[Translate to Englisch:] Forscher/innen im Labor ©merle busch

"Building back better" - International Conference on Environmental Justice

2021-10-14 In collaboration with Georgetown University, the Stellenbosch Sustainability Institute and the Lassalle Institute, Leuphana University hosted the international conference Environmental justice - Building back better "after Corona" from 29 August to 2 September 2021.

Against the backdrop of the increasingly complex and urgent challenges posed by man-made climate change and social inequalities, among others, the conference explored opportunities and paths for a social-ecological (re)design after the Covid-19 pandemic. Held at the Lassalle-Haus in Switzerland, a place where different (spiritual) traditions converge, the conference served as a platform for interdisciplinary dialogue among more than 30 scientists and other stakeholders, including from France, Great Britain, Italy, Mexico and South Africa. Guided by a concern for ecological and social justice, they discussed topics such as climate change, biodiversity, responsibility in times of crisis, socio-ecological transformation, and indigenous perspectives on sustainable development.

"There are countless opportunities to help shape the world," said co-organiser Daniel Lang, summing up the event, "but there is one aspect we cannot do without - the conference showed that very clearly - and that is learning together from and with each other, appreciatively and at eye level." Accordingly, transdisciplinarity crystallised as a special focus of the conference, linking systems knowledge, target knowledge and transformation knowledge as well as the actors necessary to develop the different types of knowledge. "Transdisciplinarity is not something that is added to the redesign, say, as a 'nice to have', but a reflexive practice of mutual learning with the aim of contributing to tackling central societal problems and at the same time producing innovative scientific knowledge. If, for instance, we consider the complexity of the necessary mobility turnaround, we realise how important such learning processes are for shaping transformation processes," explains Lang.

"Even when planning the conference, we felt it was important that also and especially scientists in early career phases should have their say here, be given space and be able to take effect. It is precisely these scientists who will play a central role in the future in providing important impulses from science for shaping the necessary transformation processes". The conference marks the beginning of an annual series of international conferences. "We have deliberately not called the conference 'building back', but 'building back better', because carrying on as before, or as before the pandemic, will not be enough to overcome the fundamental sustainability challenges such as man-made climate change or the loss of biodiversity".


The conference was organised by Gaël Giraud SJ (Georgetown University), Mark Swilling (Stellenbosch and Georgetown University), Daniel Lang (Leuphana University), Barbara Schellhammer (Munich School of Philosophy), Gabriela Scherer and Tobias Karcher SJ (Lassalle-Institut).