Laudatio Honorary Doctorate Paul Crutzen
One thing that binds your work to that of Maastricht University and me is your concern for our society and environment, your concern about how our world will develop sustainable. You know that when we are talking about sustainable development, we are talking about changes that take place in a certain time and space. For our temporal dimension, we usually take ‘one generation’ as the unit of our discussion. It happens to be that, in terms of our age, we are scientists one generation apart.
For example, I was born when you were doing your research on the influence of atmospheric changes on the depletion of the ozone layer – for which you received your Nobel Price in Chemistry later on. That groundbreaking work was taught to me during my study in Environmental Health Sciences. During my PhD research on the depletion of the ozone layer and skin cancer rates in humans, I further used theories of that work. It was also at the time of my PhD research, in 1995, that you received your Nobel Price.
So if we use the two of us as an example of ‘intergenerational’ research, what does this tell us?
From a sustainable point of view, it is a pity to realise that it takes generations of scientists to emphasize the fact that we are not dealing with our natural and social resources in a sustainable way, and to see that the societal and political response is very slow.
From a scientific point of view, however, I would say that it is due to people like you that we move forward in linking scientific endeavours to sustainable developments. For me, you are a key example of someone that keeps stressing the need to take a bigger picture by integrating various scientific disciplines. You have shown that it is possible to combine scientific depth with being socially engaged and concerned with issues as human rights, poverty, and environmental changes. By awarding you with this honorary doctorate, Maastricht University pays its deepest respect for this, and sets another step in its developments towards becoming a truly sustainable university.
But enough about your professional achievements. I recall that we first met several years ago in Grenoble, at an international class on climate change we both taught. Even more than your scientific achievements, I was, and still am, impressed by your kindness and modesty. In the current academic world, with increasing competition, bureaucracy, and backroom politics, we often forget that personal and scientific integrity and modesty can go hand-in-hand. For me, you have always been a role model, and I hope that the next generations of sustainability scientist will take you as an example as well.
Most of us in the audience are, of course, familiar with Nobel Prices. In fact, those of us that are EU citizens received a 1/500 million Nobel Price of Peace last year. I am proud to add to this the 1/6000 Nobel Price I had to share with Al Gore and 3000 IPCC scientists. However, awarding a honorary doctorate to a Nobel Laureate means that the word ‘honour’ is mainly reflecting the honour of the University and myself for being able to hand this over to you. On behalf of Maastricht University, Faculty of Humanities and Sciences, I would like to thank you again for accepting this, and look forward to our continued collaboration! Congratulations!
Prof. dr. Pim Martens, honorary promotor