EGY TUDÓS INTELMEI: Jordán Ferenc, hálózatkutató biológus /// Friderikusz Podcast 58. adás

EGY TUDÓS INTELMEI: Jordán Ferenc, hálózatkutató biológus /// Friderikusz Podcast 58. adás

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I'd like to welcome everyone who's with us both watching and listening. There are two parts of today's Podcast, first a theme and a related conversation, and then another example of how a person can do something for the planet, for the Earth, and sustainable development in their territory, so our series Green and Green is coming. I also ask you to sign up on YouTube by clicking the red SUBSCRIBE button below our screen, thereby supporting our work, which will cost you nothing more than one click. But if you want to support our ongoing work more actively, you can also find the "THANKS" subtitle on YouTube under the screen of our show, you can express your thanks if you click on it. - People are very rigid, people's behavior, society's behaviour is too rigid, we can't adapt.

Some people, and in a sense, it's a survival contest, we could say. Some say he/she's moving to a village, to have his/her own well, I know someone who just moved to New Zealand. Some people say they're leaving the town, they're moving to a village, so there are tiny local adaptations, but at the level of society, it's nothing. Society itself wants all kinds of epidemics to end, and everything to go on as before.

Let's drop the mask, forget these stupid vaccinations, and go back to the way we used to be. Which can cause a lot of trouble, so if you keep doing it... Nature is very wisely and completely value-neutral, so if you want to run your head against the brick wall, you can run your head against the brick wall.

- I'm talking to Ferenc Jordán, network research biologist, and system ecologist. He is a specialist with a wide international outlook and a network of contacts as a result of longer foreign scientific research work. However, when he returned from abroad as an academic doctor and academic award winner, he may have been naive in taking the lead of the Balaton Limnological Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and in his desire to do great things he wanted to make up the work of 40 years behind in two or three years, he also recruited a young professional team, while fighting against the current but traditionally unconventional Balaton policy. As a reward, he was replaced after no more than a year and a half, so although he is modestly comforted, he can tell me about the ecological state and prospects of the world and our country without any strings attached and certainly with no particular existential consequences. Ferenc Jordán was never afraid of confrontation because he was sure of his knowledge and skills, so he did not once speak openly against creating only concrete buildings around Lake Balaton, for, as he claims, the Fidesz elite and its business has been trying for years to take over the waterside of Lake Balaton. Every good professional claims that the reeds should not be wiped out, for example, and that there should not be that many luxury estates built on the shore, but at present, there is no institution that would stand up loud enough and dare to confront the world of political wills.

But, of course, there will be much more to be said about next with the network research biologist Ferenc Jordán. - You're basically, but in the good sense of the word, you're a bad guy, aren't you? - I have a sense of justice, I'll say what I really think, but otherwise, I'm very peaceful. - What's your control over confrontations? - I refuse to think of double standards, so I don't like that something is good for us, but otherwise it wouldn't be good. So that's not happening.

- There's one truth, and it leaves your mouth regardless of what it takes, whether it's necessary or not. - Yeah. - I can already see it's gonna be a good conversation, but first I'm gonna introduce your biography to our viewers. Ferenc Jordán was born in Budapest

in 1973, 49 years old, and both of his parents were economists. He has one brother, he is a mathematician professor, a doctor of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and an internationally recognized researcher. Ferenc Jordán graduated from Eötvös Loránd University as a biologist in 1996 and graduated in genetics with a summa cum laude in 1999. First, he worked at the Department of Genetics of ELTE, then worked at the Department of Plant Systemology, later worked at the Institute of Ecology and Botany in Vácrátót, then continued as a senior associate at the Hungarian Museum of Natural Sciences, then two institutes of the Ecological Research Centre of the Academy of Sciences, first Head of Department of the Danube Research Institute and the Balaton Limnological Research Institute. He speaks fluent English and Italian. He was a leading researcher

in Italy for five years and a scholar in Germany for a year. According to his biography, he was almost always free to explore what he was interested in, all kinds of ecological networks, marine food networks, group dynamics and social networks of social animals, the coherence of habitat networks, and many more, including the network analysis of the terrorist attack on the London metro network in 2005. His partner is a communication specialist, currently working for an Austrian journal and the Snétberger Foundation. He's got three kids, 18 and 20-year-old boys, college students, and his seven-year-old girl are in elementary school. The Hungarian Academy of Sciences recognized his work with the Youth Prize and Academy Award. His hobby is traveling in RV. Camping with RV? - Camping.

- So you like to travel around the country, the world, in RV? - Yeah, I like to rent an RV, look at what it looks like because there are no two identical RVs. - Really? - And then leave with the family for seven days, ten days. It's a fantastic thing, it's a different sense of life. - I'm gonna need a little more patience. For five seconds, the word goes out to our sponsor. I'm referring to a Podcast from I'm referring to a Podcast from a few weeks ago here at the beginning of our conversation.

I spoke here a few weeks ago with András Gelencsér, chemist and atmospheric researcher, and chemist and physicist Miklós Antal, in fact under the pretext that Professor Gelencsér made a very negative comment on the future of human civilization. Among other things, he said that whether we like it or not, we have to acknowledge that infinite growth and prosperity will end by 2040 at the latest and that modern civilization will be in a serious crisis. As a researcher of the world's state, I am interested in your opinion as to how realistic or exaggerating this statement is that within 18 years growth will be over, prosperity will be over, and modern civilization will be in serious crisis. - I think it will be a time of social conflict, so wars, and local conflicts. For example, for water, I think very serious and very fast, very spontaneous fights will develop. The fact that say, an oil supply runs out somewhere, then there the different countries can strategize, lobby, conspire with each other, plan there.

