Prof. Dr. Jan J. Boersema
The Survival of Easter Island

Prof. Dr. Jan J. Boersema

Jan Boersema studied biology (major: ethology) at the University of Groningen, and taught biology and environmental sciences at the same university. In 1997 he graduated in theology with an interdisciplinary dissertation entitled: The Torah and the Stoics on Humankind and Nature (Brill, Leiden, 2001).

In 1994 he became Lecturer of Environmental Sciences and Philosophy at Leiden University and also Secretary-General of the Council for the Environment. At the same ministry he became co-founder and member of Forum, a think tank that was active from 1999 – 2002. In 2002 he was appointed professor at the VU where he worked at the IVM (Institute for Environmental Science). In his inaugural lecture How Green is the Good Life, he developed a new theory about the ecological history of Easter Island, in which he challenged the then prevailing collapse hypothesis.

His publications cover a wide range of environmental topics, with an emphasis on sustainable food consumption and the relationship between nature and culture. Together with Wim Zweers he edited Ecology, Technology and Culture (White Horse Press, Cambridge 1994). He is editor-in-chief of two textbooks on Environmental Science: Basisboek Milieukunde (Boom, Amsterdam 1984, 1992) and Principles of Environmental Sciences (Springer Publishers, 2009). From 2003 to 2016, he was editor-in-chief of the Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences.

In 2009-2010 he was elected visiting fellow at St Edmunds College, University of Cambridge UK. As of January 1, 2013, he has been appointed part-time research professor at the A. Kuyper Center for Science and Religion at the VU. In 2014 he became professor of ‘Principles of Environmental Sciences’ at the Institute of Environmental Sciences, Leiden University. In the same year he was appointed as a visiting research fellow at the Van Raalte Institute, Hope College, Holland MI and received a grant for a research project Nineteenth-Century Dutch Immigrants and the American Wilderness. A book about this project is underway and will be published with Atlas/Contact in 2022.

Meanwhile Rapa Nui (Easter Island) remained his other case study, resulting in five conference papers and two books (Beelden van Paaseiland, Atlas Amsterdam 2011; second revised edition, 2020; The Survival of Easter Island: On Dwindling Resources and Cultural Resilience. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2015).

Since 2018, he has been a confidential counselor for PhD students of the Graduate School of the Faculty of Science. University of Leiden.

Boersema is chairman of the Stichting Paaseiland.