Newsletter #1 March 2008

Is there a trade-off between excellence and relevance?



berkhoutThe demands made on a modern environmental researcher are greater than ever. Not only must (s)he publish in the best journals, (s)he has to raise funding against ever fiercer compe- tition and (s)he has to play a part in the keen public debates about global change and the environment. You may feel pity, but you may also feel excited. It’s the second of these emotions I tend to feel.

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Trace flame retardant levels in serum sparking discussion on human exposure.



cbIt’s another long chemical name, decabromodiphenyl ether (or BDE209) - a flame retardant that is being analyzed on a regular basis at IVM’s laboratory. The interest in this compound arises in part from the European Union’s current efforts to assess the risk this product poses to environmental and human health. The EU needs high quality monitoring data to use in risk assessment models. IVM has been analyzing the concentration of this chemical in eggs of predator birds, sewage sludge and estuarine sediments for the past two years, and has recently begun analysis of human serum samples from four European countries.

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Social capital and local environmental projects



eeLocal communities are increasingly being made responsible for the maintenance of roads, irrigation and sanitation infrastructure, water supply and schools. Community-based projects have become one of the fastest growing mechanisms of development assistance, the World Bank’s portfolio alone being estimated at USD 7 billion.

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Risk reduction should be the focus of the climate debate



spaceThe focus within the climate debate has been on mitigation strategies, in particular on the reduction of CO2 emissions. But preparing for the impacts of climate change, such as changing patterns of extreme weather will also be necessary. This view is put forward by Laurens Bouwer in a co-authored paper in Science (Confronting Disaster Losses, vol 318(5851): 753). In this paper the authors call on policymakers and scientist to pay more attention to risk reduction.

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