When the water runs out, it's a completely different situation, so when someone has to drink, a city or a country or a village runs out of water, it's a completely different situation than when any other raw material runs out. - Well, if I'm right, then these social conflicts are primarily due to the collapse and imbalance of ecology, aren't they? - That's right. So the breakdown of human and nature's relationship is what they're about. After all, this is the cause of floods, epidemics, and famine, and I think that before the water runs out, there will be war, there will be serious population movements, so I think we will feel the social effects on our skin first. The ecological effects are also coming. Of course, nature can put a lot of things in place and adapt, so there is much more to be feared for mankind than for ecosystems. I'm saying this even though I'm an

ecologist, and I can see the state of ecosystems, but they're okay, they'll always be there somehow. There will always be species that will survive, and we may leave a terrible state, but there is always a way of operating an ecosystem. Nations, villages, cities, and populations can disappear more easily. So I'm more afraid of these conflicts. - Can't you predict that in time?

So what Professor Gelencsér scheduled for 2040, you're saying it could be 2050 or even further away in the future? - In a way, we're already in it. So we are talking about a lot of different processes here. It's not a volcanic eruption that will erupt on, say, Tuesday afternoon. It's a very long,

very many parallel processes, and something's already here. There are already areas in Africa where you have to walk miles for water, and there are fights over it. - But hasn't that always been the case? Like in Africa? - These processes are getting stronger. So if there's no water in one place,

it can be solved, then one village has a bad time, and let's say they migrate, leave, it's like this, it's totally normal. But now they are becoming more common, they are appearing en masse, there is less and less food, and as we take away the natural habitat of living things, so we get closer and closer to nature, we bring the zoonotic diseases to ourselves, so epidemics are becoming more and more likely, more and more pathogens can get into people. - Are you saying that the ecosystem will be able to automatically correct itself without fundamentally affecting things? - What's a little change, and what we're causing, is that ecosystems, which are able to adapt very well, and if circumstances change, they change with them, it wouldn't be a problem, but unfortunately, human activity has a side effect that we don't let them adapt much. So it's like we tie up a boxer and start flicking his/her nose, and then he/she can't fight back. That's the situation a bit, we won't let nature react. So a lot of times, the mechanisms that the ecosystem prevents problems, are also strangled somehow.

I'll give you an example, okay? Let's just say the fact that it's getting warmer, doesn't seem to be a problem for a lot of living things, because they just move to the north or south of the southern hemisphere, so to the corners. So they can change their habitat, and that's how they react to the fact that it's getting hotter. But what we're doing is destroying their natural habitats and in the meantime, we're creating slices, so we're making these habitats more and more fragmented, and a living being just want to go north, it can't, because there's a highway there, there's a railway track, there's an airport, there's a city, so, on the one hand, we're heating it, we're telling it to go away, on the other hand, we're cutting it up and it can't go. So these combined effects are really lethal. Maybe not the fragmentation, so dismemberment or warming wouldn't

be as bad as their combination. This is what is now a qualitative change, that the many, many effects that man exerts on the biosphere, are simultaneously strengthening each other, sometimes weakening, sometimes strengthening, but they're combined. And that means living beings face challenges that are not easy to adapt to. - Let's make a parentheses comment here. I need an explanation. What do you mean by ecology in one sentence or two? - Ecology is the science of living together. Ten butterflies,

twenty birds, and four plants, when they're together, what they do to each other and their surroundings. So there's soil, there's an atmosphere, there's a lot of living things, they live together, they can... The origin of the word is that of the Greek household 'Oikos' so that they can live together under the same roof. - But human is also part of ecology,

isn't it? - Absolutely. Absolutely. We often think it's not. That's exactly how we're behaving. We think we are a part of it, but we're acting like we're not, but absolutely. So, unfortunately, we're acting as if nature were such an interesting thing in the cabinet, and there's a man who does what he/she wants, it's not right.

So we're part of the system, and when there's no big disaster, we don't even realize how many threads we're connected to nature. So when we sit in a city with air conditioning and eat this kind of semi-artificial protein powder, we don't even think about how much we depend on nature at the moment. - I have referred back to your previous interviews, and if anything else, but because of your harshness, it is certainly surprising that you say that humanity is overgrown, which is a big problem. Since there are long-term balancing mechanisms in the ecosystem, which we have discussed here, but do we have, where is the self-correction limit for the overgrowth of mankind? - We can list many kinds of problems and challenges, but almost all of them can ultimately be traced back to the fact that there are eight billion people on Earth, and that's an amazing amount, so we're overgrown and we overconsume the planet.

