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Interviewer: Okay, well the first question is just to find out from you when you first became interested in environmental change issues – what is it personal or political or professional? What first sparked your interest?
Thomas Harttung: Well, I’m a farmer, and I studied agriculture at the Agricultural University in Copenhagen and it, my interest in this goes back to my school days, really. It was a fascination with photosynthesis, as a principle, and so one of the deepest governing principles of this planet. So I became… I decided to study agriculture, actually for philosophical reasons rather than practical reasons. And that’s followed me all along.
Interviewer: So can you tell us something about what you’re working on right now and what motivates you in this work? Or what concerns you?
Thomas: Well right now, I’m trying to develop innovative approaches in agriculture, to deal with climate change. And to actually view agriculture as a system, which can manage carbon and can play an active role in managing carbon at the global level. And I’m inspired by other people’s enthusiasm and by good science and big ideas.
Interviewer: And what about concerns in this work? Do you have any concerns in your work?
Thomas: Of course I have concerns, but the urgency of the climate issue actually brushes away the concerns. Which… the concerns could be are we using our resources where, and am I, is my time always well spent in this or should I rather spend time with my children and have a less hectic schedule. So I think that, yes, one of my concerns is that you can become so engulfed in this issue that you lose yourself.
Interviewer: So what do you anticipate working on in relation to these environmental issues in say a year, and again five years from now, and then in ten years’ time?
Thomas: I’m, I should be working very carefully to come up with a specific model of agriculture that will address these issues, in a novel way. So that will be… I will be spending most of 2010 doing that, in a number of different manners, but that will be the main emphasis of my work. And five years from now, I will still be looking into issues of that nature but probably more in an advisory role, or a mentoring role, than what I’m doing right now.
Interviewer: And in a decade? Where do you hope to be in a decade with your work?
Thomas: In a decade, I’ll spend most of my time inspiring my children, who’ll be grown up by then, to live happy lives and that will be my main task.
Interviewer: So on a sliding scale between optimism and pessimism, in terms of our or humanity’s capacity to act on global environmental change issues, where would you put yourself as you look out over the next decade?
Thomas: I’m an incurable optimist, so I believe that we will make the changes necessary to overcome the, this crisis. But I also know that the solutions will come from a surprising source, from a surprising corner, you should say, and with a surprising content and at a surprising moment. So there’s that very high level of unpredictability, but the potential is there and it will happen. That may sound a bit cloudy, but I’m definitely an optimist on this; we will be able to solve this problem.
Interviewer: Do you think the surprising source might be somehow related to food or food production?
Thomas: Yes, it will… it will be about how we deal with the natural world and it will be, some people said it’s… our job is to basically to, as a species, to reintegrate ourselves into the natural world. We’ve tried as a species, now, to basically leave the natural world and create a modern civilisation, which was separated from the natural world. And the solution, I believe, will come from repatriating ourselves into the natural world.