A critical perspective on sustainability

Sustainable and renewable everything is the agenda of today and the future. But how do we use the terms in the future, without diminishing their meaning? This spring semester the second batch of graduate students started to specialise in the area of ‘Technologies in Practice and Green Society’ at the IT University with a critical perspective on sustainability.

In recent years a number of educations in the area of, and in relation to Sustainable Cities have emerged in Copenhagen. A year and a half ago the Master programme Sustainable Cities at Aalborg University, Copenhagen began, and at the same time a specialisation in Green Society and Technology was introduced at the IT-University, Copenhagen.

What is the focus of this specialisation, what tools and qualities are the students introduced to, and what does the future look like for them? These questions were presented in an interview with associate professor James Maguire (Technologies in Practice research group), and he explains the importance of a critical approach towards our future use of the terms green, renewable and sustainability.

What is the focus of the specialisation 'Green Society and Technology'?

"The focus is to disturb a current understanding that people have about certain types of debates, in particular the climate debate and all the related debates around that, which seems to have brought us to a position of deadlock."

"Sustainable and renewable everything is the agenda of today - the greening of everything like infrastructures and planning, architecture, homes and universities. And in a lot of these so called green projects and discussions, people use the words green, sustainable, renewable etc. at random and in sometimes quite uncritical ways."

"So what the specialisation is trying to do is to provide a set of tools for people to think with - to allow the students to think critically but positively about the general approach to green society and technology."

IT-Universitetet

Photo: IT-University

What tools and qualities in relation to green development are the students introduced to in this programme?

"We want them to ask; "what if I put a question mark over everything I know about nature, culture, technology or infrastructure?" We try to disturb what the students know and give them a way to question these terms, but also to give them a way to go forward with them. We want the students to reformulate the terms, reform old concepts in new creative ways."  

"The programme is trying to give the students a sensibility to issues and provide them with concepts that will help them to be creative about how they think about these issues. That can be anything from urban gardening, disposal, geothermal energy etc. We want them to think about the interconnection between things and the issues at stake."

James continues, "Copenhagen is a hotspot for this action, and the desire is to bring in this new type of thinking and approach to the issues of the day. And Copenhagen is a great place to initiate this, because there are so many projects up and running. Then the theoretical and analytical dimension gets matched with the real city."  

The students in the specialisation get to choose their own projects within anything from waste and bio plants to urban farming and green buildings. This spring however, the students can also choose to work with the LAGI project, which addresses renewable energy and design in the city of Copenhagen. 

Heliofield_Foto Land Art Generator InitiativeLAGI.jpg

Heliofield, Photo: Land Art Generator Initiative/LAGI

How do you hope that the students are going to make a difference in this field?

"I hope they make a difference. They all seem very enthusiastic about doing something, and that's great. I'd like them to enjoy what they do, and I'd like them to take these ideas with them."

James interjects, that the process of making a difference or reforming old concepts and terms can take time and is almost like taking one step back and two steps forward, because you have to clear the decks of old stuff.   

"But these students will hopefully be on the forefront and doing all sorts of initiatives. They could work in private corporations or in municipal or national projects. I want the students to get great ideas, and to go out and make changes in the world."

Read more about the Green Society and Technology specialisation here.

 

Last updated Friday, March 28, 2014

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