Organisation - September 19, 2019

'Nature-based is amarketing slogan'

Tessa Louwerens

The green ideas WUR stands for appeal to PhD candidate Alexandre Wadoux. But he does sometimes wonder how deep they go. Hence his proposition: ‘WUR promotes nature-based solutions only if this bring high profits in the future.’

PhD candidates are required to append a few propositions to their thesis. In this feature, they explain the thinking behind their most provocative proposition. This time it’s the turn of Alexandre Wadoux, who obtained his doctorate for his research on optimization for geostatistical mapping of environmental variables, such as rainfall.

‘I think WUR is a very market-oriented University and that Nature-based solutions is a marketing slogan meant to attract external funding, rather than a genuine goal. For me a university should be a non-profit organization and the main focus should be on education and research for the benefit of society. I’m from France, where universities are still mainly funded with public money.
I question the influence of the agricultural lobby on the research developed at WUR. Can nature-based solutions be implemented if the research is funded by parties with specific interests? One example is the recent appointment of Louise Fresco, chair of the executive board of WUR, to the board of Syngenta, a multinational that produces seeds and agrochemicals. Can a nature-based solution be implemented at WUR if it goes against the profit of this company? I don’t know the answer but I do think we must ask ourselves these questions.

I question the influence of the agriculture lobby on WUR research

It is important to find a balance. When I first wrote my proposition I focused mainly on financial profit but decided later to leave it open. It provoked discussions with my colleagues, who argued that some nature-based solutions don’t always deliver financial profits, but they do profit society. I liked this discussion, because the whole idea of a proposition is to provoke debate.’