Category Archives: Sustainable Development

Organizations, learning, and sustainability

Effects of climate change are being observed at an increasingly alarming rate across the world. Each year we see more severe flooding, droughts, bushfires and heatwaves, and recent studies show that unless we change our current practices these events will continue to worsen. Finding meaningful solutions to sustainability challenges requires companies and other actors to broaden their thinking, go beyond organizational boundaries and engage more with their stakeholders. However, broadening organizational perspectives and collaborating with diverse stakeholders involves inherent political and process-related tensions stemming from a resistance to change, competing motivations, lack of trust, and disciplinary-specific language.

Current research has focused on disciplinary-specific approaches to learning for sustainability. Our review aligns with calls from prior research for cross-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder approaches to sustainability. It offers a deepened understanding of the challenges organizations and multi-stakeholder initiatives face when learning for sustainability, including entrenched power relations, and traditional decision-making and value structures. We introduce ‘reflexive complicity’ as a conceptual lens for understanding the slow progress we see in societal responses to sustainability challenges. We argue that in order to overcome these challenges and realize meaningful sustainability outcomes, more critical reflexive learning is needed on what motivates engagement with sustainability from academia and practice. Shifting how we motivate business and management research on learning for sustainability, in a way that prioritizes sustainability outcomes over firm performance, could allow for more engaged and transdisciplinary research collaborations and bring us a step closer to understanding how to embed critical reflexive learning processes into businesses. Similarly, breaking patterns of reflexive complicity from key actors in businesses could also see a shift toward more radical and long-term responses to sustainability in practice.

Read the full paper here: Feeney, M., Grohnert, T., Gijselaers, W. & Martens, P. (2022). Organizations, learning, and sustainability: a cross-disciplinary review and research agenda. Journal of Business Ethics, 364.

Human behaviour in relation to waste management

In recent years, the research on human behaviour in relation to waste management has increased at an exponential rate. At the same time, the expanding academic literature on this topic makes it more difficult to understand the main areas of interest, the leading institutions and authors, the possible interconnections among different disciplines, and the gaps. The paper below maps knowledge domain on recycling behaviour through bibliometric analysis and text mining in order to identify current trends, research networks and hot topics. 2061 articles between 1975 and 2020 from three different databases are examined with an interdisciplinary approach. The findings reveal that 60% of papers have been published between 2015 and 2020, and this topic is of global interest. Leading countries are mainly located in Europe, North America and Commonwealth; however, China and Malaysia are also assuming a driving role.

Bibliometrics and text mining provide the intellectual configuration of the knowledge on recycling behaviour; co-word analysis individuates conceptual sub-domains in food waste, determinants of recycling behaviour, waste management system, waste electrical and electronic equipment (WEEE), higher-level education, plastic bags, and local government. Overall, waste management and related human behaviour represent a universal challenge requiring a structured and interdisciplinary approach at all levels (individual, institutions, industry, academia). Lastly, this paper offers some suggestions for future research such as smart city design, sensor network system, consumer responsibilisation, the adoption of a more comprehensive view of the areas of investigation through the holistic analysis of all stakeholders.

Read the full paper here: Alessandro Concari, Gerjo Kok & Pim Martens. (2022). Recycling behaviour: Mapping knowledge domain through bibliometrics and text mining. Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 303, 114160.

The earth is running away from us

Fireplace Talk on Environmental Policy and Regulation

The atmosphere is warming and the climate is changing with each passing year. One million of the eight million species on the planet are at risk of being lost. Forests and oceans are being polluted and destroyed. However  ‘animals’, ‘nature’ and ‘sustainability’ are not often mentioned together in Environmental Policies and Regulations. The reason is likely to be found in the fact that the sustainability debate has been hijacked in recent years by industry and governments. Their view regarding sustainable development significantly has been subordinate to the dogma of economic growth with little regard for animal welfare and concerns for nature.

For example, The European Commission speaks about protecting Europe’s natural capital and resources. However, we also need to acknowledge the value of nature for its own sake, instead as a mere means for human flourishing. Although we as humans may be privileged in our capacity to respect autonomy and flourishing, the autonomy and flourishing that we must respect is not limited to humans. Moreover, protecting Europe’s nature for it’s own sake is perfectly compatible with human flourishing. Perhaps it is even true that in the long term we will show incapable of protecting nature as a resource for human wellbeing, without at the same time recognizing nature’s intrinsic value.

