The sustainability dialogues are set up to give a boost to interdisciplinary work between scholars at the UU. We like to do that based on current themes and social issues. For this, we facilitate a platform, our Sustainability Dialogue, which will take place every other month. During the session, a theme is highlighted from different disciplines, followed by a discussion. If you want to initiate a dialogue please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next Sustainability Dialogues
- 5 October 2023
The globalized food system plays a major role in some of societies’ most pressing challenges. It is a major contributor to biodiversity loss, climate change, disruption of the biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus, and land use change, which currently all exceed our planetary boundaries. At the same time, the diet associated with this food system brings major health risks linked to the high share of animal-based products, low share of fruit, vegetables and nuts, and dominance of highly processed foods rich in fat and added sugar, while lacking essential nutritional quality.
It is clear that drastic changes in our food system are needed if we are to solve these issues. But do the changes needed to tackle the environmental impact align with those needed for a healthy society? What would diets that are healthy for the planet, animals and humans look like? How can the current food system be restructured to produce those diets?
These are the main questions we will discuss with Prof Detlef van Vuuren (UU and PBL), Prof Yvonne van der Schouw (UMCU) and Ilse Geijzendorffer (Louis Bolk Institute). Moderator is Herman Lelieveldt (University College Roosevelt).
Some reports say that citizen behavior is paramount to climate change policies, possibly leading to 40-70% reduction in greenhouse emissions when people will use more sustainable energy, engage more often in sustainable mobility, and reduce their consumption of meat and dairy. Spotlighting citizen behavior is much contested with some critics arguing that the impact of individual behavior is negligible compared to the system changes that are required to mitigate climate change. Moreover, critics worry that too much emphasis on individual behavior will conceal the responsibility of governments and private companies in leading the transition towards a sustainable society. Amongst scholars who endorse the critical role of citizen behavior, debate centers around the pressing question in what way people can be encouraged to change their behavior and prevent feelings of helplessness resulting from being overwhelmed by climate change.
In this Sustainability Dialogue we aimed to move beyond polarized positions in the discussion about behavior change vs system change and examined in what way citizen behavior may contribute to climate change policies. With Sander Thomaes, Professor of Developmental Psychology; Denise de Ridder, Professor of Social Psychology; Sanne Akerboom, Assistant Professor in Regulation and Governance of the Energy Transition; Rens van Tilburg, director of the Sustainable Finance Lab; and Detlef van Vuuren, Professor of Integrated Assessment of Global Environmental Change.
In this Sustainability Dialogue, we went beyond narrow understandings of citizen engagement as ‘public participation’. Instead, we sought to open the conversation around the questions i) ‘what’ citizen engagement in the energy transition (in the future can) consist of, ii) what this implies for the forms, processes of citizen engagements, and iii) what this suggests for ways in which researchers can contribute to more meaningful and effective forms of citizen engagement. The topic will be introduced through short pitches by Annelies Huygen, professor Energy Markets and Regulation (REBO), Irene Bronsvoort, PhD candidate 'Rethinking citizen engagement for an inclusive energy transition' (Urban Futures Studio & Copernicus, GEO), Sanne Akerboom, assistant professor of Regulation and Governance of the Energy Transition (Copernicus Institute, GEO) and was moderated by prof. dr. Albert Meijer.
Irene Bronsvoort discussed her experience with developing the documentary ‘New Connections’ as a part of her PhD research into citizen engagement in the energy transition. The documentary is used as a ‘reflection tool’ in conversations with citizens, policymakers and others. The documentary can be viewed online.
While sustainability may at first appear to be an all encapsulating concept, it is also contested. Underlying the term are deeply political questions about the tensions between economic, social, and ecological goals; between the Global North and the Global South, and between future generations and the present. The new community Critical Pathways seeks to address such questions out of a deep conviction that only through critical (self-)examination and pause are we able to rethink and move forward.
This Sustainability Dialogue addressed two such questions and discuss the following positions:
The intrinsic value of non-human nature should be recognized and underpin sustainability agendas more so than is currently the case.
Despite consensus that global warming and environmental degradation are caused by human activities, it remains difficult to hold people accountable within existing frameworks. Therefore, we need to rethink the categories of responsibility and accountability, as well as violence and agency.
Speakers Merel Soons, Professor of Plant Dispersal Ecology & Conservation and Vice-Chair of Future Food Utrecht; Franck Meijboom, Associate Professor of Ethics of Human-Animal Interaction; Daan van Uhm, Associate Professor in Criminology, specialized in Green Criminology; Susanne Knittel, Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and former Chair of the Utrecht Young Academy; Liesbeth van de Grift, Professor of International History and the Environment.
From the various areas of expertise within Pathways to Sustainability - energy, agriculture, nature, water, cities, living, working and economic developments - we will look at the ideal picture of the Netherlands in 2100, and in particular what challenges and obstacles we will encounter along the way. Are these challenges the same per area of expertise, different or conflicting? What difficult choices have to be made now and in the future to achieve a common goal? With the experts Gert Jan Kramer, Marjolijn Haasnoot, Martin Wassen, Hens Runhaar, Peter Pelzer and Ron Boschma.