SRI goes to Iceland
By David Mendoza, Paul Brockway and Tim Foxon
Over 400 people from around the world attended the recent International Society for Ecological Economics Conference (ISEE 2014) http://isee2014.yourhost.is/, held this year at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik, Iceland, from 12-15 August 2014. Eight of us from the Sustainability Research Institute (SRI) made the trip, the largest attendance of any UK Institute, and one of the largest overall, which shows how far SRI has come in 10 years.
The overall title of the conference was Wellbeing and equity within planetary boundaries. We presented papers relating to the three ISEE 2014 sub-themes:
- Planetary boundaries and resource constraints
- Equity and economic development dynamics
- A great transition ahead?
The conference was opened with traditional Icelandic music followed with an inspiring talk by Johan Rockström on how human activity is already exceeding key planetary boundaries.
This was followed by our very own Dan O’Neill, who gave a well-received key-note speech on De-growth Economics. At a later plenary session, Dan also introduced the short film ‘Enough is Enough’ http://steadystate.org/discover/enough-is-enough/ which is based on his book of the same name.
Other keynote speakers included Peter Victor, Jorgen Randers and Polly Higgins. Polly’s talk in particular was inspiring – giving the idea of how just one person can effect big changes – as she outlined her efforts to introduce a binding global law on ‘Ecocide’ – which would make an international crime the act of causing extensive damage to or destruction of ecosystems. Her website is at www.eradicatingecocide.com.
In general, as Ecological Economics is a multidisciplinary research area, it was really motivating to find the conference plenty of different approaches, all of them with the same objective: to achieve wellbeing and equity of humanity within planetary boundaries. This is especially noticeable given the fact that the ISEE gathered researchers from all-over the world, with their respectively contextual point of view. Beyond all the scientific evidence about the problem and the possible solutions – which actually have been there for several years – there was a strong encouragement to join forces and implement the urgent actions to overcome the biggest crisis that humanity has faced (in words of some of the researchers). There is so much work to do but fortunately, from the conference it became evident that there is hope, there is knowledge, there is will…we just need to keep working hard and adding efforts.
The conference also proved very useful from a networking viewpoint, which is vital these days considering the interdisciplinary nature of our research work, and the need for constructing collaborations. Whilst there, we were also able to learn some lessons for and publicise that the University of Leeds is hosting the European equivalent, ESEE 2015 in 30 June – 3 July 2015, see http://www.esee2015.org/
Another good feature was that 7 of us stayed together in one apartment, on the old harbour. This was much cheaper than staying in separate hotel rooms, and also made for a sociable conference, as we made collective meals. Highly recommended if two or more of you are travelling to a conference.
Whilst in Iceland, various members of our SRI group managed to take excursions to see this wonderful island nation. The location – Iceland- was an excellent frame for inspiring and motivating the transition towards a sustainable global society. Its landscape, culture and warm people invoke the necessity of creating, from an academic perspective, the necessary knowledge and conditions for assuring the development (not the economic growth) of the society in harmony with the planetary boundaries to ensure that the future generations can enjoy, in egalitarian circumstances, what we have the fortune of being delighted with in the present. A few photos below are from our trips.
Finally, the PhDs that travelled to ISEE 2014 would like to thank SRI, since their bursary scheme provided valuable funds to support travel and attendance costs at the conference.