Interview with Pablo Jensen, Ecological Transition Project manager

Interview with Pablo Jensen, Ecological Transition Project manager

Thu, 20/10/2022


Pablo Jensen was appointed to his new position as of September 1, 2022, for a term of 18 months.

Director of research at the CNRS, originally a physicist specializing in nano-sciences, he listened to his curiosity and turned to other disciplines, moving from physics to social sciences: transport economics, complex systems and then to ecological issues, making full use of both his scientific spirit and personal commitment. We were pleased to interview this open-minded and dedicated gentleman.

Q: What motivated you to accept this position as a transition manager?
A: This position is the logical continuation of my commitment, alongside my colleague Freddy Bouchet, to raise awareness and make things happen in the School concerning the issues of ecological transition. We launched the ecological transition group in 2019, and one year later, the Sustainable Development task force was created for the Principal’s office, then a steering committee and working groups were set up so that we could come up with a roadmap last spring. Today, the idea is that this roadmap will be deployed in all the activities of ENS de Lyon, working on reducing its carbon impact of course, but also in the implementation of its training and research work. My goal is to accelerate this transformation process at ENS de Lyon.

Q: What is your vision for this role?
 A: I would like to build on what the School is, namely a small establishment, with rich and varied expertise and exceptional means, allowing for experimentation and creation. We must look at all our approaches, to transform our ways of researching, teaching, working, studying, and living on campus. It is much deeper and more ambitious than adding a field of research or training: the question of ecological transition must be present in all our practices. We must also reinvent the way knowledge is developed, involving the rest of society, to better contribute to the transformation of our societies. This is what we wanted to promote with the Summer Days of Committed and Connected Knowledge that took place at the end of August at the School.
We must involve students, who will be the key players of the ecological transition and give them the tools to influence these issues of tomorrow. On the training side, we therefore have a double challenge: to ensure that all students leave the School with an acute awareness of the depth of the transformations underway and the tools to face them, and to invent in-depth training for those who want to engage in them. On the research side, it is a question of promoting research on these themes and, more generally, of encouraging colleagues to reflect on the place of their activity in the socio-ecological changes that are underway.

Q: What are the specific first actions that will be put in place?
A: The institution is committed to applying for the DD&RS (Sustainable development and Social responsibility) label. This demanding and ambitious approach, led by Vincent Baas at the Principal’s Office, will enable us to establish a "checklist" of actions and criteria on which we will be able to rely on to move towards reducing our carbon emissions and adapting our training and research content. For example, the label asks us to set up mandatory courses on ecological issues.
Current courses on the challenges of the ecological transition have already been included in our offer and will be highlighted in our programs. A module on ecological transition has been set up for the 4th year program of the ENS diploma. All first-time entrants will be introduced to these issues in January, during the extra-curricular week we are currently working on. I would encourage you to check out the round table held around Dennis Meadows on September 19. As far as research is concerned, ENS de Lyon will soon have a junior chair focusing on ecological transition. Finally, the awareness-raising actions initiated last year by the Daily Life group will resume and be developed further. We will offer lunchtime conferences several times a year, with people from inside and outside the School. An upcoming date to note is Natacha Gondran’s conference, on November 28. She is a member of the EVS laboratory, professor and sustainable development delegate of the École des Mines de Saint-Etienne. She will talk about the assessment of the pressures exerted by human activities on the environment and the capacity of local, national or international ecosystems to take responsibility. Also scheduled are lectures by Karine Michel (chemistry lab) and Myra Hird, visiting professor at the Collegium.

Q: Bruno Latour has recently passed away; he was considered the intellectual of the new climate regime. You knew him, how did his work inspire you?
In a nutshell, Bruno brought evidence to light and opened avenues to explore, which we were aware of, but we hadn’t necessarily had the guts to investigate them. We will pay tribute to him on October 27, by presenting texts that have changed our way of seeing the world and engaging with it. This is a way to promote his work and to show its fruitfulness. I will even explain how he taught me what atoms are!