The programme of the Pathways to Sustainability conference 2019 consisted of a plenary morning programme, a delicious vegan lunch, interactive break-out sessions, and a closing panel discussion. In between these programme elements, and at the end of the conference there was plenty of opportunity for networking and drinks at the Sustainable Marketplace.

The description of the programme, including the interactive break-out sessions that participants could choose from, can be found below the time schedule.

Time Description Speakers
9:00 Registration and coffee  
9:30 Welcome

Prof Henk Kummeling
(Rector Magnificus, Utrecht University)

Prof Maarten Hajer
(Pathways to Sustainability, Utrecht University)

Prof Marleen van Rijswick
(Utrecht University)

9:50 Keynote: 'Unmodern imaginaries: infrastructures for a sustainable world', with Q&A

Prof Sheila Jasanoff (Harvard University)

Introduced by Prof Johan Schot
(Utrecht University)

10:50 Coffeebreak at the Sustainable Market Place  
11:20 Keynote: 'Pathways to a more plant-based future'

Jeroen Willemsen (Green Protein Alliance)

Prof Denise de Ridder (Utrecht University)

12:00 Imagining sustainable futures

Diederik Samsom
(chair Klimaattafel Gebouwde Omgeving, nuclear physicist, former politician)

12:30 Vegetarian lunch at the Sustainable Market Place

Talk show: Teaching with society


Moderated by Astrid Mangnus and Jesse Hoffman 

14:00 Parallel break-out sessions  
  A. Circular cities: rethinking our infrastructures

Led by Prof Jochen Monstadt
(Utrecht University)

  B. Energy transition: pathways to decarbonise industry

Led by Prof Gert Jan Kramer
(Utrecht University)

  C. Protein transition: towards sustainable plant-based diets

Led by Prof Rens Voesenek
(Utrecht University)

  D. The Dutch Delta: imageries of the future

Led by Prof Hans Middelkoop
(Utrecht University)

  E. Circular economy: an answer to the plastic soup?

Led by Prof Ernst Worrell and Dr Walter Vermeulen (Utrecht University)

  F. The university as a living lab: shaping a sustainable campus

Led by Sake Slootweg, Laurens de Lange, and Joppe van Driel (Utrecht University)

15:30 Coffee break at the Sustainable Market Place  
16:00 Panel discussion: 'Knowledge for sustainability: should universities reinvent themselves?'

Diederik Samsom

Prof Frans Berkhout
(King’s College London)

Prof Marleen van Rijswick
(Utrecht University)

Prof Sybil Seitzinger
(University of Victoria)

Prof Appy Sluijs
(Utrecht University)

Elizabeth Dirth
(2050 Climate Group and Utrecht University)

17:00 Drinks at the Sustainable Market Place  


Moderator: Dr Vanessa Timmer (Utrecht University and One Earth).


9:50 Keynote Prof Sheila Jasanoff

Unmodern imaginaries: infrastructures for a sustainable world

Sheila Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School

A pioneer in her field, Prof Sheila Jasanoff calls for a new imaginary in the transition to sustainability.

“The transition to sustainability is often imagined as a linear process: as seamless and universal as the rise of industrialism and capitalism that created the very threats to human survival on a limited planet today,” says Sheila Jasanoff. She identifies two dominant and contrasting visions of a sustainability transition: “In one dominant imagination, the transition will require turning back the clock, with a future that embraces the preindustrial past and the virtues of smallness. In a sharply contrasting vision, the transition will require a giant leap forward, a technological ‘silver bullet’ that will solve the problems of clean energy or food scarcity once for all and everywhere.”

A new imaginary

But how useful are these totalizing visions of pathways to a more sustainable world? According to Jasanoff, sustainability may call for a new imaginary of the un-modern. An imaginary that reconciles binaries that have been artificially locked into non-intersecting packages: big vs. small, disruption vs. conservation, technological vs. ecological.


Approaching sustainability from the standpoint of infrastructures, Jasanoff argues that we need to question and reconfigure the scales of technological, economic, legal, and ethical interventions to generate creative and integrated pathways to a sustainable Earth.

About Sheila Jasanoff

Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the Harvard Kennedy School. Her work explores the role of science and technology in the law, politics, and policy of modern democracies. Jasanoff wrote more than 120 scientific articles and chapters and several books including The Fifth Branch, Science at the Bar, Designs on Nature, and The Ethics of Invention.

