Lieblingsplätze – poetische Orte in der Natur

By Werner Henkel (with a foreword by Maraja Riechers)

Favourite places – poetic places in nature

The text below is written by the artist Werner Henkel (NaturArte) and connected to the transdisciplinary case study of Oldenburg. It is his conclusion to an inspiring social landart workshop from August 2017 to February 2018. Werner and I had a great collaboration and my scientific conclusion on emotional responses to landscape changes is currently in the making. Enjoy! (only available in German)

Am 26. und 27.8.2017 traf sich eine Gruppe von Anwohnern der Region Oldenburg im Zentrum Prinzhöfte, um sich über ihre Lieblingsplätze in der Wildeshauser Geest auszutauschen und auf eine künstlerische Entdeckungsreise über deren persönliche Bedeutung und Gestaltung zu gehen.

In einem ersten Schritt wurden die Plätze anhand von Fotos vorgestellt und es entstand ein intensiver Austausch. Zur Einstimmung in die künstlerische Arbeit wurden die Farben und Formen der Naturmaterialien erforscht. An ausgesuchten Plätzen wurde die Gestaltung in der Natur exemplarisch erprobt. Das Wochenende ermöglichte den TeilnehmerInnen verschiedene künstlerische Erfahrung als Rüstzeug, um im weiteren Verlauf  an Ihren Lieblingsplätzen individuell gestalterisch aktiv zu werden.

Der Workshop Lieblingsplätze setzte an der persönlichen Verbundenheit mit Natur und Landschaft an. Lieblingsplätze sind Orte, um diese grundlegenden Erfahrungen zu erleben und ihnen nachzuspüren.

Durch das intensiven Einlassen auf die Plätze und deren ästhetischen Erforschung wurde das Einmalige und Besondere der Orte, ihre Qualität und Atmosphäre deutlich. Es kristallisierten sich persönliche Themen und Motive heraus, die zunächst in den Plätzen verborgen sind. Diesen wurde mit ästhetischen Mitteln, wie Objekten, Installationen aber auch Fotografie und Text, ein künstlerischer Ausdruck, eine künstlerische Gestalt gegeben. So verstanden ist Kunst ist immer auch ein Erkenntnisprozess, ein bildnerisches Nachdenken (Die kursiven Textteile sind Zitate der TeilnehmerInnen).

