether our work can help solve modern-day problems; it’s all about bonuses, share prices, profits and viewing figures.’

I feel concerned and wonder: is my WUR amoral too? Everything we do is within the law, apart from the occasional fraud and a bottle deposit study that went wrong. In fact, we use science to help companies make the right choices, politicians draw up sound laws and farmers increase production efficiency. You could even say that we are working on the major, legitimate question of how to feed the growing world population. That is our moral value!


Or is it not really like that? Are we mainly working to stay in the tenure track, get a high citation score or publish in a journal with a high impact factor? Or just to keep our jobs?

The Spot was full of young people. It was disappointing to see how few lecturers, researchers and professors there were; I felt ashamed. Why don’t our senior managers and executives find this interesting?

Kees van Veluw (57) teaches Permaculture and is active in organic agriculture networks. His vision stems from his work with African farmers, his networks with Dutch farmers, his family life with his wife, three sons, dog and chickens.