It was a sad day last week when we heard that Will Steffen had died from a terminal illness. He was a most significant voice for nature, reminding us time and time again that we need to live within planetary boundaries, and what the consequences are when we overstep them. Here is a message from Jenny Goldie from Sustainable Population Australia: Vale Will Steffen (The Canberra Times, 2 Feb 2023):
The death of earth systems scientist Professor Will Steffen is a tragedy not just for Canberra but also the nation and whole world.
He was a true leader in his field, particularly in the area of climate science. Long before climate change became a mainstream issue he was warning of its potential dangers.
In the past decade he has been a driving force in the ANU Climate Institute, Climate Commission (disbanded by Tony Abbott, only to be resurrected as the crowd-funded Climate Council), the Antarctic Science Advisory Committee, the Canberra Urban and Regional Futures (CURF) initiative and the ACT Climate Change Council.
At an international level, he was working on the concept of the Anthropocene with Paul Crutzen.
Will was a great communicator, making difficult concepts understandable, such as the nine planetary boundaries. He was down to earth and amiable, always willing to accept an invitation to speak if he was free.
In March last year, he addressed the Fenner Conference on Environment at ANU’s Shine Dome, warning that we are crossing even more of these boundaries.
His loss is immeasurable. Canberra has lost a citizen of the highest calibre.
Jenny Goldie, Cooma, NSW
From the Stockholm Resilience Institute at Stockholm University, we learn that:
In 1990 Steffen took up the position of Executive Officer for the Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems project of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme (IGBP). From 1998 to 2004 he served as Executive Director of IGBP and was based in Stockholm. Steffen returned to Canberra in mid-2004 and took up a Visiting Fellowship with the Bureau of Rural Sciences, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, Australian Government. A year later he joined the ANU and was the foundation director of the Fenner School of Environment and Society before serving as Executive Director of the ANU Climate Change Institute from 2008 to 2012. He is a member of the Anthropocene Working Group, which is exploring the formalization of the Anthropocene in the Geological Time Scale.
As reported in an ABC News story, he leaves an extraordinary legacy as one of the great thinkers and contributors to earth science ... More here