Monitoring Paves: the Way for Action

Editorial by Bruno Oberle

Bruno Oberle
Bruno Oberle, Director FOEN

We smell the wet asphalt and hear the sound of leaves. We taste the essence of spring water, feel the cool breeze and take pleasure in the sight of a marsh gladiolus: When we observe, we behold the object of our attention from a distance and focus all our senses on it.

Yet, science has taught us that many aspects of the environment elude our perception. Sociologist Ulrich Beck notes in his work “Risk Society” that ecological (and other current) threats suffer precisely from invisibility. We need scientific instruments to measure pollutants and determine how climate or biodiversity changes over the years.

The collected data must be made accessible to the public. After all, as informed citizens, we can form our own opinions about the issues at stake. Generally available data can help us identify both looming dangers and successful measures. We can use the data to take thoughtful action and participate in democratic decision-making processes on a daily basis. The Aarhus Convention ratified by Switzerland in the fall of 2013 stipulates that environmental and other types of information should be widely disclosed. In doing so, it creates the basis for strengthening transparency, citizen participation and environmental protection on an international level.

This issue, which is dedicated to environmental monitoring, offers an overview of the diversity of environmental monitoring networks that have been developed over decades. It also presents an assortment of technically sophisticated instruments that deliver extremely high-quality monitoring data, and provides examples of how data are used. We also included stunning photos to rouse your curiosity, illustrate the scientific approach to the environment and reveal the invisible world to you. This should help you sharpen your sense of observation and have fun while you do it.

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