What role might Universities play in the “small-p politics” of the environment? This is the subject of a piece in today’s The Australian in which I am quoted as saying, academics should foster informed debate but not be “advocates of a particular perspective”.
Professor Peter Fairweather from Flinder’s University is quoted, “We (academics) have to primarily give the scientific view first because nobody else can really do that.”
I note the word “scientific view”. I would like to think it was a poor choice of words.
It seems to me that academics increasingly confuse evidence, facts, theories and hypothesis, from arguments, from knowledge. Then there is opinion and there are views. And then there is the truth.
The Professor goes on to suggest that, when scientists spoke in the policy debate they should make this clear since as citizens they did not “necessarily have any more importance than anyone else, because everyone’s got a view of what we should do policy-wise,” he said.
What waffle! There are views and views and views. But it requires discipline and knowledge to build a robust argument.
The piece in The Australian is reporting on a decision by the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee to consider a role for universities in environmental politics.
I do think it is good the issue is being considered. But let us not pretend that Universities are not already involved in environmental politics. I know a professor in a Life Science Faculty that has unashamably very publicly driven campaigns for WWF.