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A Chat With Shahid Naeem, CERC’s Director of Science

Nicholas Jackson, an associate editor for the Atlantic, recently interviewed Dr. Shahid Naeem, CERC Director of Science, as part of the Atlantic’s 9 ½ Questions series.

Dr. Shahid Naeem

In candid conversation, wrought with his usual humor and wit, Naeem discusses topics ranging from the critical role of life on Earth and trends in sustainability to Taylor Swift, his own personal “Science Hall of Fame” and being called a tree-hugger.

Naeem, who is also a Professor of Ecology at Columbia University, comments on the radical shift from striving to understand how species evolve and where they fit on the majestic tree of life, to a modern emphasis on documenting why organisms matter and how they influence or respond to environmental change. While Naeem’s own research is focused on uncovering the traits that make species unique and explaining how they function, he shares his reservations about this trend (moving away from the intrinsic value of species to a more utilitarian view), in that it tends to view the whole world as a system designed only to serve one species (us) among nearly 10 million others.

Naeem also discusses popular concepts in conservation and sustainability from biodiversity hot spots and biofuels, to ecosystem goods and services.

Naeem concludes the interview on a more personal note, sharing his love for artistry inspired by nature, views on the dichotomy between basic science and gadgets and gizmos, and obsession with a pop song he may wish to forget.

Visit the Atlantic for the full interview.

Science for the Planet: In these short video explainers, discover how scientists and scholars across the Columbia Climate School are working to understand the effects of climate change and help solve the crisis.
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