- Webinar – André Gorz’s Labour-based Political Ecology and Its Legacy for the Twenty First Century – Dr Emanuele Leonardi
Abstract: This paper critically reviews André Gorz’s thought, in particular his labour-based political ecology. Based on Gorz’s theoretical toolkit, it discusses the historical transformation of the link between capitalist development, natural environment and working-class struggles. In particular, the chapter focuses on Gorz’s analysis of the ecological crisis as a crisis of capitalist reproduction, whose implications are relevant for a critical understanding of contemporary capitalism.
Bio: Emanuele Leonardi is lecturer in Sociology at the University of Parma (Italy) and affiliated researcher at the Centre for Social Studies of the University of Coimbra (Portugal). His research interests include: climate justice movements and their critique of carbon trading; logics of exploitation in contemporary capitalism; working-class environmentalism.
Date: Thursday 25th March 2021, 2:30 pm CET. Please join at: https://www.gotomeet.me/USFD/retrace-webinars
- Webinar – Virtual Round table – Building the Circular Economy through public policy; perspectives from Ireland and Catalonia.
Paul McDonald – Principal Officer at the Department of Climate, Environment and Communications. Waste Policy – Plastics, Remediation and Producer Responsibility Division. Government of Ireland.
Mireia Cañellas Grifoll – Head of the Sustainable Development Unit at the Ministry of Territory and Sustainability. Directorate-General for Environmental Policy and Natural Resources. Government of Catalonia.
In this round table, Mr McDonald and Ms Cañellas will share their experience in promoting circular economy strategies within their contexts. During this conversation, we will discuss why the Catalan and Irish governments decided to promote circular economy strategies, what were the main challenges when bringing the idea of the circular economy to public stakeholders in each context, and what are their main expectations and hopes by promoting the circular economy in Ireland and in Catalonia. At the end of the event, an open discussion will be held and we will have the opportunity to compare how the circular economy is perceived at the governmental level and with a relative distance to the European bubble in Brussels.
Date: Tuesday 16th March 2021, 12 pm CET. Please join at: https://www.gotomeet.me/USFD/retrace-webinars
- Webinar – Resource nexus perspectives towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals – Prof. Raimund Bleischwitz
Debate around increasing demand for natural resources is often framed in terms of a ‘nexus’, which is perhaps at risk of becoming a buzz word. A nexus between what? Over what scales? And what are the consequences of such a nexus? A five-nodes definition is discussed, which might lead to a reload of climate policy with buy-in from supply-chain managers and resource-rich developing countries.
Date: Monday 15th March 2021, 5 pm CET. Please join at: https://www.gotomeet.me/USFD/retrace-webinars
- Webinar – The Circular Economy Rebound Effect – Trevor Zink – Loyola Marymount University, California.
Wednesday 17th February 2021. Recording available on the ReTraCE ITN YouTube channel and slides HERE.
The so‐called circular economy—the concept of closing material loops to preserve products, parts, and materials in the industrial system and extract their maximum utility—has recently started gaining momentum. The idea of substituting lower‐impact secondary production for environmentally intensive primary production gives the circular economy a strong intuitive environmental appeal. However, proponents of the circular economy have tended to look at the world purely as an engineering system and have overlooked the economic part of the circular economy. Recent research has started to question the core of the circular economy—namely, whether closing material and product loops does, in fact, prevent primary production. In this article, we argue that circular economy activities can increase overall production, which can partially or fully offset their benefits. Because there is a strong parallel in this respect to energy efficiency rebound, we have termed this effect “circular economy rebound.” Circular economy rebound occurs when circular economy activities, which have lower per‐unit‐production impacts, also cause increased levels of production, reducing their benefit. We describe the mechanisms that cause circular economy rebound, which include the limited ability of secondary products to substitute for primary products, and price effects. We then offer some potential strategies for avoiding circular economy rebound. However, these strategies are unlikely to be attractive to for‐profit firms, so we caution that simply encouraging private firms to find profitable opportunities in the circular economy is likely to cause rebound and lower or eliminate the potential environmental benefits.
- Webinar – Limits without Scarcity – Professor Giorgos Kallis, Autonomous University of Barcelona.
Wednesday 10th February 2021. Recording available on the ReTraCE ITN YouTube channel and slides HERE.
In a recent book of his, Professor Giorgos Kallis revisits the notion of limits. Although since Malthus limits and scarcity have been used as the justification of what has been framed as their opposite – growth and progress – de-growth environmentalism calls for collective self-limitation as the only way towards egalitarian abundance.
- Webinar – Policy-making for the transition towards a Circular Economy. A conversation with Janez Potočnik, Former European Commissioner for the Environment.
Thursday 4th February 2021. Recording available on the ReTraCE ITN YouTube channel and slides HERE.