Jasanoff is the founder and director of the Science and Technology Studies Program at Harvard; previously, she was founding chair of the Science and Technology Studies Department at Cornell. She has held distinguished visiting appointments at leading universities in Europe, Asia, Australia, and the US. She holds AB, JD, and PhD degrees from Harvard, and an honorary doctorate from the University of Twente.

11:20 Keynote Jeroen Willemsen, reflection by Prof Denise de Ridder

Pathways to a more plant-based future

Jeroen Willemsen (founder Green Protein Alliance)
reflection by Denise de Ridder (Professor of psychology, Utrecht University)

Over the past 60 years, meat consumption has more than doubled and cheese consumption more than tripled in the Netherlands. As a consequence, our protein consumption, more specifically the ratio of animal : plant based protein, is thoroughly out of balance. This is a concerning trend that is apparent in most developed countries. Simultaneously, animal consumption in developing countries is rising. Experts worldwide agree: our planet cannot deliver the natural resources required should 6 billion more follow our radical diet change. Willemsen argues that the only way to ensure future food security is when the protein balance in developed countries is restored and a growing imbalance in developing countries is prevented. While scientists warn that policymakers, farmers and consumers face deeply uncomfortable choices to rebalance protein production and consumption, Willemsen emphasizes the opportunities that the inevitable protein transition offers. In his presentation, he illustrates how ‘the protein game’ is rapidly changing. He shows how innovative researchers, companies, and investors worldwide are leading the quest for new concepts and businesses models for plant-based protein. These concepts and business models aim to inspire multinationals who are required to reach out to the mass population. In turn, this is vital for accelerating the food transition.

How can we best urge consumers and producers to produce and consume more plant-based proteins? Utrecht University´s Professor of psychology and nudging expert Denise de Ridder will share her insights on these questions and give a reflection on Jeroen Willemsen’s talk.

About the speakers

Jeroen Willemsen is the founder of the Green Protein Alliance, a platform of producers and retailers enabling consumers to restore their protein balance. Following his career at Wageningen-UR, in 2009 Willemsen founded Ojah, producer of the plant-based ‘chicken’ and receiver of the title ‘Most Innovative SME of The Netherlands’ in 2012. In 2018, Willemsen was selected in the Sustainable Top 100 of The Netherlands.

Denise de Ridder is professor of psychology at Utrecht University and director of the Self-Regulation  Lab. The main topics of her research are self-regulation, self-control, and nudging related to health behaviour, consumer choices, and food.

12:00 Inspirational speech Diederik Samsom

Imagining sustainable futures

Diederik Samsom

Diederik Samsom uses storytelling to take us on a journey to sustainable futures, based on his varied experience with sustainable energy in the energy sector, in Dutch politics, and at Greenpeace.

Diederik Samsom is the chair of the Klimaattafel Gebouwde Omgeving for the Dutch climate agreement, and a commissioner at Energie Beheer Nederland. Samsom is a former politician for the Partij van de Arbeid (Dutch Labour Party) and a former activist at Greenpeace. He studied nuclear physics.

12:30 Talk show (during lunch)

Teaching with society

Debate about the challenge to connect education to society in a meaningful way.

Every teacher aims for relevant education. Yet, in practice it is a challenge to connect education to society in a meaningful way. In this talk show we will be looking at the pearls and perils of connecting education to societal challenges. 

During the discussion we will hear academics that are re-inventing education. While not always in the spotlights, Utrecht University hosts many inspiring examples. With them, we will discuss how teachers have brought education to society in connection with companies, policymakers, activists and others. And, in reverse, how they have brought a changing society into the classroom, aiming for an inclusive educational system.  

Speakers include: Edgar Pieterse, Gönül Dilaver, Peter Pelzer, and others. Moderated by Astrid Mangnus and Jesse Hoffman.

14:00 Parallel break-out sessions

You can choose one of the following six interactive break-out sessions:

A. Circular cities: rethinking our infrastructures

This break-out session is fully booked.

Cities like Utrecht, Amsterdam, and Rotterdam have committed to transform into fully ‘circular cities’ by the year 2050. To reach this ambition our urban infrastructures need to change radically. We need to creatively rethink the ways we design, govern, and use our systems that provide energy, water, mobility, waste, and communication services. The question is how can we change these infrastructures to build such circular cities.

