Category Archives: Education

Indigenous and Religious Views on Animals (4): Interview Hindu Prince Jayasinhji Jhala

Interview with Jayasinhji Jhala, the 47th Jhallesvar His Highness Maharaja Sriraj of Halvad- Dhrangadhra and the cultural custodian of the Peoples of Jhalavad and protector of all life forms.

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life. Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. My Fellowship ‘Ethics of the Anthropocene‘ (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) intends to discuss these past patterns and future pathways with representatives of various indigenous cultures and religious beliefs. Learning from them about our relationship with animals may be a way we can begin to address the sustainability challenges we see today.

Above the fourth interview in this series. More interviews will follow!

See all interviews at the project page.

Indigenous and Religious Views on Animals (3): Interview Maya Priest Audelino Sac Coyoy

Interview with Audelino Sac Coyoy, a Maya-K’iche’ priest and political scientist who currently teaches at the Universidad Rafael Landívar Campus de Quetzaltenango in Guatemala.

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life. Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. My Fellowship ‘Ethics of the Anthropocene‘ (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) intends to discuss these past patterns and future pathways with representatives of various indigenous cultures and religious beliefs. Learning from them about our relationship with animals may be a way we can begin to address the sustainability challenges we see today.

Above the third interview in this series. More interviews will follow!

See all interviews at the project page.

Maastricht University evening course health and climate change

02 November – 13 November (Daily evening class CET) (2 ECTS)

Register here.

Climate change poses serious challenges for humans around the world. Global warming is perceived as one of the biggest global health risks of the twentieth century which could have a range of effects on human health. Global warming is thought to have an impact on vector-borne disease, water-related disease, heat- and cold- related deaths, allergies, air pollution and malnutrition. The projected increases in extreme climate events such as floods, droughts, and possible intense tropical cyclones could also have wide ranging direct and indirect effects on health. Although the effect of climate change will be experienced worldwide, its impact will not be evenly distributed among people. In low income countries, climate change is believed to further exacerbate existing vulnerability to disease and food security risks, as their populations are, for instance, more reliant on agriculture, more vulnerable to droughts and have a lower adaptive capacity. As climate change can be seen as an amplifier of existing and emerging health risk, it might increase health inequalities and is likely to widen the health gap between rich and poor.

If you’d like to know more about the causes and implications of climate change, then register here for the fall evening edition for this course at Maastricht University before October 15.

Indigenous and Religious Views on Animals (2): Interview Dakota Chief Phil Lane Jr

Interview with Phil Lane Jr. Phil is an enrolled member of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations. Chief Phil Lane Jr. is an internationally recognized indigenous leader in human and community development.

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life. Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. My Fellowship ‘Ethics of the Anthropocene‘ (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) intends to discuss these past patterns and future pathways with representatives of various indigenous cultures and religious beliefs. Learning from them about our relationship with animals may be a way we can begin to address the sustainability challenges we see today.

Above the second interview in this series. More interviews will follow!

See all interviews at the project page.

Indigenous and Religious Views on Animals (1): Interview Aztec Anita Sanchez

Interview with Anita Sanchez. Anita was born into a Midwest family that was economically poor, yet rich in Mexican-American and Aztec Indian heritage. She specializes in indigenous wisdom, diversity and inclusion, leadership, culture and promoting positive change in our world.

Our dominant current socio-economic and political systems have become decoupled from the larger ecology of life. Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. My Fellowship ‘Ethics of the Anthropocene‘ (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) intends to discuss these past patterns and future pathways with representatives of various indigenous cultures and religious beliefs. Learning from them about our relationship with animals may be a way we can begin to address the sustainability challenges we see today.

Above the first interview in this series. More interviews will follow!

See all interviews at the project page.

Scientivists urgently needed!

Almost every scientist recognises this picture. Having devoted much of their lives to perform research on a specific issue, but not being able to get the message outside the academic walls (and it’s not only the government that’s ‘out there’). This holds for the more fundamental sciences, but even more so for research on more complex issues, like climate change, poverty, biodiversity loss, financial-economic crisis, and the current corona pandemic.

Of course, many scientists are to be blamed as well. Being so caught up in their own scientific square centimetre, they are unable to communicate the main message of their research to others. Stimulated by the perverse publication system that only accounts for peer-reviewed publications (and not so much for more understandable messages), leaves people outside academia with only scientific papers. Not very useful in the public arena.

But still. Isn’t it funny, that a society that pays lots of money to universities and research centres, that does value teaching and research done at these places highly, then dismisses results of these institutes if it is not ‘handy’, and perhaps a little too vague?

Academia has responded through the initiation of new fields of research, such as sustainability science, focusing on research collaborations among scientists from different disciplines and non-academic stakeholders from business, government, and the civil society. Not so much for the fundamental sciences, but for the earlier mentioned ‘complex societal issues’ humanity faces today. The idea behind this is that we all need to work together in order to address sustainability challenges and develop real solution patterns.

Well, that’s a step in the right direction. However, being good scientists, this idea of ‘sustainability science’ is becoming formalised rapidly. And  – although classified by concepts such as post-normal, mode-2, triple helix, and other science paradigms – it still are ‘scientific’ classifications. With other words, it is being ‘bounded’ by similar rules that apply to other sciences as well.

From a scientific point of view, this is fine. But what about the point of view of moving forward to a more sustainable world? Does this not oblige scientists to take more responsibility, especially at times when many signals in nature and society are red? Or do we (scientists) continue to discuss the rules under which ‘sustainability science’ needs to be operated? Rules that probably will be ‘dismissed’ by the other stakeholders if it suits their purpose?