  1. hat einen Buchenbestand gewählt. Sie hat dort ein selbstgenähtes großes und knallrotes Herz niedergelegt. Ein schönes Bild für die lebendige Verbundenheit – so ihr Name für den Platz – zur Natur, die entsteht wenn wir unser Herz öffnen. Sie kennt ihn schon seit seit Jahren, entdeckte ihn zuerst als Abenteuerspielplatz für die Kinder, …, für Sonntagsausflüge. Später dann oft alleine besucht, zur Besinnung, Kontemplation, Muse, einfach ein Ort den ich gerne aufgesucht habe und auch heute noch aufsuche. Strahlt erhabene Ruhe aus durch die alten hohen Buchen, ist gleichzeitig licht und zart durch die Großzügigkeit. Lässt mich ruhig werden, durchatmen, Pause machen! Hier wird deutlich, das Eintauchen in den Naturraum ist ein Teilhaben an den schöpferischen Prozessen des Lebendigen. Was wiederum unsere eigenen schöpferische Kräfte belebt. Die künstlerische Gestaltung des Platzes mit Naturmaterialien oder mit besonderen eigenen Dingen erfüllte mich mit einem Gefühl tiefer Befriedigung, Sinnhaftigkeit und Freude. Sinnhaftigkeit und Freude zu erfahren ist ein Glücks-Moment den wir geschenkt bekommen.
  2. baut ein „goldenen Käfig“ und nannte Ihn home. Zu Ihrem Platz sagt sie: Der Platz hat eine befreiende Weite, Tiere kommen dich besuchen und er ist doch auch versteckt genug, um sich sicher und geborgen zu fühlen. Leider musste ich von diesem Platz und meinem Zuhause wegziehen. Seitdem fehlt mir die Weite, Freiheit und Geborgenheit, die einem bekannte Flächen geben kann. Wenn ich jetzt zu den Flächen zurückkehre, bin ich ihnen fremd und komme daher nur langsam dort zur Ruhe. Freiheit, Weite, Unabhängigkeit einerseits und Geborgenheit, Vertrautheit müssen in Balance sein, damit wir uns zuhause fühlen können im Leben, damit es home wird. Das korrespondiert mit Ihrem Käfig-Werk. Der steht im offenen Raum der Wiesenfläche, und changiert ambivalent zwischen Schutzraum und Eingeschlossen-sein. Was zudem noch anklingt ist Ihre wissenschaftliche Forschungstätigkeit über Natur, in der sie zwar gedanklich in der Natur ist, körperlich, sinnlich jedoch völlig außerhalb. Natur wird zu Gedanken-Käfig, der einen gefangen nimmt, aber vom unmittelbarem sinnliche Kontakt mit der Natur trennt.
  3. spielt mit dem Zeit, dem ständigen zyklischen Wandel. Er fotografierte letzten Sommer, die Bilder zeigen Natur im Grün und voller Blüte. Diese Fotos platziert er im winterlichen Naturraum genau an den Aufnahmeorten. Mitten im tristen und nassen Winter stellte ich ein Bild blühender Tulpen in’s triste graue Tulpenbeet. Dann stellte ich blühende Lungenkräuter in ein Beet in dem unter viel Humus diese Pflanzen schlummerten. So erleben wir durch Fotos und reale Natur zwei Zeitzustände eines Ortes. Das bringt uns den ständigen Wandel zu Bewusstsein. Die Stoffumwandlung ist die Voraussetzung für neues Leben im Folgejahr. Nichtsdestotrotz kann so ein langer Winter auch die Seele trübe machen, da helfen Bilder aus den fröhlicheren Jahreszeiten. Aber wie werden wir reagieren auf Winter-Garten-Bilder mitten im Sommer? Das ist der nächste Schritt: der Schönheit des Sommers den Tod des Winters entgegenzusetzen…Der Sommer überwintert, der Winter keimt im Sommer. So kommen wir in Berührung mit dem Wunder des Bleibenden im ständigen Wandel
  4. setzt sich ganz konkret körperlich und biographisch mit einem Baum in Beziehung. Sieht Risse in der Rinde in Bezug zu ihren Hautfalten, schreibt eine Art Baumtagebuch, legt im Wurzelreich verborgenes frei. Im Sommer, im vollen Laub bildet sich ein fast geschlossener Raum unter ihrem Baum. Nach dem Laubfall wir es ein durchlässiger beschirmter Raum. Sie legt Spiegel ins Erdreich unter den Baum, in dem sich das Himmels-Geäst spiegelt. Mein Schirm mit Wurzeln nennt sie Ihren Platz, an dem ein konkreter Baum zum Spiegel des Lebensbaumes wird. Und es klingt der Weltenbaum der indische Mythologie an, der Kopf steht und so im Himmel, im Geistig wurzelt und dessen Früchte unsere irdisches Leben sind. Ein Bild, dass besagt, das unsere Welt hier ein Spiegel der geistigen Welt ist. Aber auch der nordische Schöpfungsmythos wird hier thematisiert, nach dem die Bäume unsere Ahnen sind. Das erste Menschenpaar wurden vom Geschlecht der Asen aus einer Esche /Ask und einer Ulme/ Embla erschaffen. Der Schirm mit Wurzeln beinhaltet neben dem persönlichen, biographischen das sehr alte Weltenbaum-Bild der Verbindung von Himmel und Erde, unserem Behütet-sein unterm Himmelszelt und dem Verwurzelt-sein im Irdischen.
  5. spricht einen Platz an einem alten Hunte-Arm an. Unter altem, grünendem Baumbestand und im Sommer völlig mit Entengrütze bedeckt, ist es eine Grüne Kraftquelle. Er strahlt eine unheimliche Ruhe aus und man kann hier sehr gut entspannen. Außerdem entdeckt man bei jedem Besuch wieder etwas Neues. Er baut eine Art Zelt, einen geschützten Raum aus grünen Bambusstangen auf, der aber dennoch offen und durchlässig ist. Und in seiner architektonisch formalen Strenge schafft es eine schöne Spannung zu umliegenden üppig-grünen Naturraum. In dem Werk klingen Begriffe wie Mönchsklause und Eremiten-Behausung an. So schafft er einen meditativen Ort der Stille. Natur wird zu einer Kraftquelle, die T. immer wieder aufsucht, um neue Energie zu tanken. Es ist auch einen visuelle Stille, in der man im Alleinsein in der Natur die „Grüne Sprache“ lernt, wie R.Ausländer es so poetisch formuliert. Die Erfahrungen an seinem Platz haben ihm einen neuen Blickwinkel auf das Leben gegeben.
  6. gestaltete ihre Hall of Fame am Hunte-Ufer, indem sie drei gestaltete 3 Stelen mit Texten aufstellte.