This session will address this question in small interactive working groups open to researchers and stakeholders from policy, business, civil society, and other relevant sectors. Input for these working groups for each infrastructural system will be provided in a short introductory talk by Prof Jochen Monstadt, leader of the research hub Transforming Infrastructures for Sustainable Cities. In addition, two policy-makers, including a representative from the municipality of Utrecht, share with the participants how they work on building circular cities to inspire the small working groups. 

This session is organised by the research hub Transforming Infrastructures for Sustainable Cities, one of the hubs of Pathways to Sustainability.

Led by Prof Jochen Monstadt, department of Human Geography and Planning, Utrecht University.

B. Energy transition: pathways to decarbonise industry

Over the last two years we have seen a lot of activity around the energy transition of the Dutch industry sector. Vison reports from stakeholder conventions, a Climate Bill (Klimaatwet), a court ruling (Urgenda), and a draft Climate Agreement (Klimaatakkoord) make clear how difficult the industrial transition is, once you have committed to doing it. Contributing to this transition by providing transdisciplinary insight is the aim of the research hub Deep Decarbonisation: Towards Industry with Negative Emissions. The hub examines the prospects of the energy transition of the industry sector with a focus on the Netherlands.

In this session, we will focus on the role of negative emissions technologies in decarbonization pathways for industries from an international and national perspective. We will discuss the economic, environmental and governance aspects of negative emission technologies. Through short presentations and a panel discussion we will address the question to what extend the Netherlands should and can pursue a pioneer role in negative emissions.

This session is organised by the research hub Deep Decarbonisation: Towards Industry with Negative Emissions, one of the hubs of Pathways to Sustainability.

Led by Prof Gert Jan Kramer, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University.

C. Protein transition: towards sustainable plant-based diets

For decades the growing demand for high-value animal protein in mostly Western countries has increased pressure on the livestock sector resulting in unsustainable farming. The unprecedented growth of the demand for animal protein is expected to have a negative impact on the environment. To ensure food security, food safety and sustainability we need a transition from diets based primarily on animal proteins towards diets based on proteins produced by plants.

During this session speakers from different sectors, with different academic backgrounds will outline and discuss with the participants of this parallel session various dimensions of this complex and highly needed protein transition. This working session will build on the keynote speech of Jeroen Willemsen in the morning programme of the conference.

A detailed programme of this session can be found here.

This session is organised by the research hub Future Food Utrecht, one of the hubs of Pathways to Sustainability.

Led by Prof Rens Voesenek, department of Biology, Utrecht University.

D. The Dutch Delta: imageries of the future

From the eleventh century onwards, the inaccessible delta area on the Lower Rhine and Meuse rivers has developed into the Netherlands as the highly populated country of today. What were the driving forces that shaped our delta? How can insights from the past help define a sustainable Dutch delta of the future? And what is the role, in this process, for science and society? These questions are addressed in this session, organised by the research hub Water, Climate & Future Deltas.

Hub leader Prof Hans Middelkoop will introduce the factors that have influenced the development of the Dutch delta up until today, addressing the wide variety of processes - physical, chemical, biological, institutional and socio-economic – that interact in deltas. In the second part of the session, we will literally sketch the Dutch delta of the future in smaller breakout groups, guided by postdoctoral researchers Frances Dunn, Sitar Karabil and Philip Minderhoud and supported by visual artists. The aim is to create imageries of the Dutch delta of the future including the pathways we have to explore and the societal and research questions we need to address.

This session is organised by the research hub Water, Climate & Future Deltas, one of the hubs of Pathways to Sustainability.

Led by Prof Hans Middelkoop, department of Physical Geography, Utrecht University.

E. Circular economy: an answer to the plastic soup?

This break-out session is fully booked.

‘Scientists worldwide estimate there are 150 million tons of plastic trash in the ocean right now, with an estimated 8 million tons added every year. That means, pound for pound, there is more plastic waste from our cities swimming in the ocean than there are whales.’ – Studiokca, designers of the ‘Skyscraper’, a whale made of plastic waste.

The artwork ‘Skyscraper’, at the time of the conference in the canal next to TivoliVredenburg, is symbolic for the debate in this interactive session. Apart from the whale in the canal we also have a huge ‘whale in the room’ in discussing the circular economy. How did we get to this point? Do we have to consume less, and why do we consume so much in the first place? In addition to the plastic waste issue, in North-West Europe we also achieve high recycling rates for many materials. Whose responsibility is it to deal with this enormous amount of waste? Is waste production perfectly acceptable as long as we reuse it – for example through repurposing it for creating arts?

