Patrick Meyfroidt / Researcher, Professor

UCLouvain, Earth and Life Institute / Geography

The translation of this testimony was generated automatically by a translation program. Thanks for your understanding.

Sustainability is a process. Solutions to environmental problems often lead to further, unforeseen issues. My area of expertise involve issues around land use, what do we do with the land that we have on Earth, and its resources. Land is the focus of an increasing number of functions and demands, from food production to carbon storage, aesthetics and cultural roles, biodiversity conservation, human settlements, regulating water flows, recreative activities, and others. Balancing these multiple and often competing demands is increasingly complicated. A too simplistic emphasis on some aspects, such as the need for land-based negative emissions of greenhouse gases, can endanger other needs such as nature preservation or local livelihoods of land-dependent people.
The road towards more sustainable societies requires the articulation between bottom-up (from individual, familial, local communities) and top-down (political and structural) changes. Personally, I am not and will never be comfortable giving lessons to others, putting forwards my own achievements or considering myself as a good example. We fully renovated an old row house to insulate it with natural materials, reactivate a rainwater tank, install high-efficiency heating system, and switch to renewable electricity. We progressively reduce meat consumption in the household, use public transport for a large share of our movements, and try to make conscious decisions, acknowledging the multiple dimensions of sustainability. But that’s not much.
With two children of school age, a dynamic research team relying on me, living in Brussels and working in Louvain-la-Neuve, and also having other relatives to support, so far I have not managed to get rid of a car for many daily commuting. There’s probably society-level reasons for making this difficult (e.g., societal organization in terms of working hours and others), but a lot of that is also probably related to me and my way of balancing tradeoffs regarding people around me. Other persons may find this easier, but for me, this uncomfortable feeling of having to balance situations imperfectly is part of the daily experience

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