Sie ehrt damit drei Menschen, die alle auf ihre Art zu meinem biophilen Zugang zur Natur beigetragen haben. Und sie wirft die Frage auf: Wohin man gerne zurückkehren würde? Das kleine Modell einer Laubhütte steht über dem Satz: Geborgenheit ist nicht Landschaft. Geborgenheit schafft auch das Bewusstsein darüber, dass wir eingebunden sind die die Natur, worauf die Biophilie verweist. Biophilie steht für die Auffassung, dass wir entwicklungsgeschichtlich eine uns innewohnende Verbundenheit zu allem Natürlichen haben, eine Liebe um Lebendigen. Wir sind selbst ein Teil der Biodiversität dieser Erde. R.M. Rilke drückt es sinnlicher aus. „Weltinnenraum“ ist  nicht nur die räumlich um uns liegende Landschaft, sondern ebenso die innerlich gefühlte Bedeutung und Wertschätzung. Diese drückt sich auch in geschichtliche Dimension des Ortes aus: dort, wo mein Platz ist, ist schon vor zehntausenden von Jahren bevölkert gewesen, auch das berührt mich. So erscheint darin auch eine Haltung der angemessenen Bescheidenheit und Demut der Natur gegenüber.

Ein schmaler Trampelpfad auf einem Baum bestandenem kleinen Wall schlängelt sich durch ein verwunschenes Waldstück. Es ist der Pfad des Oberon, wie U. ihren Platz nennt. Nicht nur für sie ist es ein verzauberter Ort, an dem eine Tiefen-Dimension der Natur spürbar wird. Sie stellt dort einen Bogen von geraden Hölzern auf, die gleichsam aus dem Boden wachsen und wieder im Erdreich verschwinden. Es ist dieses Bild des Auftauchens, des in Erscheinung-tretens und wieder Verschwindens einer magisch-mythischen Welt, die den Bogen schlägt zum Elfenkönig Oberon. Ihr Werk wirkt im Wald vergänglich, fragil und unscheinbar. Dieser ephemere Charakter betont die Flüchtigkeit des Zaubers. Im verzauberte Wald in W. Shakespeares Sommernachtstraum treiben die Elfen ein Liebes-Verwirr-Spiel mit den Menschen zur Zeit der Sommersonnenwende. All das verweist auf ein In-Beziehung-sein aller Erscheinungsformen und Dimensionen des Lebens. Und auf die Tiefenökologie, die auf ein neues Bewusstsein in der Mensch-Naturbeziehung zielt.

Im Austausch über den Wert solcher Lieblings-Plätze in der Natur wurde deutlich, solche Orte sind Inseln im stark landwirtschaftlich genutzten Landschaftsraum der Region. Inseln der Selbstbesinnung. Sie sind Momente des Zur-Besinnung-Kommens, des Innehalten und Ausdruck einer lebendigen Verbundenheit mit der Landschaft. Sie zeigen den wertschätzenden Blick, frei vom Nutzen-Aspekt, sind Kraftorte zum Auftanken und oft ist es gerade das Unspektakuläre was diese Qualität erzeugt.