What we can do with that is a very exciting question. Some say it's more about over-consuming, so it's okay if there are a lot of us, but let's not consume that much. Someone says that there is a need to contain overgrowth, and here comes the question of what a natural scientist can say. So from here on out, this is... The easiest thing would be to pass the ball to the social scientists right now and get them to fix it. The classic solutions are

famine and war, right? Well, these aren't solutions. - Or the epidemic, as a means of traditional population control. War, epidemic... - Yeah, and I'm not giving you any tips right now, but for example, in nature, such a thing exists that if we're always talking about 'nature-based solutions', so what can nature say at a time like this? I'm just saying, in a footnote, that there are species that, if they multiply and create a very large density, will become cannibals and start eating each other. I didn't want to give you any

tips this time. I'm just saying, there's something like that in nature. - But is it possible that there is no other way for the population to overgrow than these dramatic escape routes? - There is. I think there's another way, but there's no time. This includes changing social standards, and let's just say making it a trend to have like, one child at the most, or not at all, or rather to help raise their niece, but he/she doesn't have one him/herself. So we could go in this direction, this already exists in many places in Europe, this kind of thinking that I would rather not do so. A lot of people say, "I'm not gonna give birth to this world." That's a

perfectly understandable attitude, I think, but by the way... - Are you saying that's understandable? But you will be very antipathic because most people are not thinking about big steps, but rather about small steps, even Hungarian politics proclaims the omnipotence of families and many children. - It's a very bad direction. This is a very bad direction. A country, a culture, or a nation won't become strong because many children are born, I think it's completely independent of that. It's mostly about the quality of children. If a nation wants to be,

it should focus on education, and have half as many children, twice as intelligent, and twice as happy, so let's just... I do have three children, that's what's been said, but I totally understand if someone says that they don't want kids, or they want to have one, but they want to raise them in good health. I think one happy kid is better than five hungry. It's as simple as that. But what I just said was there's

no time for that. So by the time this thinking sweeps the earth, and by the time it's taken over by every country from Uganda to Indonesia, it'll be very late. So there's no time to wait for people all over the world to realize on their own that we shouldn't go for the quantity, but the quality. - Let me bring something up, only in parentheses. In September 2019, in the Hungarian press, you were the first on the page to

speak about the coronal virus at the time and by March 2020 it has already reached Hungary as well. How did you know why you'd think that? - Actually, I didn't say anything new about science. Overpopulation and globalisation are making it easier for us to get to the point where global pandemics are developing, and that is what the WHO knew, and that is what they were talking about. This was indeed one of the statements in the Hungarian press when I said that this was on the threshold, and immediately afterward, about a month later, the Covid outbreak started. - But you also claim that these kinds of epidemics are coming, more and more often. - Yeah, and I think that's what

we're seeing these days, by the way. So it's going to be more and more. Unfortunately, there's nothing else we can do... - But why are more and more of these viruses coming just now? - There are more and more people, because of globalisation, we're moving more intensively, which is super good for a virus. We're getting closer to animals living in nature by exterminating their habitat, so we're basically drawing them to us. For example, in Southeast Asia, when they create an olive palm plantation, they destroy the tropical forest, and for example, large fruit-eating bats can't do anything, sometimes they move into the big fruit trees in the city, hanging on such large mango trees.

And from their excrement, you get the Nipah virus directly. So if we didn't hurt nature, if we didn't create an oil palm plantation, then the fruit-eating bats wouldn't come into town and hang on a tree above the market, they'd stay out in nature, we wouldn't get a virus, there wouldn't be an epidemic. We're totally causing our own trouble. - But for example, doesn't the oil palm plantation have some kind of necessity? - Yeah, and this is a very good example of how it all comes down to overpopulation. So 8 billion people need to be fed. When river regulation causes the Great Plain to be dried up to become agricultural land. We also do that

because we have to feed people. The oil palm plantation is also because you have to feed people. The Earth looks like... Everyone in Europe who flies has seen this before. It's like a giant plantation or a mosaic of different monocultures. We eat part of these plants, we give part of them to animals, and then we eat the animals. Technically, we destroy nature by serving us at all costs. This is understandable in a sense,

well, nobody wants to starve to death, but from an ecological point of view, it's horribly stupid. - We're about to go on this trail, but let me ask you, still referring to the coronal virus epidemic, how do you see, has humanity concluded the right lesson or at least learned something at all? - No. People are very rigid, people's behaviour, society's behaviour is too rigid, we can't adapt. Some people, and in a sense, it's a survival contest, we could say. Some say he/she'll move to a village, have his/her own well. I know someone who's moved to New Zealand. Some say he/she's leaving the

town to go to the village. So there are tiny local adaptations, but at the level of society, it's nothing. Society itself wants all kinds of epidemics to end, and everything to go on as before. Let's drop the mask, forget about these stupid vaccinations, and go back to the way it used to be. Which can cause a lot of trouble,

so if you keep doing it... Nature is very wise, and completely value neutral, so if we want to run our head against the brick wall, we can run our head against the brick wall. - To save the world, we should somehow return to a state of balance, so to speak, we should change our way of life, philosophy of life, and set of values. But as if the majority of humanity

didn't want this very much, but especially politicians who govern societies don't have the guts to take the initiative to do so, if for no other reason than to be popular and re-elected. Then it wouldn't be science's job, shouldn't it be science's work to outline before any collapse the possibility of new, alternative balances that take account of the changes that have already taken place? So you wouldn't it be the science's task to do that? - Actually, what we need now to solve the problem, the natural scientists have already told us, and they've told us 50 years ago. Now, I think social science would have to grow up to the task of being a little bit more scientific and pushing these principles to society. I'll give you an example. Most people think that a nicely-cut lawn is nice,

and such a crooked meadow, and that's ugly, that's messy. This needs to be radically changed and reversed. So the golf course, the football field, based on ecological thinking they're horribly ugly deserts. That shouldn't be the pretty thing. When you have a resort, don't look at when you can cut the grass to an inch and then howl that there's drought and the grass is dry, but how can you enjoy a nice meadow? Why can't all that grass and all kinds of plants that grow there be, say, 20 cm tall? What's wrong with that? - What's wrong with having an orderly environment around you and cutting the grass to a minimum of an inch? - The word is the wrong thing, saying that it's organized. It's not, it's organized based on