This is the third event in the Fireplace Talks on the 30th Anniversary of the Maastricht Treaty, organized by UM Campus Brussels on 12th January 2022 from 18.30-19.30 (online). Our guest speakers for the talk are Maastricht University Professor Dr. Pim Martens, and the Executive Director of the Greenpeace European Unit, Dr. Jorgo Riss.  Register here.

KNAW commissie Planetary Health

Vereerd lid te zijn van de KNAW commissie Planetary Health die gaat inventariseren welke wetenschappelijke kennis er nodig is op het gebied van planetary health en welke prioriteiten voor kennisontwikkeling er liggen voor Nederland.

Planetary health is de interdisciplinaire benadering van het verband tussen de gezondheid en welzijn van mens en dier en de ‘gezondheid’ van de aarde. Het gaat daarbij om klimaatverandering en verlies van biodiversiteit maar bijvoorbeeld ook om grootschalige milieuvervuiling, ontbossing, erosie en andere door de mens veroorzaakte veranderingen die gezondheidsrisico’s met zich meebrengen. Die risico’s zijn onder meer infectieziekten, problemen met voedsel- en drinkwatervoorziening, migratie en conflict en mentale gezondheid.

Voor meer informatie zie KNAW website

English

Honored to be a member of the KNAW (The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) Planetary Health committee, which will inventorize the scientific knowledge needed in the field of planetary health and the priorities for knowledge development for the Netherlands.

Planetary health is the interdisciplinary approach to the link between the health and well-being of human and non-human animals and the ‘health’ of the earth. This concerns climate change and loss of biodiversity, but also, for example, large-scale environmental pollution, deforestation, erosion and other man-made changes that entail health risks. Those risks include infectious diseases, problems with food and drinking water supplies, migration and conflict, and mental health.

For more information see KNAW website

Do religious beliefs influence concerns for animal welfare?

Animals—specifically, beliefs and attitudes towards them—have a central role within the field of human-animal relationships, animal welfare, ecological belief and sustainability. However, there are limited studies on the relationship between religious belief and public attitudes toward animals, and the role religion plays regarding attitudes towards animals is as yet still unclear.

This study explores the relationship between individuals’ acceptability for harming animals as one representation of ecological concern (measured using Animal Issue Scale (AIS)) and their religious belief (measured using Religious Orientation Scale (ROS)) and ethical ideology (measured using Ethical Position Questionnaire (EPQ)). The study surveyed 929 Muslim teachers and school staff in East Java, Indonesia.

The present study highlights the significant relationship between religious orientation and relativism to AIS. Regarding relativism, the results imply that individuals who believe in a universal governing moral principle are more likely to have a higher awareness of animal protection, and, therefore, a lower acceptability toward harming animals. For religious orientation, results imply that individuals who have deep personal religious belief and commitment to their religion would likely have a low acceptability for harming animals. However, when people have extra ulterior motives of for pursuing social gain, status, affiliation, or membership with their religious activities participation, it would be more likely that they have a higher acceptability for harming animals. Thus, the present study not only supports previous findings, but also contributes to addressing religious orientation as a significant variable closely related to attitudes towards animals.

In addition, the present study extends the potential for animal protection awareness to reach broader platforms, for example, in the case where religious values and institutions could serve as motivational platforms. Finally, as this is the first paper to investigate how both religious orientation and ethical ideology relates to animal protection, other research focusing on specific animals such as companion animals, carnivores, or animals important to maintaining ecosystem health for environmental sustainability, may be introduced as focal points in religious studies and related platforms.

Read the full paper here: Pasaribu, D., Martens, P. & Takwin, B. (2021). Do religious beliefs influence concerns for animal welfare? The role of religious orientation and ethical ideologies in attitudes toward animal protection amongst Muslim teachers and school staff in East Java, Indonesia. PLoS ONE, 16(7).

What do Chinese think about offshore oil and gas drilling?

Offshore oil and gas drilling provides societies with billions of dollars in profit, employs millions of people, and offers substantial tax income for governments. However, the sector simultaneously poses substantial risks of polluting the marine environment and threatening marine biodiversity. Given the competing interests in offshore drilling, knowledge of citizens’ attitudes is of vital importance .

In our research we found that Chinese coastal residents have low levels of support, high risk-perception, and moderate trust in offshore oil and gas drilling. They are concerned about the frequency of large-scale oil spills, threats to human life (including the risks of getting cancer) and threats to marine life. NIMBY mentality is apparent in coastal residents’ support toward offshore drilling and they tend to trust scientific statements from environmental groups more than from the oil industry.

