One of the new IASS Fellows this year is Natalie Koch. She is a professor in the Department of Geography and Environment at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. Koch is currently researching the geopolitics of sustainability and "post-oil" futures in the Arabian Peninsula. In this interview, she discusses her research project and the extent to which the war in Ukraine may be accelerating Europe's transformation to a renewable energy supply.
Satellite data have played an important role in efforts to monitor the rate of deforestation in the Amazon Basin for decades. But the way these data are used has changed under the government of President Jair Bolsonaro. His supporters are questioning the validity of scientific findings as a means to propagate a worldview that puts profits first.
The wicked problems of the Anthropocene present major challenges to traditional scientific methods. Transdisciplinary research is a way to overcome these challenges as it involves both non-academic societal actors and academics from various disciplines. Despite its increasing popularity, the transdisciplinary approach still has not quite caught on everywhere – and it is often misunderstood. A publication from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) summarises definitions and characteristics of transdisciplinary research and outlines an exemplary three-phase model that transdisciplinary teams can use to carry out their research successfully.
Proponents of a “mobility transition” would do well to take lessons from such successful role models as Copenhagen, one of the most bicycle-friendly cities in the world. Which discourses fuelled Copenhagen’s transformation into the city of cycles it is today? IASS researcher Theresa Kallenbach studied the coverage on cycle traffic in Danish daily newspapers and discovered that road safety took centre-stage in a debate from which environmental concerns were all but absent.
How do daily newspapers in Germany report on the subject of urban mobility? For a study by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) that explores how current and future urban mobility are reported on in the German media, a team of researchers examined a selection of articles from daily newspapers. The study reveals that sustainable forms of mobility are seldom discussed. Similarly, the climate crisis is rarely mentioned in articles relating to mobility and transport. If the articles have one thing in common, it is the implicit assumption that the car-friendly city is desirable.
While the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals are universal, the pathways leading to them are diverse. Due to their different biophysical, socio-economic and political-cultural circumstances, countries are guided by different visions of how the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be achieved and have different policy options and levers for doing so. The SHAPE project ("Sustainable development pathways achieving Human well-being while safeguarding the climate And Planet Earth”) has taken up the challenge of identifying and describing such Sustainable Development Pathways (SDPs). An interdisciplinary team of researchers is currently developing and analysing new, holistic narratives and scenarios in order to understand how actions to mitigate climate change in-teract with strategies to achieve the other Sustainable Development Goals.
The response to the coronavirus pandemic has brought about changes that would once have seemed unthinkable. As part of its precautionary measures, the state has been permitted to limit freedoms in order to protect the health of its citizens. The flood of mass tourism has become a trickle and the number of people commuting to work has plummeted. As economies slow, so too do greenhouse gas emissions. As a result, Germany has reached its climate goals for 2020 after all. The pandemic has also seen a surge in solidarity, with citizens helping each other with the shopping, collecting donations for shuttered cinemas and much more. Parliaments have seen bipartisan support for bridging loans, debt moratoriums, and stimulus programmes to keep businesses afloat and support struggling families.
We need other, more sustainable, cross-cutting forms of funding to tap the potential of art and culture, advance society with new ideas, and enable cooperation with science.
The aim of the Fund Aesthetics and Sustainability |FÄN is to close this gap. The FÄN is intended to open up a further space of possibility and expand the artistic radius of action.
Food consumption and production are one of the key entry points available to human societies for effecting a transformation towards sustainability. Food production is a major contributor to a whole range of environmental problems including climate change, biodiversity loss, water overuse, and air and water pollution. Also, unhealthful diets cause chronic disease and millions of premature deaths around the world each year. One common link between these two unsustainable trends is high levels of consumption of animal products—meat, dairy, eggs, etc., particularly in industrialized countries, but also increasingly in developing countries. Thus, efforts to shift diets en masse away from animal products towards plant-based foods can reap multiple sustainability benefits.
A long, grotty corridor, bathed in cold neon light. The audience of just ten people is divided into two groups and has to keep the mandatory distance of 1.5 metres while standing in line. You wait and ask yourself what’s going to happen next. This is how a performance of Tornado, a “Climate-Theatre-Disaster”, gets under way at Berlin’s Theaterdiscounter.
Socio-environmental governance is not an area of exclusive government action. Corporations, investors, civil and consumer organizations are reinventing themselves as political players in an increasing number of self-regulatory arrangements. Private environmental governance covers a wide-range of schemes such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) criteria; Voluntary Sustainability Standards (VSSs) and certifications. Private initiatives have been praised for their potential to contribute to the goals of the Paris Agreement. Nonetheless, the current situation in Brazil shows that the private sector has a role to play not only in making its own environmental commitments, but in demanding that governments respond.
Wouldn’t it be a big leap forward for climate and environmental protection if we could let a machine, a powerful artificial intelligence (AI) manage our consumption of natural resources? Remind – or even compel – us to buy local food instead of products from overseas? Tell us to take the bike instead of the car to work when air quality levels are low? Shut off streaming TV series when we have exhausted our weekly carbon budget? Or maybe even advise the government on the conversion of urban areas into much-needed cropland or the preservation of wilderness areas?
The “Green Me Global Festival for Sustainability” is an annual event hosted at different locations around the world. Recent iterations of the festival have explored the elements earth, water and air across film screenings, discussions, and other initiatives. Researchers from the IASS have contributed to a number of these events over the years. The eleventh GreenMe Festival will take place in Berlin later this year under the motto “Action, Passion, Fire”. This prompted me to explore the themes of fire and sustainability in a dinner speech at a recent function to which sponsors and supporters of the festival were invited in early May. The following essay draws upon my comments there.
The knowledge about global warming and its consequences for people and the environment is now part and parcel of mainstream society, and most people are well aware of the goal of the Paris Climate Agreement to limit warming to well below 2 degrees above preindustrial levels. Many proposals for reducing human emissions of CO2 hinge...