LunCH lecture – Sustainability & Technology. An Outline

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We are facing an unprecedented challenge to our current way of living on this planet. Climate change is a symptom of this very way of life, as well as ecological degradation and mass extinction. This challenge undermines the structures and institutions around which industrialisation has taken place, and pushes the idea of constant growth, alongside the societies this idea has produced, to the brink. In response, from the 1970s onwards scholars from a number of disciplines have gathered around the concept of “sustainability”. Since then, varying concepts of sustainability have developed in often dichotic ways, ranging from sustainable development and growth, all the way to calls for radical systemic changes through the degrowth movement.
In this lecture, we will explore these different concepts of sustainability, and see how they relate to new and emerging technologies. Whether technology can actually fix the current ecological crisis, will lie at the heart of this exploration. Technological development and the push for further sustainable innovation is itself based on a specific paradigm of economic growth and techno-optimism. Especially within the ICT sector, the idea of “green ICT” – smart cities, smart grids, dematerialization, etc. – plays a major role for coupling growth with sustainability. The question then arises, what role engineers & scientists might play in pushing for certain conceptions of sustainability over others. There will also be ample time for debate.

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