Es ist kein Zufall welchen Plätze uns ansprechen, sondern ein in Resonanz-Gehen der äußeren Natur mit unserer inneren Natur. So sind sie immer auch Spiegel des Biographischen und es zeigt sich hier eine sehr persönliche, intime Ebene der Naturbeziehung. Über solche Plätze entsteht eine emotionale Verwurzelung mit der Landschaft, die über das rein Persönliche hinausgeht, denn sie zeigen exemplarisch, dass die menschliche Existenz nur als Teil des Existenz der Natur erlebt und gedacht werden kann.

Und sie sind Inspirationsquellen für eine bewusste und nachhaltige Nutzung der Ressourcen der Natur der Region. Darum ist die persönliche Beziehung in der Diskussion um Nachhaltige Entwicklung so von Bedeutung. Nachhaltiges Handeln entsteht nicht allein aus dem Wissen über … und Faktenkenntnis. Nur die Verknüpfung mit der emotionalen Verbundenheit zur natürlichen Umwelt führt zu einer wertschätzenden Haltung. Die emotionale Beziehung ist Grundlage für Umwelt-Bewusstsein und Verantwortlichkeit im eigenen Handeln. Das Wissen über und die Beziehung zu, Verstand und Herz zusammen setzten den Impuls für nachhaltiges und ressourcenschonendes Handeln. Wir schützen und bewahren nur dass, was wir lieben.

Das künstlerische Vorhaben: Lieblingsplätze ist Teil des Projektes Bio-Diversitätskorridor. Einer Initiative von „artecology_network“, dem Landkreis Oldenburg  und Leuphana Universität Lüneburg. Das Projekt zielt auf eine künstlerische und wissenschaftliche Auseinandersetzung mit Landnutzung und Naturschutz im Landkreis Oldenburg und  initiiert neue Denkanstöße für Nachhaltigkeit.

Inspiring keynote speakers at Leverage Points 2019

by Lotte Lutz

The planning and organizing of the conference is gaining momentum while the deadline for the call for abstracts is coming closer. Meanwhile, we are very happy to present the keynote speakers of Leverage Points 2019 to you: inspiring personalities who are dedicated to study and facilitate transformational change.

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Karen O’Brien is a professor in the Department of sociology and human geography at the University of Oslo, Norway. Karen’s current research focuses on the relationships between climate change adaptation and transformations to sustainability. The AdaptationCONNECTS project explores the conditions, approaches and paradigms that support transformations, including the role of creativity, collaboration, empowerment, and narratives. She is co-founder of cCHANGE.no, an initiative that supports transformation in a changing climate.

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Ray Ison was appointed Professor of Systems at the Open University in 1994, his research and scholarship spans the biophysical and social and is primarily interdisciplinary and collaborative. Ray has had periods as head of the former Systems Department, Director of the Environmental Decision Making Program, and is currently involved in managing and presenting the post-graduate program in Systems Thinking in Practice (STiP). Ray also contributes to the activities of the Applied Systems Thinking in Practice (ASTiP) Group, including leading an initiative to create a LEVEL 7 (Masters) Apprenticeship for the Systems Thinking Practitioner based on the UK Apprenticeship Levy and undertaking international research.

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Gogo Dineo Ndlanzi is celebrated as a sangoma, spiritual teacher, life coach and and professional African storyteller, poet, writer, dancer and facilitator. Gogo is a facilitator of change. She is passionate about enlightening people to view life from a different perspective through bringing about changes in outlook to allow for holistic healing. Gogo Dineo brings creativity to facilitate safe learning spaces and processes of social change. She is also a licensed Heal Your Life Teacher and certified Organisational Systems Coach.She is a well-known media and radio contributor. She has consulted with companies such as Nedbank, Standard Bank, FNB, Impala Mines, Anglo Platinum, the Gordon Institute of Business Science, Gautrain and Activate Architecture, amongst others.