human thinking, but in nature, it's disgustingly ugly. And that's what we need to change. - But how does this sort of order harm nature? - One of them is that it's not good for the lawn itself if we cut it too low, it makes it easier to dry out, it loses humidity. And by the way, it reduces diversity. So if I'm gonna make a lawn with only grass, let's think of a football field again, then there's hardly any insects living there. A flower meadow is full of pollinators, full of various insects. This is what it takes to make human

agricultural landscapes work better. So when we create lawns instead of nice meadows or instead of flowering meadows, these tiny effects are those that can accumulate in a way that, for example, pollinating insects disappear in certain places, so even in agriculture, it can be measured by millions of dollars how much damage is caused by the fact that there are no pollinating insects. They need flowers, so they don't like a monocultural agricultural tablet, because there's a plant there, it blooms once, there's a lot of flowers, and when it doesn't bloom, it's a desert. They can't eat.

- But who can make people do it? Who will carry out the task of making this mind-modification, the necessary modification in human thinking, or at least make people do so? - This is where the education, the media, all kinds of communication professionals, the influencers, the celebrities, everyone comes in. If Christiano Ronaldo is taking pictures with a flowery meadow behind him and not a golf course, then this is a message for a lot of people. And if a lot of people say they're taking pictures like that, or they have a garden like this... Well, we look at the villa of a very, very rich man, and there we'll always find a beautifully-cut green lawn. It's a communication of values. We suppose to tell people different values. - Yeah, but basically, I find mankind proud of rationality is unable to respond with lifestyle and life strategy adjustments to negative predictions that have been proven in many cases.

So until one feels the problem in his/her own environment, he/she will see it as if it's the other's problem. - When a beekeeper has a serious financial loss, he/she understands the problem. - But not the beekeeper's neighbor, he/she's gonna keep cutting his/her lawn. - Well, there's a different, radically different approach, isn't there? If I see people refusing to prefer the flower meadow instead of the golf course, I can still say, okay, then here comes the law, from now on it's forbidden to do this or that... - Yeah, but the politician's not gonna take that risk, because the people he/she's pushing out of the golf course, they're just not gonna vote for him/her.

- That's right. You can be a bit optimistic here because ecologically-minded political forces seem to be strengthening. - The green ones? - In Iceland, for example. In Iceland, they have overwhelming success. They're not that kind of... So when we say they're green, I never know what to really think, green can mean a lot of things. Let's just say ecologically presentable politicians, and once again, in Iceland, the Scandinavian countries, New Zealand, so there are more and more places where...

These are the places where I want to live, but we can't all go there. So there are more and more places where these are important things. In Iceland, you can win an election with environmental and nature conservation issues. Let Iceland be the sample, a global sample. - Or what I think might be the

only effective way to wake up people would be to the panic caused by cataclysms because that might bring humanity together a little bit. - I'm sure that works well, too, by the way. For example, in some parts of China, apple trees need to be pollinated manually because there are no pollinating insects. These people will probably wonder more about what we screwed up, why we screwed up when we screwed up. So it's true. And here I say again that we have plenty of collective wisdom so that we don't have to wait for these cataclysms to avoid them, but we're infinitely rigid and stupid. And what we're interested in is when a football player gets a new tattoo, instead of being interested in the fact that the pollinating insects have disappeared from somewhere. - And what is the consequence

of insects disappearing? - Then certain plant species could be extinct. There are wind-pollinated plants, and insects or animals pollinated ones. Those which are animals pollinated, if there is no animal, it cannot reproduce. That's it. The wind-pollinated ones are fine. We can't think ahead

using strategic foresight, with very small strategic planning. - But isn't that what mankind is like? Didn't you just describe the man himself with your last two sentences? - A lot of people are like that, but people who aren't like that should be in decision-making positions. - And then I'll offer you another possibility that maybe we are the victims of the contradiction that, on the one hand, while experimenting with artificial intelligence, we can bring to Earth a sample of matter from comets traveling millions of miles away from us, and even from the beginning of the universe, the space telescope gives us insight because we operate it. On the other hand, if our thinking and many of our reactions had somehow stalled in the initial moments of human existence, wouldn't they? - Our brains, when they developed, our main problems were not to touch the fire, because it's hot, if we see a female, we get her for ourselves, and if we're hungry, let's eat.

So that's about what the human brain evolved into. Since then, we've changed the entire planet around us, and I don't want to repeat it right now, but we're searching for the deep seas, we're bringing rocks from the moon, we're DNA sequencing, but our brains are pretty much the same, they haven't changed much. So it's like if someone with their Trabant started on a Formula One and didn't understand why he/she couldn't take a turn and we're trying to explain to him/her that this Trabant was designed to take the rake and the scythe down to the weekend resort. When we put our heads together, so we connect our brains, we can also be very smart, but it seems that a lot of people, the masses, still need more to meet their needs tens of thousands of years ago, so football, women, beer. - As your biography shows, you'll be 50 years old next year, your past years have hardly been free from storms. While managing the Balaton Limnological Research Institute, you have repeatedly spoken against the destruction of the lake and against the concrete business.

