Dr. Olof Stiernstorm spoke about his ongoing project on local and regional planning for sustainable development in European Arctic today. In his talk, I saw a common theme of adopting a balanced view, related to various issues. As a student of economics and environmental science, I appreciate this approach. Even though economics is seen as destroying nature, I believe that economics (with the right policies) can also be used to conserve nature. He talked about mining activities that have been taking place for over 100 years. Even though mining activities have been seen in a negative light, it has its advantages – it has caused an increase in income, not only for people working in the mining industry, but also for those in other fields such as electric installers, and school teachers. This made me think about the complications that any given aspect has – in the case of mining, it destroys the environment to a great extent, there is also the problem of thousands of people losing their jobs if mining activities are stopped. I relate this to my research on green buildings, and how I believe this is a balanced approach to help people move towards energy efficiency in a way that also gives them economic incentives – of saving costs.
The concept of sustainability originating from Norway is something I didn’t know, and there was a questioning of basic concepts such as the method of categorizing things in research. I agree with the fact that this takes away certain aspects (being researched on), but I also think that this is a practical thing to do – to make certain assumption to get results that can be used. He also mentioned that we should participate in planning as unique individuals. While I like the idealism behind this, I don’t know how far planning could be implemented, in this way. But I do think that many more discourses could arise, if people bring their identities to the front, when voicing opinions about a certain approach to planning. The involvement of homeless people who sleep on the streets brought more diverse objectives to planning. This made me think of my research – the different perspectives of entities on implementation of green buildings and how all of them don’t have equal platforms to voice their opinion.
There were basic paradoxes of sustainability questioned – people living near the biggest mining pit in Europe talking about how to move closer to sustainability. My question to him would be should people working in mining and living close by then stop talking about concepts such as sustainability altogether, because discussion in my opinion can eventually lead to a shift in action? People talk about sustainability, he said and then catch flights to travel short distances, thus increasing carbon emissions. I think this is something I am guilty of, too. But I also think that change can start with voicing different perspectives in academics, which can potentially shift the discussion related to a certain issue and help find solutions.