WHY We Need SELIS (Study consortium for Earth-Life Interactive System) Now?
(Director of SELIS, Professor, Hydrospheric Atmospheric Research Center (HyARC))
As scientists work towards solving the current global environmental issues, there is a great need for a more complete understanding of the earth system. To achieve this aim it is essential to establish and promote a synthetic science of the Earth-Life Interactive System – a science that treats the close interaction between the atmosphere, the hydrosphere, the geosphere, and the biosphere. James Lovelock, a British environmental scientist, proposed the radical new “ Gaia” concept- a proposal that the Earth’s environment is actively controlled by the biosphere. However, the extent and ways in which the real earth system behaves like “Gaia” remain major unresolved issues. The mission of the new institute SELIS (Study consortium for Earth-Life Interactive System) is to achieve a deep understanding of the earth system – a system on which all the living creatures depend - and through this to propose a new discipline to study our planet Earth.
Current advances in the earth environmental studies have been achieved both by application of physical and chemical principles independently applied to earth sciences, and also by application of ecology and physiology based on biological sciences. However, there has been, so far, no framework for promoting studies on “Earth-Life Interactive System” where these two independent fields of science are synthesized and integrated. This issue is particularly acute in Japan, where academic sectionalism is reinforced by vertical divisions based on segmentalized sciences that extend through both research and education. The most urgent issues to be tackled are, therefore, to break down this status quo, and to establish a new framework for research and education that will enable us to work towards a synthetic understanding of the earth environment system through close collaboration of the earth and biological sciences. Fortunately Nagoya University can already count some important achievements related to SELIS through the 21st COE program (e.g., in climate-ecosystem interactions); this is a firm base on which to build and develop the new SELIS.
The departments and institutes contributing to SELIS are the Hydrospheric Atmospheric Research Center (HyARC), the Solar-Terrestrial Environment Laboratory (STEL), the Center for Chronological Research (CCR), the Graduate School of Environmental Studies (GSES) – all of which participated in the 21st COE SELIS program - and the Graduate School of Bio-agricultural Studies (GSBS) – an important new addition – which together will underpin research and education of the “Earth-Life Interactive System”. Our organization is unique in Japan. We envisage SELIS playing an important role as an international base for both research and education related to studies on the earth system and environmental change in Asia. Collaboration with international global change programs such as ESSP, WCRP and IGBP will be an important part of this process. Within the university, SELIS is commited to educating students in earth environment studies, through a lecture series “Earth Study (Chikyu-Gaku in Japanese)”, cross-disciplinary seminars, and other activities.