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Niki Frantzeskaki holds a PhD on ‘Dynamics of Sustainability transitions’ from Delft University of Technology and is an Associate Professor on Sustainability Transitions’ Governance at DRIFT, Faculty of Social Sciences at Erasmus University Rotterdam. She is working at DRIFT since 2010 where she researches contemporary sustainability transitions and their governance across Europe, USA, Brazil and in developing countries like Vanuatu, and Ghana. Niki is coordinating research on environmental governance, and urban sustainability transitions. She contributed as a lead expert in international dialogues and projects, being the lead expert in the European Union and Brazil platform of science exchange and co-production under the theme of innovating cities with nature-based solutions.

Ioan Fazey

Ioan Fazey is Director of the Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience at the University of Dundee and Professor in Social Dimensions of Environmental Change. He is an interdisciplinary researcher with current research focusing on resilience, adaptation, what it means to achieve equitable and sustainable societal transformations and the practices that can help facilitate such changes. Ioan‘s work has included international projects on diverse issues relating to ecosystem services, biodiversity, agricultural systems, social change, vulnerability and climate change. Professor Fazey is council steward on the SDG Transformation Forum and trustee of the University of the Third Horizon, of which both seek to build capacity for and support work that contributes to transformative change.

The Call for Abstracts is open until 30 June 2018.

You can register for the conference here.

For more information please visit: http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de

If you have any specific enquiries about abstract submission please contact: Leveragepoints2019@leuphana.de

Feel free to distribute the conference flyer, available as a PDF here.

Meeting People on the Climate Fair in Wildeshausen

By Moritz Engbers

The climate fair is part of a festival in Wildeshausen that takes place in spring. Initiatives, non-governmental organizations or companies present their work. As last year, we from the Leverage Points project and the artecology_network had a stand together. From the artecology_network three projects were present: Anja Schöller offered food that was made of neophytes (recently introduced non-native plants) in order to “eat them up instead of destroying them with pesticides”. Michael and Brigitte presented their project “Restleben” in which they motivated passengers to reflect on their everyday practices of doing and not-doing. Jaana Prüss and her daughter presented the kitchen mobile, an e-bike with a kitchen that makes it possible to ride around and cook regional plants with people in the district. I presented a poster on “Wie geht Veränderung?” (How can change happen?)  (Poster) on which some of our activities and research results in the Oldenburg region were described. Furthermore, I built an interactive model of the leverage points concept by Donella Meadows in order to make the concept more understandable for a broader audience.

                                              

Also thanks to the weather the climate fair went very well. There were three things that especially stood out for me that weekend: First, it is really helpful to have a model people can interact with. Often kids were attracted to play with the model so that I could discuss with their parents later on. Second, over the weekend I met a lot of elderly people (80+) that were strongly concerned about the future, especially when they talked about their observations of nature like a strong decrease in bees and other insects. Their stories left an impression on me. Third, a lot of discussions went around the gap between knowing about worldwide problems and sustainability issues and acting accordingly. For me, this issue is strongly related to cultural and social dimensions of change and sustainability. At least it helps me to understand that changing thinking and acting is especially hard because it is based on many matters of course that we implicitly identify with and on which our (individual and collective) visions for the future are based. It made me especially think about how the deep leverage points are related with each other.

In May and June there will be several events in the (bio) diversity corridor that you can find on this flyer (Flyer ).

 

Conference Announcement: Leverage Points 2019

 

We are happy to announce our conference Leverage Points 2019! In the spirit of Meadows’ work and building on Dave Abson’s recent paper, we look forward to discussing leverage points for sustainability transformation with you!

For LP blog

Humanity sits at a crossroad between tragedy and transformation, with seemingly little idea of where we wish to go, or how we intend to get there. Similarly, now is a crucial time for sustainability research. Is it to be a passive chronicler of the challenges of our times? Or an active facilitator of transformative change towards sustainability?

Inspired by Meadows’ work we seek to explore (in theory, methods and praxis) the deep leverage points that can lead to sustainability transformations. This conference will ask: how do we transform ourselves, our science, our institutions, our interventions and our societies for a better future? The conference is premised on three principles:

  1. The importance of searching for places where interventions can lead to transformative change.
  2. Open inquiry, exchange and co-learning across multiple theoretical, methodological and empirical research approaches focused on sustainability science and transformative change.
  3. The need for reflection on modes of research and processes in sustainability research.

