ReNew: Transforming sustainable urban futures in polluted industrial cities in the Netherlands

We are building an interdisciplinary platform  which will facilitate collaboration between the researchers and the societal actors who live in polluted industrial cities in the IJmond  region in the  North-West coastal area of the Netherlands. The goal is to explore the obstacles and create possibilities for sustainable urban transformations in such and similar urban environments.

View on Tata Steel
View on Tata Steel, picture by Deana Jovanović

The cities across the IJmond region have been in the spotlight, as their citizens face pollution caused by Tata Steel, a multinational steel factory. In January 2022, RIVM’s (Dutch public health agency under the Ministry of Health) study showed a causal relationship between Tata Steel to health risks in this region. This company is the largest polluter of carbon dioxide and lead in the Netherlands and it provides great job possibilities. Such problem of a “double bind” has locally attracted interests of life scientists, journalists and documentary film makers, but social sciences have been so far neglecting this problem. The everyday realities in these urban environments are still not fully understood in their complexity.

The aims of this seed-money project are:

  • To create a seed-platform for collaboration between anthropologists, sociologists, urban planners and scholars of development and governance, whose expertise in their fields is valuable for this project, with the relevant societal partners and the citizens from the cities of the IJmond region affected by pollution.
  • Produce inclusive policies that will tackle issues of (im)possibilities of making sustainable urban futures. For this reason, the platform will be used as a tool for gathering (visual) data which will help us to understand how the residents see their futures in these urban environments.  
  • To use the platform to facilitate citizens’ engagements, raise awareness and facilitate public interdisciplinary debates in order to create both scientific and social impact.

We aim to make a visual archive in a form of a website through which the inhabitants from the towns in the region of IJmond will take part in this project and visualize the ways in which urban futures are made a reality amidst pollution. This is a platform where multiple visual personal stories of making urban (sustainable) futures will become visible and which will serve as a repository of different visions of possibilities and obstacles to making specific futures possibilities in these particular urban configurations. In addition, our academic team will meet with the societal partners and the citizens. We will discuss the challenges that pollution represents for creating sustainable urban futures. We will provide constructive inputs based on our expertise and the data collected through the meetings and our platform.

Team ReNew