It is not difficult to comprehend why coastal residents are reluctant to support offshore oil and gas drilling in China. On one hand, traditional Chinese culture favors the harmonious coexistence of human beings and the environment. Confucianism promotes the concept of “tianren heyi,” which refers to harmony between human society and nature. Taoism promotes a “wuwei” philosophy, which has no tolerance for human action that is against the laws of nature. As two cornerstones of traditional Chinese culture, Confucianism and Taoism deeply ingrain an environmental-friendly belief in the Chinese mindset. Offshore drilling will alter the appearance of nature and jeopardize the balance of the marine ecosystem, therefore contradicting the Chinese ideal of harmonious coexistence.

Read the full paper here: Mo Chen & Pim Martens, (2021). Coastal residents’ attitudes toward offshore oil and gas drilling in China. The Extractive Industries and Society.

Report on The Green Deal: What are its Implications for Animals and Nature?

Download the Working paper of the RELAY Workshop on The Green Deal: What are its Implications for Animals and Nature?

In 2019, the European Commission presented a policy document entitled ‘The European Green Deal’. The plan provides the basis for action plans for sustainable development in the policy areas of biodiversity, food systems, agriculture, energy, industry, building and renovating, mobility, eliminating pollution and climate action.

However, ‘animals’, ‘nature’ and ‘sustainability’ are not often mentioned together in this European Green Deal. The reason is likely to be found in the fact that the sustainability debate has been hijacked in recent years by industry and governments. Their view regarding sustainable development significantly has been subordinate to the dogma of economic growth with little regard for animal welfare and concerns for nature.

In the tradition of United Nations reports such as Our Common Future, the European Green Deal puts human wellbeing at its center. The European Commission speaks about protecting Europe’s natural capital and resources. However, we also need to acknowledge the value of nature for its own sake, instead as a mere means for human flourishing. Although we as humans may be privileged in our capacity to respect autonomy and flourishing, the autonomy and flourishing that we must respect is not limited to humans. Moreover, protecting Europe’s nature and its animals for its own sake is perfectly compatible with, and even necessary for human flourishing. Perhaps it is even true that in the long term we will show incapable of protecting nature as a resource for human wellbeing, without at the same time recognizing nature’s intrinsic value. The European Green Deal needs to include a just transition for nature and the animals within as well.

To tackle this issue, in January 2021 a workshop The Green Deal: what are its implications for animals and nature? was organized by an Erasmus+ Jean Monnet project RELAY. The policies behind the European Green Deal in relation to the role of Nature and Animals in our society were central to the discussions, as well as the Green Deal’s shortcomings with regard to the “voiceless” members of the European society and of the regions beyond the EU that might be affected by Green Deal-related policies. By doing so, the central question of the webinar was formulated as follows: “What are the current issues with regard to the ‘true’ sustainability goals the Green Deal should pursue and what actions are required to give animals and nature a more prominent role in the Green Deal debates?”

In the Working paper of the RELAY Workshop on The Green Deal: What are its Implications for Animals and Nature? several key observations, statements and questions concerning the narrative and the discourse are addressed. In part two of this working paper, the workshop presentations and interactive debate have been summarized for further reference.

Webinar: Indigenous and Religious Views on Animals and Nature

Webinar Wednesday April 14 6.30-8.30 pm CET

Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. In this webinar, we will discuss 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.

This webinar is free of charge, but you need to register by sending an email before 10th April to marjolijn.staarink@vu.nl. The link for the webinar will then be sent to you in due time.

Program

18.30-19.15 Introduction and movie ‘Animals Are Running Away From Us’ by Pim Martens

19.15-19.30 Ruth Valerio – Canon Theologian Rochester Cathedral

19.30-19.45 Angaangaq Angakkorsuaq – Kalaallit Shaman from Greenland

19.45-20.00 Jayasinhji Jhala  – Hindu Prince

20.00-20.30 Discussion and Q&A

Animals Are Running Away From Us – Indigenous & Religious Views on Animals

New Documentary!

Our relationship with the natural environment and animals has changed dramatically over time. In this documentary, I discuss 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.

Indigenous and Religious Views on Animals (12): Interview Buddhist Non Chao-Hwei Shih

Interview with Buddhist master the venerable Chao-hwei Shih.

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 twelfth interview in this series.

See all interviews at the Words of Wisdom and project page.