Because from the interviews with you, I know that the people who need ports and beaches have shown up. In an interview with a year and a half ago, you said, quote: I do not yet know whether the national capital will really hit the fabulous property, but Miklós Maróth, who conducts the transformation, is completely incompetent to run a nationwide research network. It is not quite clear from these two sentences, and I ask you to briefly shed light on the fact that you feared for the Tihany Institutes that you managed, feared its expropriation, or raised your word against the destruction of the entire Balaton when you were the director of the Institute. - I went to Tihany, I was invited to Tihany to reform a very antiquated, old-fashioned, poorly performing institute and to create a very cool research institute at the international level. The Institute's task is to research the water ecosystems and, in particular, the water catchment areas of Lake Balaton and Lake Balaton, ecological research, and biological research. On the one hand, I think that the Institute was not strong enough professionally, so it was seen very poorly seen internationally, it communicated very poorly, there were not very high levels of research, and we wanted to reform this. I saw quite clearly what to do,

so I had a concept, which included infrastructure development, research, application strategy, and human resources conversion. I knew what I wanted. And then the conflicts came, so first of all, the ruling class doesn't treat Balaton the way I think it should be treated, and that's what I said. The other thing is...

- What does that mean, the ruling class? Let's stop here for a second. - The NER ("The Organization of National Cooperation"), and then we'll simplify it to three letters. Investor circles who are in a position of authority today are basically doing whatever they want. So around Lake Balaton, with real estate developments, remodeling the coastline in general, various hotel constructions, we can also add the snob lifestyle as a part of it. So this was on one hand. on the other hand, within the scientific circles, I saw that there was no real need for a serious institutional reform to take place here.

So basically I almost run my head into the brick wall. I've worked in many places abroad, I knew what to do, and I knew what direction to go. I think we started in a very good direction, we brought very good young people into the institute, a fantastic youthful and the professionally very high-level company was formed, and the biggest surprise was that it became more and more apparent that this was not so important to Hungarian science. So that institute, which is especially good, is that if an academic wants to take a vacation in the summer, then there's a relaxing beach, you can go fishing, there's a guest house, you can lie in there...

- You didn't get enough money, they didn't support your concept enough? - We've got like 15 conflicts a day. And it's not the money. I'd say it wasn't about the money at all. So the money that we had could have been used to make a medium-level Austrian institution. The problems began, for example, that what wasn't surprising at the end of the day, but they promised that the staff could be converted, I wanted to redesign it, I knew who was needed, who was not needed, who should be brought.

And then it turned out that this absolutely can't be done. - But why? - By the way, I've said no at least four times to this request to be principal, and I didn't want to get into this, that you can't fire people. - Yeah, but then it wasn't the establishment of power, it was simply labour law that wasn't ready to create clean conditions, was it? - Yeah, this part of the story wasn't about politics, it was about the legislation of everyday civil servants. That's right. If someone reforms an institution, they'll have more enemies than friends, that wasn't surprising, so that's what we're counting on. So a little bit of politics, a little bit of Hungarian science... One more thing is - and this is also independent of politics and science, which is a problem in Hungary very often, - that local interests dominate, so there are small kings, there are local, a little bit of such provincial thinking, omniscient people, different lobbies, all of them...

so it's a beehive that you reach into, and when I say infinitely simply how an institute should operate in Europe, how an institute works, listing four or five things, then I feel like a UFO. So in Hungary, a man like this feels like a UFO. So I should know that the customary law is strong here, and invisible relationships dominate. Personal relationships here are far more important than scientific relationships. It was all in this story. Probably, if this institute is not in the countryside, but Budapest, then this whole story is a little milder. In Budapest, they may be a little more presentable. Ruralism alone,

and don't take this the wrong way, but in this sense, a great burden, so where everyone knows everyone, everyone has a 20-year-old relationship with everyone, there's no way to make things straight. Impossible. - But just so I understand, was the problem here, or was it not about you being involved in everything that was, by the way, in the interest of Lake Balaton? - If a scientific institute is not visible enough at the international level, is not communicating, and is not doing an amazingly high level of research, it is not in the interest of Lake Balaton. When we ask about Lake Balaton, we ask someone about the condition of Lake Balaton, and he/she doesn't give us a scientific result, he/she doesn't say the results of scientific research, he/she says his/her opinion, his/her intuition, his/her insights. That's not the job of a science institute. - But why couldn't they come up with scientific developments about Lake Balaton, because they were researching it, they were investigating it? - We have the attitude that Lake Balaton is the Hungarian sea, so that is our business. You don't need an American, a German,

or an Austrian to interfere. If it is isolated, if international visibility and international cooperation are excluded, sooner or later, the quality of the research will be reduced. And it was like that in Tihany. So an institute that is

barely visible internationally can't do good research. If you can't do good research, we don't have the knowledge to put in front of the decision-makers, and so the forces that mauled Lake Balaton at once from ten directions don't have the point of reference that science says. - What is the condition of the lake, Lake Balaton, today? - The condition of Lake Balaton is deteriorating, which means that the spread of reeds... not its quantity, but its quality is very low. There is no problem with the discharge of wastewater now as it was in, say, the '70s, the early '80s, so the water and the level of direct pollution are better, but the disorganization of the shoreline, the condition of the reeds is definitely much worse. Many people prefer to treat Balaton as a fish pond or imagine it that way, so they don't see the ecosystem, which should somehow work well, and then it solves a lot of problems on its own, but they're counting how many fish you have to install to catch capital carps. Basically, in a fish pond,

they put in the fish one day, and then they fish it the next day, and then everyone's happy to have another world record. The Balaton... You can play this game in the fish pond, invite international fishermen to catch huge carp, catch an unfortunate one 115 times, and then everyone is happy, but you can't play it in Lake Balaton. So Lake Balaton is a lake, it's a natural system. - How is a natural system, a lake of this type, supposed to work? - It's terribly overloaded. There's a concrete shoreline,

