It's with such a heavy sad heart that we at Stable Planet Alliance mourn the grievous loss on 29 January, 2023 of a treasured member of our team, the deservedly famous, thoughtful, kind, gentlemanly and twinkle-eyed global change scientist, Will Steffen of the Australian National University.
Will was an intellectual patron of Stable Planet Alliance, and among the most influential thinkers of this past century. Among many other things, Will ran the Stockholm-based International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme and led its entire body of global change work. He gave rise to (and advanced) the concepts of planetary boundaries with Johan Rockstrom, the Anthropocene with Paul Crutzen, and tipping points with Tim Lenton and others. All of these have become so influential in ecology, economics, and the future of civilization, and they are deeply important to our work on reducing human planetary impact to keep a stable Earth, a stable climate, and a stable society.
Inviting Will onto our board as a patron, I had many wonderful chats with him. He was an absolutely lovely person and a deep critical thinker. I am so grateful that, despite already battling pancreatic cancer, and imagining himself "getting a tad old," he agreed enthusiastically to join us. And yet he remained a lively and keen thinker, a product, no doubt, of his rock and ice climbing history and his deeply collaborative work.
Will nonetheless did not suffer fools and corrupt interests gladly. I liked this quote of his, which The Guardian picked up last week:
“The students are right. Their future is being threatened by greed of the wealthy fossil fuel elite, the lies of the Murdoch press, the weakness of our political leaders. These people have no right to destroy my daughter’s future and that of her generation.”
Let us please all honour Will's legacy by carrying forward his, and global change science's, legacy in stabilizing our planet, climate and civilization.
Photo: Will Steffen by his wife Carrie Steffen, as appeared in The Washington Post.
A fuller account of Will's professional and personal life is in this thoughtful, short piece by @RachelPannett in the @WashingtonPost: https://www.washingtonpost.com/obituaries/2023/01/31/will-steffen-death-climate-scientist-professor/ - and in Will's Wikipedia entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Will_Steffen.