It is about time for many (more) scientists to become scientivists. Scientivists are people that are engaged in a systematic activity to acquire knowledge (the ‘science part’), to promote, impede, or direct societal change (the ‘activist part’). Scientivism can take a wide range of forms from writing letters to newspapers or politicians, to economic activism, such as boycotts, sit-ins etc. Scientivists are not afraid of interfering with legitimized procedures and official politics when science shows this would be needed.

On the other hand, scientivists must be aware that their actions may increase the risk of scientific results inappropriately being used into social discourses and in the media. This might lead to situations where, for instance, researchers find themselves unwittingly “supporting” an application of the generated knowledge they might strongly disagree with.

It is, therefore, not a ‘job’ (as for most of us ‘being a scientist’ is), but rather an ‘attitude’. An attitude that may be urgently to move forward to a more sustainable society. As in this era of social media, opportunities for scientivists will increase as we speak, there are no reasons not to join…unless you do not have that attitude…

(Published earlier (in 2012) by Pim Martens and Jan Rotmans)

See also (in Dutch): Een taxonomie van de wetenschapsactivist and The meaning of academia in times of environmental crisis.

Pathways of universities’ transformation for sustainability

Leuphana University

Universities worldwide have a clear mandate to participate in the endeavour for sustainable development through institutional transformation. Moreover, it is recognised that universities are well-positioned to identify and navigate pathways of transformation towards sustainability given their propensity for consideration of the extended time horizon for sustainability outcomes . Yet, despite their being organisations of learning, they struggle to set up structures to promote their own organisational learning. This is a problematic paradox as researchers repeatedly place universities at the centre of the ‘fundamental transformation’ that sustainable development demands of social actors, organisations, institutions and societies. Therefore, universities must also work on their own transformations if they are to operationalise their aspirations to implement sustainable development in their surroundings. This is an especially urgent imperative given the wicked problems they are tasked with providing solutions for, such as relieving anthropogenic pressures on the global environment and attaining population wellbeing in the face of growing inequality.

Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Arizona State University, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology

We analyzed three case studies of universities that have transformed themselves as organisations towards sustainability with signature pathway approaches: Leuphana Universität Lüneburg, Arizona State University, and Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. These universities first invested significant time, energy, and human resources in learning about and researching themselves, before embarking along differentiated pathways of transformation. They also showed that any blueprint of organisational transformation for sustainability should be rooted in the intrinsic logic of the organisations in question. This may prove meaningful for leaders (youth, academic or otherwise) elsewhere to prioritise specific asset development within their organisations, as they show how to shape competencies conducive to organisational transformation for sustainability. They also provide stepping-stones for knowledge actors in universities to navigate organisational and societal transformation towards sustainability, in light of the radical and regenerative adaptation that must now take place.

Alex Baker-Shelley, Annemarie Van Zeijl-Rozema & Pim Martens (2020) Pathways of organisational transformation for sustainability: a university case-study synthesis presenting competencies for systemic change & rubrics of transformation, International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology.

Maastricht summerschool health & climate change

The health impacts of climate change are becoming more visible nowadays. An increased frequency of heatwaves and a change in the spread of diseases – both are the result of climate change. If you’d like to know more about the causes and implications of climate change, stay tuned. We finished the 2020 Summer course, but keep an eye on this site and the Maastricht University Summerschool website for next courses.

Public debate on the meaning of academia in times of environmental crisis

January 28th, 2020

What is the role of academics in times of environmental crisis? That was the main question at the debate at the School of Business and Economics last Wednesday, organized by Students4Climate Maastricht and Sustainable Maastricht 2030.  Where some panel members emphasized the steps that have already been taken, others – together with many voices in the audience – were more critical: they feel not enough is happening and time is running out.
The panellists all agreed on one thing: education is key.  But it’s not just students who need to be informed, the university and its staff members can also play a role in educating the general public. “To a lot of people, it still seems as if 50 per cent of the scientists think climate change is real and the other 50 per cent don’t, when in reality it’s 99 per cent versus 1,” says Pim Martens, chair Sustainable Development at MSI. “We have to speak up more when we see climate lies being shared.”

“We still have opportunities, but I’m quite pessimistic,” says Martens. “We did next to nothing between the late 90s and now. What we need is a system change, not just some adjustments.”

See original post at Observant

Learning for sustainable development

January 20th, 2015

Presentation at the 3rd GPSS GLI Symposium Tokyo

2015-01-19 09.12.13

It is clear that in making the concept of sustainable development concrete, one has to take into account a number of practical elements and obstacles. There is little doubt that integrated approaches are needed to support sustainable development. Therefore, a new research paradigm is needed that is better able to reflect the complexity and the multidimensional character of sustainable development. The new paradigm, referred to as sustainability science, must be able to encompass different magnitudes of scales (of time, space and function), multiple balances (dynamics), multiple actors (interests) and multiple failures (systemic faults).

The basic qualities that future sustainability scientists will need are: analytical insight, problem-solving qualities and good skills in both verbal and written presentation. No less important is knowledge of the diversity of instruments provided by the various disciplines involved, ranging from mathematics to history, from health sciences to economics. The range of skills needed is so wide that it can only be acquired through interdisciplinary study.

Today’s students will be the business leaders, scientific researchers, politicians, artists and citizens of tomorrow. The extent to which they will be prepared to take decisions in favour of a sustainable future depends on the awareness, the knowledge, expertise and values they have acquired during their studies and in the subsequent years. For this reason, the concepts and themes of sustainability should be integrated into all levels of educational programming. Curricula must be revised so that sustainable development forms a guiding principle throughout the entire period of their studies – and afterwards too. New teaching methods must accompany this ‘learning for sustainable development’.

Full presentation: Learning for sustainable development: the need for new paradigms