there's traffic everywhere, there's tourism everywhere, there are ports, there's industry, there's traffic, so we're strangling the lake. A lot of people and a lot of facilities are strangling the lake. The other is that the water level of Lake Balaton would be naturally fluctuating, so keeping it artificially high is not good. - And why do they keep

it artificially high? - 'Cause otherwise, the yachts go down to the ground, and it became fashionable on Lake Balaton that we actually want to sail with yachts designed for the sea, we have to go to the reeds with the canoe on Lake Balaton, we have to ride a water bike and we have to boat. Such huge sea yachts are large in Lake Balaton, they are simply large, so they cannot fit. Stakeholders are pleased that if the water level is higher, which is bad for the reeds, for example, is bad for agricultural land on the south coast, so there is much more frequent inland water.

- For example, if the reeds are eradicated to an increasing extent, why is it harmful? - The reeds in the lake are a little like our immune system, so it helps. A buffer zone that helps to compensate for fluctuations, helps to clean up, and helps to protect against certain effects. If we exterminate the reeds and imagine the Balaton as a bathtub, so the water is from concrete to concrete, on the one hand, this cannot work as a lake, many living things will die out there. There are many places where fish can't spawn anymore, because they like such a nooky beach where you can hide, right, where the eggs and offspring won't be eaten by predators immediately. If it's not in the reeds anymore,

it's a lame, artificial, very simple coastline, not a complex habitat, it doesn't do its job. We can still call that reeds, but it's not really reeds anymore. - According to your calculations, how long will it take for Lake Balaton to reach a state where the process is already irreversible? So when will the environmental impact be so high that it will be paved around and the reeds are exterminated and released with excessive water? So, when these processes come together, and all in all, there's something wrong with the lake that might be irreversible? - It's very hard to argue that this hasn't happened already. So, actually, the lake isn't what it used to be, let's say, a few centuries ago, or decades ago. I don't know if there's going to be a certain turning point.

There may be increasing algal blooms, increasing chances of invasive organisms, molluscs, fish, whether mosquitoes, plants, or algae, at any time algae bloom can happen, that is really toxic can be very dangerous to humans. What we have now, if at all harmful to health, is more likely to cause a kind of redness, something unpleasant, but they may be toxic. Mankind is facing enormous challenges. Solving them will not be painless,

it comes with big sacrifices, financial ones, so it's financial, it's logistical. It's like when someone's shoulder is sprained and needs to be fixed, it hurts like hell, but it needs to be fixed. So, specifically, at Lake Balaton, if someone said that from now on, you can't wipe out a single inch of green. Then we haven't turned anything around yet. We're just pressing the stop button with immediate effect. So no more killing nature, no more damage to nature, no more killing reeds...

- I can't imagine that. - I can't imagine that either. That's the problem. Natural science with all its results is basically thrown into the trash because based on all scientific knowledge, that's what we're supposed to do, but that's not what we're doing. - How many areas around Lake Balaton would you like to pursue? - There are transport interests, water, tourism, domestic and foreign tourism, fishermen, sailors, and some people just want peace around the lake. They're the worst-case scenario, I think. - Yeah, but at the same time,

it's gonna be a naïve-like question, but I'm asking anyway, where the ecology criteria are supposed to be at the very first of the line? - It's not required. Ecology doesn't have to be more important than tourism, it doesn't have to be more important to ecology than trade than travel, only then we shouldn't be surprised. So it doesn't work to build a fantastic concrete bed and breakfast right next to the beach with artificial grass so that you can enter from the bedroom into the water, and then I'm surprised that, say, a mosquito comes along, or maybe a little water spills out, or maybe the water stinks, or maybe algae blooms. Then there's no need to be surprised.

So if ecology isn't important to someone, don't be surprised when nature fights back. - And you've actually seen everything, and what you've seen, you've talked about it all the time? So that was, say, one of the problems with the institution's structural ones with you? - Well, first of all, I wasn't willing to take notice of such a personal relationship, so I didn't want to know who the big dog was or who the puppy was. I'm a completely ordinary researcher, but I'm fully respectful of the respected international standard, and I'm simply asking that we're doing science right, we're communicating, and we're saying what seems right, and what doesn't seem right. Nothing more, and I don't care where the mayor's property is, I don't care about the mayor having lunch or playing tennis with another politician. I think that these are irreverent. In Hungary, this is what matters the most.

- And so we keep reading that every investment, how they say it, is doing environmental impact studies. So it's just in every case, or in most cases, it's a pretense? - The environmental impact assessment is that we want to build something here, we're going to build it, we're going to have to look for some jerk to justify it. That's should be a biologist or an environmental engineer, doesn't matter, we must have it written down that it's gonna be okay. If someone happens to write that this is gonna be a problem, we'll throw him/her in the trash and find another one. It's a circus,

it's about playing clowns. - But it's like there's an increasing number of advocacy civilians on the shore of Lake Balaton, and it's like they're good at representing their interests in some places, they're effective in representing their interests. - There's only one task for politicians, they need to maximize the vote. So if a lot of people say the same thing, then sooner or later a politician has a soft heart and is willing to compromise, and now - thanks to social media, for example, Facebook - many people can be made to speak at the same time, who can go out all in one place to protest and sign petitions, and sometimes they reach their goal.