We hope that this conference will help us move from incremental to transformational change; extend our thinking about complex sustainability challenges and deepen our collective and transdisciplinary research practices. We very much look forward to seeing you in Lüneburg in February 2019.

The Call for Abstracts is open until 30 June 2018.

For more information please visit: http://leveragepoints2019.leuphana.de

If you have any specific enquiries about abstract submission please contact: Leveragepoints2019@leuphana.de

Feel free to distribute the conference flyer, available as a PDF here.

 

 

Love as a response to ecological insanity — Ideas for Sustainability

reblogged from ideas4sustainability

By Joern Fischer, Maraja Riechers, Cristina Apetrei and Rebecca Freeth Triggered by an interesting email exchange amongst ourselves, we thought we’d share some reflections on “hope” in a time of ecological disaster. Our discussion drew on an article in The Conversation by Neville Ellis and Ashlee Cunsolo and on reflections by Donella Meadows written in […]

über Love as a response to ecological insanity — Ideas for Sustainability

Creating meaningful transdisciplinary collaborations during the limited time of a PhD — Social-ecological systems Scholars

By My Sellberg, Social-ecological systems scholars

This is the second post in the series on ‘Transdisciplinary PhD Journeys’. Hi there, I am My Sellberg and I am doing a PhD in Sustainability Science at Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden. The possibility of doing transdisciplinary research was one of the main reasons for why I decided to do a PhD. The exciting […]

über Creating meaningful transdisciplinary collaborations during the limited time of a PhD — Social-ecological systems Scholars

Regional Identification and Sustainable Tourism in the Nature Park Wildeshauser Geest (Lower Saxony, Germany)

By Moritz Engbers

The dissemination of results is a fundamental aspect of transdisciplinary research. That also holds true for the transdisciplinary projects of the master of sustainability science at Leuphana. Two groups of the transdisciplinary master project “Case Study Oldenburg” presented their results on 11 and 12 April in Hatten and Bassum in the Nature Park Wildeshauser Geest (NPWG). Both presentations were part of a meeting by representatives of the administration of the NPWG as well as mayors and tourism representatives of the municipalities. The administration of the NPWG is working on a plan for the development of the nature park in the comming 10 years. The aim of the student’s presentation was to discuss the results of the transdisciplinary research and possible recommendations for the development of the NPWG.

The first presentation was focusing on the self-understanding of the association of the NPWG. The municipalities as members of the nature park association have quite different understandings about the purpose and goals of the nature park. They are ranging from tourism to nature protection as a major task. A challenge for the future will be to develop a joint understanding of the tasks and goals of the NPWG. The second presentation was about the role of sustainable tourism for a sustainable regional development within the NPWG. The results show that there is no shared understanding of tourism in the nature park. By developing a joint understanding of sustainable tourism and by strengthening the knowledge exchange and collaboration between the administration of the NPWG, the municipalities and tourism providers can contribute to a more sustainable regional development. Afterwards, two representatives from the administration of the NPWG highlighted the recent status of the NPWG with regard to the federal guidelines and explained the further process of the development of an updated plan for the nature park. The transdisciplinary master project was able to provide valuable studies for the further process and important impulses for the discussions. Especially the perspective of the students as “outsiders” was highly appreciated.

The transdisciplinary master projects are running for two semesters. The overall aim is to experience a transdisciplinary process from the definition of a research question and the development of relationships with cooperation partners to the presentation of results. The mentioned transdisciplinary master students project is following up on the guiding question of how nature parks can be potential leverage points for a sustainability transformation in the region of Oldenburg. The results show that nature parks can contribute to a sustainable regional development with regard to sustainable tourism and the identification of actors with the nature park. However, they are based on a quite broad definition in the Nature Conservation Act in Lower Saxony. Furthermore, they are implemented in very different ways in Germany. Nature parks can play an important role as facilitators and organizers within regions that can bring interests and actors together.

