I’m trying to summarise my impressions of our faculty days, and there are so many of them. I had high hopes and high expectations, and they were certainly fulfilled.
We’re an amazing bunch of people! Such breadth. I wish we could meet more often in contexts like this, where we temporarily step out of our everyday work and reflect on the role we play. Listen to wise colleagues and invited guests who offer new perspectives and points of view. It’s worth keeping in mind that no matter how ‘scientific’ we consider ourselves to be, we’re still coloured by values we have inherited and learnt. Many of the questions we ask ourselves have been shaped by a societal context.
As a university that teaches and conducts research, SLU must continuously handle the fact that forests, and our views of them, change as society changes its view of natural resources in general. We’re now in the era of sustainability and circular economy, where forests are expected to deliver a number of ecosystem services. Not least as a space for carbon storage. But, as Maria Wetterstrand rightly pointed out, opinions and wills abound and are often contradictory when it comes to how we best handle forests as a natural resource. We need to widen our perspectives.
We can all, based on our scientific approach, contribute to better conditions and solutions. Start by following the debate, reflect and discuss forests in a wider sense. I promise that you can contribute knowledge about forests and nature that will enrich many conversations.
Taking part in public discussion on forests, animals and nature also means contributing to making our research, teaching and environmental assessment known and of use to society. And we need to talk about science and the conditions of science, the fact that researchers can reach different conclusions using the same data. This is about perspectives and cannot be reduced to a question of opinion. Our role as officials at a Swedish public authority like SLU is to be objective and scientific, but also curious and creative. So – listen, learn, and grow!
Göran Ericsson, Dean, Faculty of Forest Sciences