Janez Potočnik received his PhD in economics from the University of Ljubljana (1993). Between 1988 and 1993, he was a senior researcher at the Institute for Economic Research in Ljubljana. Mr. Potočnik was Minister Councillor at the Slovenian Prime Minister’s Cabinet from 2001 to 2002 and Minister for European Affairs from 2002 to 2004. He headed the negotiating team for the Accession of Slovenia to the EU between 1998 and 2004. In 2004 Potočnik became European Commissioner, responsible for science and research. On 27 November 2009 he was nominated to serve as European Commissioner for the Environment in the Barroso Commission; in this capacity, he provided a fundamental contribution to the establishment of the Circular Economy agenda. In November 2014, he became co-chair of the International Resource Panel (IRP), a forum of scientists and experts working on natural resources management.
- Webinar – Circular economy as an essentially contested concept – Jouni Korhonen, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden.
Friday 4th December 2020. (The event could not be recorded)
The Circular Economy (CE) is currently a popular notion within the policy and business advocacy groups. Despite being visionary and provocative in its message, the research on the CE concept is emerging. The two intertwined objectives of the talk are; first to identify, discuss and develop the various definitions provided by the emerging literature. Secondly, to suggest an initial research approach with which research on CE can be conducted. Our analysis shows that the existing CE work is mainly done on the practical and technical levels of the actual physical flows of materials and energy in production-consumption systems. The focus of the extant literature is on concrete metrics, tools, instruments and computations. Therefore, the basic assumptions concerning the values, societal structures, cultures, underlying world-views and the paradigmatic potential of CE remain largely unexplored. We argue that CE has already become what Gallie (1955) more than six decades ago termed as an “essentially contested concept”.
- Webinar – Prospering without growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in a post-growth era – Mario Pansera, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain.
Friday 27th November 2020. Recording available on the ReTraCE ITN YouTube channel and slides HERE.
Dr Mario Pansera is one of Europe’s leading experts on Responsible Innovation and a 2020 recipient of a prestigious European Research Council Grant for his project: “Prospering without growth: Science, Technology and Innovation in a post-growth era” (PROSPERA). Mario discussed his upcoming project, tackling questions such as: Can our economies grow endlessly? And would there be space for ‘innovation’ in a post-growth model? Mario argues that untangling innovation from growth is key to imagining a post-growth era, and that we need new narratives for innovation that look beyond technology into cultural and institutional change, and social life and social order. But what would organisations look like in a system that is not based on, and does not rely on, endless growth? What levels of technological complexity can we reach in a non-growing economy? What policies, infrastructures and organisational forms are needed for this new innovation paradigm? These are questions that Dr. Pansera addressed so that we can learn how to thrive in a new way.
- Webinar – Sustainability assessment tools as value-articulating institutions: Implications and possible ways to rationalize selection – Alexandros Gasparatos, University of Tokyo, Japan.
Tuesday 17th November 2020. Recording of the presentation is available on the ReTraCE ITN YouTube channel. Slides available HERE.
A series of economic, biophysical and indicator-based tools have been developed and applied to valuate a large array of sustainability issues and impacts. However, these tools adopt radically different valuation perspectives that affect directly the outcomes of assessment and valuation exercises. More importantly these perspectives are not always reconcilable. By adopting the concept of value-articulating institutions, this lecture will outline the different embedded assumptions integrated in these tools and how they might affect the perspective of sustainability assessments. The implications of valuation tool selection will be outlined, and some possible selection criteria will be discussed.
- Webinar – Circular futures: What Will They Look Like? – Thomas Bauwens, Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
Tuesday 3rd November 2020. Recording available on the ReTraCE ITN YouTube channel and slides HERE.
The circular economy is argued to hold great promise for achieving sustainability. Yet, there is a dearth of research about what a circular future may look like. To address this gap, this talk proposes different plausible scenarios for a circular future, using a 2 × 2 scenario matrix method developed through a thought experiment and a focus group. Key drivers of change in this matrix are the nature of technologies deployed – high-tech or low-tech innovations – and the configuration of the governance regime – centralized or decentralized. From this, our study builds four scenario narratives for the future of a circular economy: “planned circularity”, “bottom-up sufficiency”, “circular modernism”, and “peer-to-peer circularity”. It delineates the core characteristics and the upsides and downsides of each scenario. It shows that a circular economy can be organized in very contrasting ways. By generating insights about alternative circular futures, these scenarios may provide a clearer directionality to policy-makers and businesses, helping them both anticipate and understand the consequences of a paradigm shift towards a circular economy and shape policies and strategies, especially in the context of so-called mission-oriented innovation policies. They may also provide a sound basis for quantitatively modelling the impacts of a circular economy.
- Webinar – An Introduction to the “Circular Economy” concept – Andrea Genovese, University of Sheffield, UK.
Recording available on the ReTraCE ITN YouTube channel.
The main definitions are provided, along with case studies and open issues. Is the transition towards this more sustainable mode of production and consumption possible within a free-market setting? Is it desirable? What would be the social implications associated with such a transition?”