Both industry and government have embraced the circular economy for its economic and environmental benefits. However, the concept is badly defined, and not without controversies and criticisms. Circular economy can become an innovative and comprehensive path to sustainability, or simply a rebranding of concepts such as ‘green growth’ and ‘waste = food’. In this session, we use the ‘whale in the room’ to highlight the key debates related to the circular economy, explore the changing role of consumers and producers in the circular economy, and discuss how the circular economy connects to sustainability.

Speakers include Prof Ernst Worrell, Dr Walter Vermeulen, Dr Li Shen and Ana Poças MSc, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht University.

F. The university as a living lab: shaping a sustainable campus

This break-out session is fully booked.

How can we optimally use the Utrecht Science Park campus as a laboratory in which researchers, students and partners shape, test and further develop sustainable innovations? In this interactive workshop we look for answers to this question. We explore current successful living lab projects and invite you to help shape the ‘Circular Pavilion’ at the heart of the Utrecht Science Park.

The Circular Pavilion

Utrecht University is designing the creation of a dynamic and flexible meeting place and knowledge centre at Utrecht Science Park: the Circular Pavilion. The aim is to accelerate innovation and create synergy between scientists, students, citizens, and operational management related to the topics of the four strategic themes of the university.

In this session, it is all about your ideas. How can this building optimally serve your research goals, educational purposes or managerial ambitions contributing to sustainability? With different researchers, Utrecht University's Sustainability Programme, Real Estate & Campus, and the Utrecht Sustainability Institute we will work in groups to envision a pavilion where interdisciplinary sciences, society and operational management come together. The outcomes of this session will be used to further develop the Circular Pavilion.

Led by Sake Slootweg (Sustainability Programme, Utrecht University), Dr Joppe van Driel (Utrecht Sustainability Institute), and ing. Laurens de Lange (Corporate Real Estate & Campus, Utrecht University).

16:00 Panel discussion

Knowledge for sustainability: should universities reinvent themselves?

The world has only twelve years left to come to grips with climate change, states this year’s IPCC report. This requires a substantial effort from governments, companies, and citizens, who require knowledge with which to base their decisions. Universities have an important role to play here. But are we on the right track, or should we do more, or differently? Is the design of universities, in their current shape,  conducive to driving change, or should we reinvent ourselves to better provide the sustainability knowledge that the world needs? Do we need to be more activist, or should we remain neutral? And how can we make optimal use of all academic disciplines and their societal partners that are united at the university? It is high time we ask: how do we imagine the useful knowledge and the university of tomorrow? Debaters from various backgrounds will take the floor in this interactive panel discussion, which is open to reactions from the audience.


  • Diederik Samsom (chair Klimaattafel Gebouwde Omgeving, nuclear physicist and former politician)
  • Prof Frans Berkhout (Professor of Environment, Society and Climate, King’s College London)
  • Prof Marleen van Rijswick (Professor of European and Dutch Water Law, Utrecht University)
  • Prof Sybil Seitzinger (Professor of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria)
  • Prof Appy Sluijs (Professor of Paleoceanography, Utrecht University)
  • Elizabeth Dirth (Co-founder and former chair of the 2050 Climate Group, lecturer at Utrecht University)

Moderators: Prof Maarten Hajer (scientific director Pathways to Sustainability) and Dr Vanessa Timmer (Senior Research Fellow at Utrecht University, and Executive Director of One Earth).

Breaks at the Sustainable Market Place

Inspiring sustainability projects showcasing their work

During the conference, all breaks will be hosted in the Sustainable Market Place. The Sustainable Market Place is an energising and creative atmosphere hosting several stalls that showcase Utrecht University based sustainability projects. Each market host will get creative with an interactive concept to best showcases their sustainability work. It will inspire interdisciplinarity and transdisciplinarity by strengthening the linkages between researchers and sustainability projects.

At the Sustainable Market Place you will see the sustainability projects of, among others, the Utrecht Sustainability Institute, the Urban Futures Studio, ARC CBBC, LANDac and the Shared Value Foundation, the virtual reality bike research project, and NIOZ, the Royal Netherland Institute for Sea Research, with whom Utrecht University intensively cooperates on research and education in the field of water and climate.