Tom Dedeurwaerdere / Professor

Centre for the Philosophy of Law / Engineer in theoretical physics and Phd in philosophy of science

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As a civil engineer and philosopher of science, my main concern is the lack of production and dissemination of usable knowledge with large impacts on the ecological and social crises. It is proven through pilote initiatives that when the public at large can participate to sustainability planning exercises (in cities, rural areas, neighbourhouds or even country wide) with scientists, social entrepreneurs and policy major transformations in the field of mobility, housing and food is perfectly possible. This optimism is however not really justified today. Indeed, societies are not investing in priority in such wide scale participatory knowledge mobilisation in the general interest. In contrast, important tools such as action research, technology assessment or citizen jury’s that were very much supported in the 1990ies are all less funded today. So the trend goes towards less citizen involvement, more focus on new technologies for increasing consumption and reliance on private technical consultancy.
What did I personally do, seen both the potential for change (my optimism) and the lack of societal response (my pessimism). First, start changing myself, as it is a good way to generate knowledge on solutions through
(1.1.) stop eating meat and fish, and eat less cheese (since 2017), while keeping a balanced diet following the Canadian nutritional guideliness (publicly funded on line tool to assess one’s nutritional balance)
(1.2.) stop travelling with the airplane for work (since 2018) and travel in priority with train and foldable bicycle, which is perfectly appropriate for reaching universities in cities llike Rotterdam and Metz, but even for conferences in Switzerland and Denmark one’s or twice a year.
Second, refocus on territorial issues and solutions in my research, co-constructed with societal partners, and work with my colleagues and junior researchers to innovate in research methdologies to do so. What I learned from this is that all this is perfectly feasable and moreover supportive of quality of work and social relations. However, the incentives still massively push in the opposite directions, so it is likelly to remain a challenge for some years to come.