15 May 2013
The first Global Sustainability Institute (GSI) research conference was held in Cambridge on 15 May 2013, on the theme of Big Challenges, Creative Solutions.
The event brought together academics, politicians, civil servants, not-for-profits and businesses to explore how individuals interact with and influence global systems.
The day featured workshop discussions and 20 short 'flash' presentations, covering a diverse range of issues – from hairdressers as social change agents to global trade policy – many of which were illustrated in real time by a cartoonist (below).
The speeches and discussions recognised the need to address the range of issues covering the environmental and social dimensions of sustainability whilst acknowledging that these have a number of trade-offs. Cooperation, not competition, was found to be critical, but many challenges still exist in breaking down the barriers between subjects, sectors and individuals.
The conference opened with a keynote speech from Jane Davidson, ex-Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government and now director of the Institute of Sustainable Practice, Innovation and Resource Effectiveness at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. It concluded with a panel discussion featuring Craig Bennett (Friends of the Earth), Professor Brett Day (University of East Anglia), Deborah Doane (World Development Movement), Eileen Donnelly (John Lewis) and Dr Sergio Fava (Anglia Ruskin University).
Questions discussed included whether short-term capital accumulation was needed to allow investment in long-term solutions, and the need for political vision and leadership whilst acknowledging the challenge of extending the time politicians are in power. Concern was expressed that the type of rapid change needed has, in the past, often been linked with human suffering. The panel concluded that the role of technological innovation and regulation to unlock transformational change needs further investigation.
To find solutions to today's sustainability challenges we need both action on the ground as well as bold political leadership. It was great to hear about some of the solutions being put in place as well as explore some of the challenges in creating political action at the GSI conference
A selection of papers from our Research Conference 2013 was published in a special edition of the journal Sustainability.
Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050; CODEN: SUSTDE) is an international and cross-disciplinary, scholarly, open access journal of environmental, cultural, economic and social sustainability of human beings. It provides an advanced forum for studies related to sustainability and sustainable development, and is published by MDPI online monthly.