Are we listening to the urgent call of humanity? As scientists? As citizens?
It was over half a century ago that humanity's view of itself was transformed by the breath-taking photographs of earth taken from outer space. They brought home to us not only earth's ethereal beauty but also its fragility in the vast expanse of the cosmos. Twenty years on, world leaders put their heads together to highlight "Our Common Future" and to assert that sustainable development was a human imperative. However, in the decades that have followed, there has been little course correction, and instead only acceleration towards peril. The scientific evidence is unambiguous that all of humanity will bear the brunt of the catastrophic environmental impacts that a small minority has caused. Tech fixes are necessary but far from sufficient. While we do not need to wait for more science, we do need action now. The call for help is urgent and clear: but are we listening?
Professor Prajval Shastri is a renowned Indian astrophysicist specialising in the study of giant black holes in distant galaxies. She believes that the cultivation of scientific thinking is for everyone and uses astrophysics as a vehicle towards that goal. She is also deeply concerned about barriers to equity in the sciences. She is Vice-Chair of the Women in Physics Working Group of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics, founder and past Chair of the Gender in Physics Working Group of the Indian Physics Association and Vice-Chair of the Executive Council of the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainable Development.
15 November 2023
The IYBSSD has been an extraordinary opportunity for the global scientific community to come together and reflect on its impact on our daily lives and on the path taken by humanity so far, and ask if our science praxis is in tune with the idea of a good society, which is what sustainable development is. Key to this process are insights from the social sciences for equity, inclusion, diversity, and decolonisation within the sciences. Going forward the United Nations has declared 2024-2033 as the International Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development, to include all sciences and all knowledge. This is a global acknowledgement that the time has come to consolidate a renewed set of principles to shape our practice in a call to action and chart a new vision of our future.