A roller coaster year

2007 seems to have been a year of extremes, surprises, shocks and changes. I asked my employer (ICES) to give me some advance warning in June of whether my contract would be renewed at the end of 2007. The funding for the next two years was as secure as it ever has been and I thought I was doing a reasonable job, so I was shocked when they decided they no longer wanted me. Since the project has always been self-financing they were in effect getting rid of a free member of staff and I am still unable to explain the reasons for their decision. An unpleasant situation and one which I am happy to be getting out of.

I was given the news during a meeting and one of the participants immediately offered me another job, to continue with the same work, in Copenhagen, so the period during which I faced imminent retirement lasted for about one minute and I look forward to moving to the Danish Fisheries Research Institute, in Charlottenlund Castle, in January. The job upheaval changes our residence and tax status in Denmark and we had to make a lot of quick decisions about finances, where we want to live, get the cat vaccinated in case we suddenly had to leave and so on. It has been difficult to continue to work in an organisation which doesn’t value what I do and where the best I can say about the senior staff is that they were indifferent. Luckily the rest of the staff were very supportive, as were colleagues in the wider ICES community. The motivation to finish off the Cod and Climate project, which will take 2-3 years, is returning.

I was invited to give the final summary of a Symposium in Lisbon, which was enjoyable and well received. Then a couple of weeks later, during a meeting in England, a colleague came in to announce that the Nobel Peace prize had been awarded to the IPCC and Al Gore. The photo shows Martin Parry, co-chair of IPCC WG2 and me celebrating with a cup of coffee in Beccles (where he also lives). In addition to working with some wonderful people on the IPCC chapter on global food production and security, we have just collaborated on a special section of the journal PNAS on “food and forestry for a warming planet”. They even took up my suggestion of artwork by Glynn Gorick for the front cover (PNAS 104(50) 11 December 2007).

I recently had my first experience of being invited and introduced as a Nobel laureate, at a grassroots meeting attended by ten people to discuss a citizens initiative on climate and sustainability in Hillerød (you can see some of the material on the companion blog here). I also shared authorship of a paper in Science a couple of weeks ago and wrote an editorial for a European Policy paper on Fisheries and Climate, so in spite of the disruption it has been a productive year. The pace of response to the threat of climate change is clearly accelerating, but is still nowhere near commensurate with the risk of massive human and ecological loss. Those hanging chads in Florida have a lot to answer for.

The worst shocks have been quite recent, with the sudden death of a very close friend here and cases of cancer in two other friends (one only 8 years old). Makes us value and look forward to spending Christmas with the family even more, with all the siblings and seven out of eight of my mothers grandchildren coming to Stroanfreggan. Sam is taking his first steps and our next grandchild is well on the way. We still love living in Copenhagen and have many friends here, but the lure of the next generation is strong and we will probably move back to the UK in a few years, while we can still run faster than them.

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