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Climate and elections: these were your top stories from 2023

The year 2023 saw the earthquake in Turkey and Syria, the Wagner Group rebellion and wildfires and floods as all the weather records were smashed. Our most-read stories were about the climate crisis and the elections: here’s the list.

Netherlands = Veganlands

By far our most-read story of 2023: What if the Netherlands went vegan? What would happen if everyone in the Netherlands stopped eating animal products? This is the thought experiment carried out by environmental scientist Jan Willem Erisman and landscape architect Berno Strootman. ‘In the Netherlands, we use 80% of our fertile agricultural land to produce animal feed; in the Veganlands, you can produce loads more plant-based food for human consumption’, said Erisman.

Unliveable planet

Biodiversity loss, ocean acidification, biochemical flows: we humans are rapidly crossing our planetary boundaries. These determine whether human life remains possible on Earth. We discussed the risk of abrupt large-scale or irreversible environmental change was discussed on our Leiden University Sustainability Day.

Our universe in pictures

From our very own planet Earth to exoplanets, stars and supernovae in a galaxy far, far away… Although the James Webb Telescope is bringing these closer than ever. In 2023, we were treated to stunning images of our universe, but of what exactly? In this article, assistant professor Melissa McClure what all these photos can tell us.

James Webb Space Telescope

Eighteen billion animals die needlessly

Up to a sixth of the meat that we produce in the world goes to waste. Leiden researchers Juliane Klaura, Laura Scherer and Gerard Breeman worked out that around 18 billion chickens, turkeys, pigs, sheep, goats and cows die each year without making it onto our plates. In industrialised countries most waste is produced on the consumption side: supermarkets overstock, restaurants serve oversized portions and households throw away leftovers.

Political turbulence

Politically, 2023 was an eventful year. After 13 years as prime minister, Mark Rutte announced his departure from Dutch politics. Our experts reflected on this and what it would mean for Dutch politics. This was followed by a landslide in the House of Representatives on 22 November, with Geert Wilders’ PVV party becoming the largest by far. We called on our researchers Tom Louwerse and Simon Otjes once again to explain what the election result would mean.

From student to MP

Finally, many of our readers were curious about all the new MPs and in particular whether they had studied at Leiden University. An impressive 22 of the 150 members of the House of Representatives have Leiden roots and perhaps not completely unexpected: Public Administration proved to be a firm favourite.


Main photo: Unsplash.com / second sight

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