Dr. Hassan Virji, Director of the Global Change System for Analysis, Research and Training (START), shared about the essential ingredients of earth system research for sustainability at a seminar on transdisciplinary research, transformative change and leadership jointly organized by the University of the Philippines Los Baños, World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and the OML Center last October 14, 2013 at UPLB, Laguna.
Dr. Virji emphasized that there is a new sense of urgency and pressure to contribute to real-world problem solving given the complex challenges for earth system science in times of transformative change. These challenges include feeding the earth’s population within sustainable planetary boundaries, valuing and protecting nature’s services and biodiversity, transitioning to low carbon societies and adapting to a warmer and more urban world. He said that scientific disciplines from natural and social sciences will have to collaborate among each other and with relevant societal groups in order to define the important integrated questions, and to explore together successfully pathways towards global sustainability. Such integration is an iterative process that involves reflection among all stakeholders.
There have been efforts to address issues of transformative change, which includes the Cities at Risk Program of START. This program lies at the interface of science-policy and practice and aims to build adaptive capacities for managing climate change risks in coastal cities in Asia and Africa.
He culminated his presentation with a statement made by Todd Reubold in the 2012 Momentum Magazine of the University of Minnesota: The future is not something that happens to us. The future is something we create with every choice.
After his presentation in UPLB, he visited the OML Center office to discuss possible project collaboration with the Center.
About Dr. Hassan Virji
Dr. Virji holds academic degrees from the Universities of Dar es Salaam, Nairobi and Wisconsin. He was on the academic and research faculty at the University of Nairobi and the University of Wisconsin, and was a Senior Fellow at the Wissenschaft Kolleg in Berlin. He has worked as the Program Director for the Climate Dynamics Program of the US National Science Foundation, Deputy Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, and Executive Secretary of the US Inter-agency Subcommittee on Global Change Research where he was involved in setting up the US Global Change Research Program.
He is a Lifetime National Associate of the National Research Council of the National Academies of the USA and a member of the Governing Boards of the International Centers of excellence located at CSIR/South Africa and the Academia Sinica/Taipei. Dr Virji is also a member of the International Steering Board of UK-based Education, Learning, and research for Humanitarian Assistance, and member of the Board of Civilian Research and Development Foundation of USA. He serves on the editorial boards of “Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability” and “Advances in Climate Change Research”.