Places of Hope & Urban Futures Studio

Demonstration during Places of Hope

Places of Hope & Urban Futures Studio

“With Places of Hope, we wanted to counteract the negative, apocalyptic images that dominate the discussion about the future and climate change. The exhibition, demonstration, research workshops and series of debates took place over a period of 8 months as part of the ‘Leeuwarden Cultural Capital 2018’ event and were organised at the request of the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The activities attracted a total of 12,646 visitors. We wanted to use experiential futuring to give people a glimpse of a possible and desirable future without fossil fuels,” says Jesse Hoffman of the Urban Futures Studio (UFS) at Utrecht University.

If we want to preserve our country for future generations, we must say goodbye to fossil fuels, to intensive agriculture and polluting industries, to traffic jams and overcrowded trains, flooding and heat stress.

From the publication ‘Places of Hope’ 2018
Demonstration during Places of Hope

Breaking the deadlock
Jesse is a political anthropologist and one of the members of the young UFS team, located on Heidelberglaan at the Utrecht Science Park. Jesse researches how to visualise a future without fossil fuels. He explains: “In the Northern Netherlands, the energy transition and climate change have long been political themes that have led to many concerns, conflicts and standstills. In this tense situation, utopian initiatives offer the prospect of a sustainable future that is possible and desirable, whereby people re-evaluate simple values such as nature, landscape and the community. For example, some groups are trying to combat light pollution in the Wadden Sea area, some are working on the ‘Holwerd aan Ze’ project, and others are setting up energy cooperatives to regenerate the villages and thus counteract population decline.

We also used the exhibition as a ‘soft space’ for contentious themes such as the shrinking peatland meadows. By shaping the debate away from political arenas, in an unconventional setting, we created space to break through the deadlock and bring farmers, politicians, NGOs, homeowners and scientists together again.

A fun fact: In the old chancellery in Leeuwarden, where Places of Hope took place, the public debates were so good that debates are still being organised about the future of Leeuwarden.  

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