Demystifying Expertise

7. compassion and connection for Sustainability:
Joke van wensem

Soil was Joke’s first love but she’s moved from soils to climate change…from knowing a lot about a little as a scientist to knowing a little about a lot as an advisor and communicator…It’s all essentially  about connecting people and pieces of information 

“Sustainability is everything we should do to be able to keep on going….” Joke says… Loosely defined concepts but tightly defined criteria are helpful to know if we are heading in the right direction. 

In her journey, Joke admits lab work is a lot about washing up and that she learnt when you start communicating your research, how you say it matters as much as what you say. 

And to make a difference to policies, we need to connect scientists first…competition does not always lead to efficiency. Sometimes collaboration is the key…and listening to others seems as important as presenting our information…as Joke says “How can I help you?”

UK policy makers on soils, water and, in particular, flood risk management, hold their Dutch counterparts in high esteem. The fact that they successfully maintain a country that is mostly below sea level, and manages to have such productive agriculture in such small space is the reason for that constructive envy. In fact, they are a good case of “necessity is mother of all inventions!”

So we were thinking of getting an expert from the Netherlands for our podcast too and couldn’t think of a better candidate than Joke Van Wensem to start with. 

Joke is a long-standing member of the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry (SETAC Europe) including being its president in 2006-2007.

Until September 2020, she was also the coordinator / special advisor at the Department of Knowledge, Innovation and Strategy (KIS) of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. In this position she liaised between science and policy, mainly in the integrated field of spatial development, with a focus on the transitions necessary to adapt to climate change. Since then, she has been at Rijkswaterstaat, the managing department of the Ministry, and works there as an advisor for sustainability. 

We benefited from her experience in establishing best practices and putting the theory into practice, and engaging with all relevant stakeholders from local populations to national level politicians on soil and subsoil, climate adaptation, health and safety, in the environment and the circular economy. 

We hope you’ll also like the knowledgeable, soft and caring way she talks about what interests and inspires her.