- If I understand correctly, and I ask you to correct me here that the former Tihany Research Institute, which you led or managed, also its property has also been spotted by the soldiers of NER, so this was also an actual conflict between you and the powers? - There's been this kind of interest before me, that suddenly a man in black sunglasses showed up and came in and took pictures, and then he left. So we had those. - Is the research facility in Tihany in the right place? - There's a fantastic beach in a very nice place, a quiet beach. Perhaps one of the calmest beaches of Lake Balaton, with a very nice park, a port that is now worth an amazing deal. It's hard to find entry points. So it's got its own marina, a guest house, it's a beautiful place. - The question is, isn't it really

unnecessary to keep an institution on such a high-value property, and one of the most expensive areas in the country? - By the way, that's a good question, and in a sense, a scientific research institute might actually have a better modern building, so there are benefits. In the meantime, it is also true that science is an activity where you have to co-operate with foreign colleagues, host them, organize conferences, organize workshops, invite renowned professors, and many very good research institutes are equally beautiful places, not by accident. - Jumping a big one, but still referring only to those years, if I'm right, during the government attack against the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, you were the head of the institute here in Tihany, so you could get caught up in a double fire, as you were fighting the fossilized structures, and the government's fists, Minister Palkovics, and Professor Maróth expropriated the academic institutions.

In this month's standing war, which side of the trenches did you take? - I think the Academy deserved a very serious reform, by the way, but it should have been done differently. So the fact that the Academy was a little squeezed, I think it was okay on its own, but what I think we should have done was to create completely independent, international review committees, small committees, invite them, as most countries do, review the institutions, see what is good, what is bad, suggest reforms. There's a way to help an academy with constructive criticism.

I've done this in Lithuania. So an international committee goes there, in an interesting way, there's no Lithuanian in it, so to be independent. - But then the Hungarian government could not have had an impact. - We don't have an attitude toward this, we don't have that kind of culture at all, precisely because personal relationships, customary law, these different feudal reflexes work so well, so we're not more afraid of anything than an impartial international screening. - Did you get fired after a year

and a half, or did you leave the Tihany Institute on your own? - Well, after an interview with the Director General, it occurred to him that I should probably get away from the institute, and I said that I wouldn't stop now, so I'm leaving. - So they made you do it, that's the answer. - Of course, of course. - Don't you think you could have spent your time more usefully in the jungle of domestic fighting at the institutes? - Probably, if I started over, I wouldn't do it again to cut the answer short, but I've been framed by being a science director, and there's gonna be a management that's gonna take these off of me. Compared to this, we had to plan

at a practically daily level how many windows need to be repainted, how much to increase the rent of service apartments, and how to dredge the port, so we had to deal with economic, legal, and labour law issues constantly, and I am a biologist, so I would have been very happy to do some research. - But during your network research, because you're also a network researcher, you have been very intensive in dealing with human communities, including inter-group relations, and conflict situations, how could you not recognize the forces of the medium that later fired you? - There were so many attacks, in the end, that I couldn't really understand what exactly was happening. Let me give you an example: there is public procurement. So if someone works in a research facility and their laptop breaks down, it's about 10 to 11 months before they can get a new laptop. It's complete nonsense. So I figured we'd get three laptops, I'm the principal, I'd buy three laptops, I'd buy three laptops, we have the money for it, they'd be Jolly Joker laptops, so they'd be in the system owner's room, and if someone's laptop breaks, they'd get one. But they had to take inventory, so they asked whose inventory it should be in.

Well, I told him to be in the inventory of the current director, because they don't belong to anyone, so now they should be under my name in the inventory. It's not such a big honor that something in the inventory is under my name. About a week, within a week or two, I heard a rumor from Debrecen that the new director bought himself three laptops. That says it all about the kind of environment you had to survive there. That says it all. - I could turn the question into why you couldn't turn the power in your favor, even with your expertise and knowledge. Or is it from another source of scientific knowledge and from another, putting it into everyday practice? - Actually, we weren't far away from being pushed over by the institute. So we've built a very cool company

out of a lot of good young people, there have been very exciting research, new proposals, infrastructural developments, huge plans, money was enough, so we weren't far from tipping over... but it could be, so some people say that I wanted the reforms too quickly, I'm saying that we should have done it much faster. - But now for some work, even though you've left the institute, it's like you're connected to Lake Balaton. What's this? - Yeah, more like the Balaton Highlands. I got into a very, very exciting project, it runs at the Moholy-Nagy University of Art at MOME, where we think about the future with very cool people and very interesting people - this is a real spiritual refresher, this project. The question is what the Balaton Uplands will look like as a result of climate change over the next decades, maybe we'll have to look for olive plantations or fig trees, instead of grapes and almonds. We are talking about how if

the climate gets warmer and dryer if the landscape is transformed if the vegetation is transformed, how it can affect culture, people, either demography or economic processes, and how to involve people in the process of talking about it, how to involve the most diverse channels of communication so that local people can feel that knowledge reaches them and that we can think together in different scenarios. - But where is this, in what perspective, how far away from the fact that the problem at Lake Balaton is that they're ecologically disrupting the lake's order? - You can see, for example, that winemakers can see that certain grape varieties are no longer feeling well, that they may need to be replaced by other varieties. Everyone's talking about it. That almonds are not feeling well in many places, that olive is feeling better, that some people are planting olive trees already. The fact that

the fig appears and feels good. So these processes are going on. The question is that we just follow them and watch what happens, or in some sense, we want to say something, we want to control it. - Okay, well, we're gonna take a little break here, no more than 10 seconds to rest, and then our sponsor is gonna take over, but we're gonna be right back.