The next event within the transdisciplinary case study in the district of Oldenburg will be the Climate Fair in Wildeshausen on the 29 April. The Leverage Points project will be present with a stand together with the artecology_network. The Climate Fair is part of the Spargelfest in Wildeshausen as an important regional event in the capital city of the Oldenburg district.

What we learn by being [PhDs] together

By Katie Klaniecki

Finding your place as a PhD student can be challenging. Navigating academic publishing for the first time is confusing, funding is always at the top of your mind, and it is easy to question the significance of your contribution to your field of research. I find a certain degree solace in reading The Thesis Whisperer and laughing at PhD Comics, but the greatest support comes from being connected to other PhDs who understand the journey.

That’s why I’ve found it essential to seek out and attend workshops and conferences for PhD students. At these events, you find yourself surrounded by peers who are both (a) passionate about sustainability research and (b) understand the wild PhD roller coaster ride. I attended such an event last week in Utrecht, Netherlands: the 3rd NEST Conference, titled ‘New Frontiers in Sustainability Transitions.’ The conference is organized by a team of PhD volunteers, which makes it a conference organized by peers and for peers. The conference aims to “discuss and exchange work in progress, leading to fruitful debates and feedback.” After two days of thought-provoking presentations and inspired coffee-break chats, I walked away from the conference feeling motivated to dig in deeper to my research, inspired by the breadth and depth of sustainability research conducted by PhD, and reflecting on what we gain when we discuss our work with our peers. So in that vein, I thought I would quickly discuss three ‘takeaway’ messages that I’ve been reflecting on for the past few weeks:

  1. Removing the hierarchy: This conference featured two keynotes by outstanding professors (Anna Wieczorek and Marko Hekkert), but otherwise the conference was entirely made up of PhD presentations and discussions. During parallel sessions, we learned about the work of our peers and received thoughtful comments and feedback on our work. I quickly realized that without the academic hierarchy in place, attendees were more likely to participate in the conversation, provide critical feedback, and suggest helpful next steps. While this isn’t true for all PhD students, I certainly found that I was more likely to speak up when I wasn’t competing with more accomplished academics for limited time or feeling nervous about giving feedback that might be critiqued by more knowledgeable members of the audience.

 

  1. Seeing the forest and the trees: I presented early-stage results from a paper looking at the relationship between place attachment and energy consumption behaviors in Transylvania, Romania. This work is part of the RECONNECT work package that aims to quantify reconnecting people to nature as a potentially deep leverage point for sustainability transformation. After my presentation I was asked in which ways this research informs our understanding of sustainability transformation. I truthfully answered that it probably doesn’t tell us much. This piece of research (aka a tree) plays the tiniest of roles in advancing the field of researching and providing insights on human-nature relationships. However, each piece of work we complete contributes to a more meaningful and complete understanding of our field and the potential for sustainability transformation (aka the forest). When as PhD it is discouraging to think about our small drop in the bucket, I think it is important to constantly flip between the tree and the forest-perspective to position yourself and gain appreciation for your contribution.

 

  1. Celebrating the abundance: As early-stage researchers in the field of sustainability science, it is all too easy to envision a dismal future where change is incremental and our unsustainable trajectory continues. That’s why it is crucial to attend events with other sustainability-minded PhD. I walked away from the NEST Conference blown away by the research that my peers have carried out and the potential contribution to our understanding of sustainability transitions and transformations. There are smart, bright, motivated students doing good work at universities across the EU (and world). Networks like NEST help connect us to other PhDs, which will hopefully lead to greater collaboration, idea sharing, and joining of forces for meaningful sustainability change.

While feedback from our research teams, PhD supervisors, and scholars from larger conferences is essential, there is something special that happens when the academic hierarchy is leveled and you talk peer-to-peer. The NEST Conference was a great reminder of this and has made me reflect on how I can further encourage these types of events with greater regularity. If you’d like to read more about other perspectives on the event, you should visit the NEST blog.

