Is the concept of « environmental sustainability » misleading ?
Mixed perspectives

Overview  20-22nd October 2021

The recently set-up FEdération de Recherche en Environnement et Durabilité (FERED) (University of Strasbourg/CNRS/INSERM), with the goal to inaugurate this new research structure, launch a Call for contributions. The event will be held in Strasbourg (and if needed, also online) on 20-22 October 2021 on the topic :« Is the concept of "environmental sustainability” misleading? Mixed perspectives ». The Symposium will thus offer an excellent opportunity to question the concept of sustainability at the crossroads of our various disciplines and practices, in order to better understand and master the way it affects environmental research lato sensu.

At a time of the climate emergency, the dramatic loss of biodiversity and the awareness of the need for a transition to the "future world", the concept of "sustainability" has become a buzzword that cuts across our disciplines. Although the concept covers a very old reality, it has been universally defined and recognised, notably in the United Nations' Bruntland report "Our Common Future" (1987), as satisfying the needs of the present without affecting those of future generations. This broad definition leaves a wide margin of appreciation to those who refer to it. Above all, the use of the concept seems to have been largely circumvented to cover processes that have a detrimental impact on the environment. 

Thus, the guiding thread of this event will be to assess how the concept of sustainability and the practices claiming to rely on it have evolved. We formulate the hypothesis that, because of a broad definition, it is necessary to assess how this room for manoeuvre has been exploited, and how in return the use made of it has made the concept of sustainability evolve and transform our disciplinary research. The ambition of this symposium will be to contribute to the emergence of a "new innovative sustainability science discipline" by questioning the misuse that may have been made of the concept over the last forty years, by reflecting on the means of ruling out such abuses, by rigorously drawing the contours of "environmental sustainability" and by trying to understand how it still makes sense.