- We'll continue with Ferenc Jordán, the network biologist. Let's go back to where have you been working lately, where have you found a job? - In Italy, at the University of Parma, I now have a contract for three years, teaching and research, this is a Hungarian-Italian-Norwegian project, where we explore the wildlife of the Barents Sea, specifically how the Barents Sea is transformed by climate change. The Barents Sea is north of Norway and Russia. Climate change has caused many Atlantic species to appear, to go north, and you can see it now, there's a lot of data. The Norwegians have money, they produce the data, the Italians and the Hungarians give the modeling technique for this. So you know what kind of fish appear, how the rule for the connection system between previously living fish is broken.

The impact of fishing, which may be worse than before, or better, or what needs to be changed. So, actually, there's three-country research on the Barents Sea that I'm one of your partners. - And why did you find a job in Italy that suits your desires again? Why is Italy always your origo? - I've lived in Trento, in the north for five and a half years, and on the one hand, I've established a lot of relationships that have worked since then, and on the other hand, I love Italy, it's that simple. In the meantime, I became an external associate of an institute in Naples, Stazione Zoologica, a marine ecological station. I've been teaching at a summer school in Parma for four or five years now, so there's a history there, I have very serious connections in Trieste. I'm happy to go to Italy,

there are colleagues in the most diverse places, and now this Parma project that has just worked out. - And you wanted to put the domestic science behind you? - Yeah, it's the system that's bad, so bureaucracy, personal relationships, feudal values, which we have inside science, so, unfortunately, it's really good to get away from that for a little while. - According to the biography presented in the introduction, you were almost always free to explore what you were interested in, all kinds of ecological networks, such as marine food networks. Please bring this closer to us laymen, but understandably in a few sentences. What does that mean? - The food network means what eats what. So there are producers,

plants, they are eaten by herbivores, and they are eaten by predators. The food network is the framework of an ecological system. It is very, very important how nutrients flow. What we eat tells us about

how the cycle of coal works, tells us how omnivores can react to changes in the environment. Research on the food network has been an important direction in ecology for about 110 years now. And more generally, it's about relationships, relationships between species. - What's good or why it's important to know? - Because, for example, if we overfish a species in the sea, it's not the story of that species, it's the whole community. If, say, cod is overfished, then from algae to jellyfish and from birds to snails, all living things will notice that it will affect everyone somehow. And when we talk about how to assess the impact of man, how to possibly reduce, how to manage natural ecosystems, we need to know about them. So it's not enough to think that there

are five species next to each other, one of which is extinct four, but there is a community with five species, and if one is disturbed, the other four can sense it. So this is the essence of ecological network research: we imagine multi-faceted systems living together, interacting, interacting with them. The opposite of that is the zoo, where all animals are in separate cages because we don't want any interaction between them when the lion eats the zebra. In nature there are interactions, interaction, so the predator eats the prey, two may compete, or live in some kind of mutualist, so symbiosis. These interactions are important in order to be able to think in a system, so the sea should not just be a list of what kind of organisms live there, but to see how the system itself works. - But you did research, although it may be that in connection with the previous ones, the group dynamics and social networks of social animals. I'm also

surprised they have a social network. What does that mean more closely? - A lot of species do. So if together there's a lot of pigs, or a lot of ants, or a lot of groundhogs, or a lot of wasps, then they're not the same for each other, so they make a difference. Let's say there are friends and enemies on a groundhog team, there are positive and negative relationships, not to mention pigs! By the way, we're researching that at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna. So, for example, there's a pig kanda, this species of New Zealand pigs called Kunekune, which is a group of 36 individuals, and we know exactly who's friends, who's in a positive, negative relationship with whom. - If we understand,

what are we getting closer to? - Let's say the social network of a groundhog team, how the community is built, has a huge impact on how vulnerable that team is. So let's say the predator is easily protected. The attack of the predator. At what chance they'll survive. So nature conservation increasingly recognizes the fact that I have a groundhog team and another groundhog team, the group dynamics of these groups, the internal structure states of which should be better protected, which is more vulnerable, which is less vulnerable. - What if I know which one's vulnerable? I'm trying to approach the issue from its practical exploitation side at all costs. - One kind of answer takes me a long

way, but I'll tell you because it's interesting. In political science there is a very exciting question, this is the Emergence of leadership, so the leaders, the leaders of a group, who they will be. One of the ideas is that you have to be born a leader, so as soon as I'm born, it's clear that I'm going to be a leader. In other words, anyone can be a leader, a leader emerges from social relations sooner or later.

Now to have a better understanding of how this can work with humans, it is very good to see many, many species of animals see how this works. So, for example, there are paper hornets in India where there is a queen, and if the queen dies, or if the researchers kill or isolate her, then the team will choose a new queen within a day. - Why is it necessary that, as the paper queen is chosen, a human, political leader should be selected in the same way? - It's not absolutely necessary, and I'm not sure there's any analogy, but if we look at animals, we get a lot of good ideas, a lot of inspiration, and usually, this inspiration will help us come up with, say, a political scientist or a human behavioral researcher to come up with new ideas. You know better what happens between people. So nature often does not provide us

with a solution, but it is a very good inspiration for how we think. - Well, then how does it come to opening another chapter of the network-research biologist's network analysis of the 2005 terrorist attack on the London subway network? In this case, what was the object of your interest? - My interest was the morning coffee, because while I was drinking the morning coffee, I heard on the news that they exploded bombs at three stations in London, and I didn't have that much to do that day, and I thought I'd calculate why they

2022-10-09 05:44

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