I’ve just been at theÂ inauguralÂ LUCID Young Researchers Conference along with a hostÂ of other young guns all interested in sustainability challenges from both the natural and social sciences and just about everything in-between. Beyond being impressed by the variety of ways in whichÂ the presenters are tackling different aspects of sustainability, I was really taken by how much everyone cares about their topics. The genuine eagerness to do good.
Despite such disparate topics, I felt there were two mainÂ approaches to doing good. TheÂ more highly represented was practical problem solving; taking a real physical problem and working through solutions. On the other end of the spectrum was a moreÂ critical approach; using abstract knowledge to imagine new paradigms. While there is no dichotomy, my impression was that everyÂ project isÂ oriented towards one of these two poles.
This was given stark contrast at the finalÂ panel session when Andrea Nightingale poignantly appealed for more criticism of the status quo to break us out of spiralling environmental degradation, whileÂ Kimberly Nicholas made an equally impelling case for research to be accessible and accountable to the people and problems in front of us. I was glad that the two approaches were represented, as without practical problem solving we become overwhelmed and paralysed, but without critical reflection we focus only on the symptoms andÂ end up perpetuating problems (for example the rebound effect). Sustainability needs both problematising and problem solving.
In my research it’s made me reflect more about addressing inconspicuous consumption linked with cleanliness expectations. Do I want to find more sustainable ways of reproducingÂ cleaning routines, or do I want to spend the next three years reflecting on resources consumed in following social conventions? Can I keep sight of the bigger picture, while still taking smaller steps, making smaller gains?
Thanks to the organisers for bringing this onto myÂ radar, and congratulations for a organising a greatÂ conference: David Harnesk,Â Emma Li Johansson, Chad Boda, Torsten KrauseÂ and Sandra Valencia.