New contacts best from “failed” environment conference
18 September 2012
The United Nations environmental conference Rio+20 was described in the media as a total failure. However, Canadian Master’s student Nicole Harper from the Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies, has positive experiences from the conference. She was one of several researchers and Master’s students from Lund University who attended the Rio conference.“It’s true that the conference didn’t lead to much if you look at the high-level politics. However, alongside the official negotiations, there were other things happening where a lot of progress was made in the work on sustainable development.”
Can you give an example?
“I attended several of the meetings arranged by ICLEI, an association of local governments striving for a sustainable society. The meetings were characterised by a great deal of energy and willingness to take action. All the mayors and other local government officials who attended were clearly focused on moving forward in the work on sustainability, regardless of the attitude of their national governments.”
Isn’t it paradoxical to organise an international environmental conference which involves thousands of visitors flying from all over the world to attend?
“Yes, that thought troubled me quite a lot beforehand. Of course, there are an awful lot of meetings nowadays that ought to take place over the internet. However, in this case I think it was important to meet, especially for all the local environmental enthusiasts, to feel that they are not alone.”
How did you come to attend?
“Last year I studied at LUMES (Lund University International Master’s Programme in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science). I started a study circle on sustainable economies as part of the environmental student organisation Hållbart Universitet (Sustainable University). Some of the other students suggested that the study circle should apply for accreditation to the conference.
“I had no idea how I would manage to pay for the trip, but I applied anyway... and then Sebastian Lema and I received grants from the International Institute for Industrial Environmental Economics, which I am very grateful for.”
The conference was actually a long-held dream for you, wasn’t it?
“Yes, in 2008, when I was 19, I took a course on sustainable development in Paris and I had a lecturer who had been at the first Rio conference and was very enthusiastic about it. I thought it would be fantastic to be able to attend the next UN conference in Rio!”
Will your experiences from Rio be of use to you?
“I made good contact with a group from Princeton University who also work on sustainable economies. We hope to be able to develop a good collaboration with them.
Text: Ingela Björck
This text was first published in the Lund University Magazine - LUM