Wetenschap - 14 november 1996

Sustainability has many sides

Sustainability has many sides

In a relaxed atmosphere, with tea and biscuits, as is always the case with the crossroads meetings organized by the student chaplaincy, some 20 people got together last Thursday to listen to and discuss Professor Niels Roling's ideas on sustainability. Sitting in an easy chair the professor of the Department of Communication and Innovation Studies explained that sustainability should be regarded as a soft system. It emerges out of a negotiated agreement." Roling stresses that it is essential to realize that different stakeholders have a different interests concerning the use to which natural resources are put. Efforts should be directed towards fostering and facilitating the interaction between stakeholders. Roling criticized the opinion commonly held at WAU, which defines sustainability as a property of an ecosystem. He feels that this attitude is inherent in the prevailing positivist approach in science. Scientists often believe in causal links. If you do A, than B will h
appen. In addition they are often of the conviction that there is such a thing as an indisputable truth. This truth is somewhere out there and can be objectively traced and studied. According to Roling this truth is constructed. It is a very liberating idea to realize that not just the scientist, the European or the expert can be right, but that also the farmer or an indigenous person is right." One of the participants argued that nature itself cannot take part in the discussion about sustainability, so a negotiated agreement can still mean destroying nature. Roling agrees but adds that, since natural resources are usually contested, the basis of discussion is often conflict. However, since care for natural resources is a collective responsibility, collective agreement is the only way forward."

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