Many Fellows will recall the celebration of Alexander von Humboldt’s 251st Birthday on 14th September, 2020, for which our President, Professor Gabrielle McMullen, addressed a National Zoom gathering as if it was Alexander von Humboldt visiting Australia and describing his impressions of our country at that time. In September, 2020, Victoria was in Lockdown so that the normal local celebration of the birthday of Alexander von Humboldt over a face-to-face dinner at, say, The German Club, to which we have become accustomed, could not be held.
Prior to 14th September, 2021, both Victoria and much of New South Wales were in Lockdown so the success of a National Celebration on Zoom in 2020, prompted the idea to do something similar this year. The Secretary General of the Foundation, Dr Enno Aufderheide, enthusiastically agreed to Gabrielle’s invitation to speak to Australian Fellows gathered via Zoom on 14th September on the topic, “New challenges for the Humboldt network: the pandemic, climate crisis and authoritarianism”.
Gabrielle welcomed all who had “tuned in”, with a special welcome to Frau Dorothea Aufderheide, the 96-year-old Mother of Dr Aufderheide who had specifically asked if she could tune-in to listen to her son. Following apologies which she offered from Dr Thomas Fischen (German Ambassador to Australia), Dr Katrin Amian (AvHF) and two Australian Fellows who would join late on account of current research collaboration Zoom Meetings with their respective colleagues in Germany (Professors Paul Mulvaney [The University of Melbourne] and Ken Ostrikov [Queensland University of Technology]), she introduced Dr Aufderheide with a brief summary of his own background in research and science administration leading to his appointment as Secretary General of the Foundation in 2010.
Dr Aufdereide focussed on three challenges of current and future concern for the Foundation: international restrictions on travel; postponement of fellowships and the consequences for the budget; and career plans and mobility habits for Fellows, all in the aftermath of the current global pandemic and climate crisis. He suggested how our international travel habits should be modified and summarised the planning which is currently underway for a new Humboldt Foundation Headquarters Building, but with future sustainability firmly in the minds of the planners. Clearly there will be a need to refine international travel so the important question will be what travels are really necessary? He cited a comparative study of the carbon footprints between two comparable universities, one Australian (The University of Queensland) and one European (ETH, Zurich) .
Dr Aufderheide then addressed the question of Global Authoritarianism and what the Foundation is currently involved with through the “Scholars at Risk” network in which, perhaps surprisingly, Australia has had an involvement for longer than Germany.
Dr Aufderheide then responded to a number of points of discussion prior to all “tuned-in” drinking a toast to Alexander von Humboldt with their respective beverages.
It was generally agreed that a National function of this form in the future would be an excellent idea, in addition to the State-based, face-to-face dinners which, hopefully, we might return to in the near future. There was a final request for a “Zoom photograph” and this has been reproduced above, to the best of the organiser’s and author’s abilities. As far as the organiser could observe from the log-ins, there was an attendance of 34 Fellows and Partners together plus special guests, Enno and Dorothea Aufderheide, Carmen Klein (AvHF), Michael Pearce (Honorary Consul General for Victoria) and David Shelley (Honorary Consul for Tasmania).
 Helmers, E., Chay, C.C. and Dauwels, J., “Carbon footprinting of Universities worldwide: Part 1 – objective comparison by standardized metrics”, Environmental Science Europe 35:30 (2021). (https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-021-00454-6)