Embracing curiosity: How a new nature conservation organization out of farmers is trying to conserve their traditions and livelihoods

By Maraja Riechers

Since about a year now I am doing qualitative and quantitative social research in the Lüneburger Heide (you can read about some of it here and about the Transylvanian counterpart here). As I am looking amongst others at different expressions of nature connectedness, I got introduced to a then newly created farmer’s organization (basically they approached the Leuphana in 2017). Its name is Vereinigte Heidehöfe für Naturschutz (United Heath farms for nature conservation) – an organization of farmers that own land which is to be managed for conservation. Their aim is to conserve the regions cultural heritage, their farms, and the traditionally used landscapes (health lands are highly managed and would not last without human influence). Within about one year they grew to have about 90 members and a total land mass of about 10 000 hectare.

It is safe to say they are stirring up quite some dust in the Lüneburger Heide. But it is not conflict they are after, but rather a balanced complex dialog in which the farmers have the felt leverage of making their own decisions based on transparent information. Naturally, I got intrigued by the success of the organization to attract so many members in such a short amount of time. And also by their line of arguments (admittedly, I am a curious person and get fascinated easily. But that does not diminish the actual worth for investigation!). So I stayed in touch with one of the founding members, Hans-Peter Bockelmann. Hans-Peter’s farm was first mentioned in 1380 and carries his family name since at least 1530. Since the beginning of the 20th century the farm lies in the middle of the large nature conservation area that is the core of Lüneburger Heide. When you stand on top of his hill looking over his gorgeous heath land and scattered juniper bushes, it does feel a bit like the scene of the Lion King where Mufasa claims: “Everything the light touches is our kingdom”. In this case, it would be Hans-Peter’s.

Photo by courtesy of Hans-Peter Bockelmann

Most of his heath land is leased to the local organization for nature conservation (Verein Naturschutzpark, founded already 1909) and the further development of his farm is constantly under question. If you are in the middle of a nature conservation area with strong touristic and ecological values, it is difficult to convince the decision-makers to grant you space for a new pig stall, new houses, holiday apartments or a biogas plant. Yet, in the current growth-driven system difficulties to invest can create an economic downward spiral that threatens the future of the farm. And this can feel like a trap.

But giving up is just not a trait Hans-Peter has. Instead he has enough curiosity to constantly change his perspectives to find alternative ways for his farm to stay in the hands of his family for generation to come. An example of some of his recent attempts: A new, or rather old, pig breed that lives longer before slaughtered, has more space and can run around outside (which is of course more expensive to buy and hence consumer demand is low); fancy holiday apartments to give tourists a holistic view of realistic farming practices while giving them the luxury the city-dwellers might want; And the establishment of a nature conservation organization. Will these attempts work to save his family farm? We can only hope so. Do they outline farming practices outside the current economic growth paradigms? Yes, they do.

Now a bit later my colleagues and I will help to assess some information of the organization’s steadily increasing members: How much land is managed how? Which is already managed as regulated by conservation laws (but not certified as nature conservation area)? What are reasons for the membership, and what are expectations towards the organisation etc. For now, this might just be a small collaborative research project but who knows where it might lead. Maybe our research sheds some light on how organizations concerned with farming and those with conservation can sit on one table and discuss their shared goals of conserving the cultural and biological diversities their landscapes engender. Maybe. I stumbled into this due to my curiosity, and the collaboration grew organically without effort. This is one reason, why I love empirical research and one reason more to keep your eyes open for fascinating stories.

A new classification of human-environment connections

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer

We’ve all heard of ecosystem services, and work on “relational values” to conceptualise human-environment connections is increasing. Do we really need yet another way to classify connectedness to nature?

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In an era where leading scholars are calling for us to reconnect with the biosphere, where the loss of experiential connection to nature is seen as a possible cause for biodiversity decline (e.g. here and here), where the health benefits of engaging with nature are increasingly obvious, where capitalism is blamed for having alienated us from ourselves and the world at large … perhaps we do need a more holistic way of thinking about human-environment connections.

Chris Ives just published a new paper on this, related to our work on leverage points (stay tuned for an upcoming conference call!). In the paper, we distinguish between different kinds of connectedness — philosophical, emotional, cognitive, experiential…

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