Old Sciences for a new type of Progress?

Friday, 17. October 2008 | 10:30 Uhr


Ernst von Weizsäcker


Donald Bren School for Environmental Science and Management, UCSB, Santa Barbara


“It is actually incredible that those who are responsible have not reacted before. Everybody knew that yearly growth rates of thirty percent are impossible in the long run. But nobody dared to question this development. We consciously ran into the crisis” mentioned Professor Ernst von Weizsäcker regarding the current financial crisis. He called to mind the fact that there are also other problems that have to be tackled urgently such as climate change, overpopulation, new pandemics, bio nanotechnologies (and their consequences) as well as dealing with new super powers such as India and China. He is especially worried about the unscrupulous manner of how Americans use fossil energies. “The government deliberately set low gas prices in the 1990’s which considerably increased mobility. Afterwards, large areas of land, far away from the cities, were built on. The consequence of this was: The commuting distances for the people, all of a sudden, doubled. And this effect led to the modern dinosaurs, the so-called SUVs. In South America, bio ethanol is produced with corn or soya in order to protect the continent’s natural resources. Due to this increase in demand, corn prices have doubled in Mexico. Once again, the poorest population segments are the losers of this development.”

Ernst von Weizsäcker

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, born 1939 in Zurich, gained his university entrance examination in 1958 from the Max-Planck grammar school in Göttingen and gained his degree in Physics in Hamburg in 1965. In 1969 obtained a doctorate in Biology in Freiburg. From 1969 to 1972 he was Scientific Adviser to the Evangelische Studiengemeinschaft in Heidelberg. from 1972 to 1975 he was ordinary Professor of Biology at the University of Essen and from 1975 to 1980 President of the University/GHS Kassel.

From 1980 to 1984, he worked as Director at the UN Centre for Science and Technology in New York and from 1984 to 1991 as Director at the Institute for European Environmental Policy, Bonn, London, and Paris. From 1985 to 1991 he was a member of the board (1988-1991, chair-man) of the Association of German Scientists. From 1991 to 2000 he was President of the Wup-pertal Institute of Climate, Environment and Energy. From 2002 to 2004, he was a member of the World Commission on the Social Dimension of Globalization, Geneva. Since 1985, Ernst von Weizsäcker has been a member of the board of trustees of the Theodor Heuss Foundation, Stuttgart and since 1992 has been a member of the Club of Rome. He has been on the board of the Association of German Scientists (Vereinigung Deutscher Wissenschaftler e.V.) since 2003 and a member of the World Academy of Art and Science since 2005.

Ernst von Weizsäcker became actively engaged in politics as long ago as the 70s. From 1998 to 2005 he was a member of the German Bundestag, constituency 259, Stuttgart I. In addition, he was Chairman of the Enquete Commission “Globalization of the Global Economy“ from 1999 to 2002 and Chairman of the Committee for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Reactor Safety of the German Bundestag from 2002 to 2005. From December 2004 to October 2005, he was spokesman of the SPD study group on Sustainable Development in the German Bundestag

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