Some italian body language (Photo credit: Ayaho Katata)

Something important (finally)

On november 19th I was invited to speak at the event: Building Utopia: What global issues would you prioritize? organised by Project 2030.

Project 2030 is a student organisation based in Aalborg and their aim is to raise awareness about the Sustainable Development Goals, also called SDGs.

As “environmental expert” I was invited to describe one, maximum two, global issues that I would prioritise and for what reasons. For global issues they intended specifically one of the SDGs.

The other panel members were Ben Dorfman, a professor at Aalborg University, Department of Culture and Global Studies, and Lasse Frimand Jensen, a local politician.

I accepted the invitation because I think raising awareness on environmental issues like climate change, and both calling for and taking action on these issues, is very important in this moment of time, perhaps much more than doing research.

My intervention in short

The event attracted about 60 students which is a lot up here. To be honest, even if I have been speaking at many conferences and teaching to large classes I was literally shaky when presenting in front of this audience.

Here is the 1-page text I had submitted before the event.

My reflections:

  • We must take action to prevent Climate change and ecological collapse right now. When I say we I mean us the people living in the so-called “developed” part of the world.
  • The bad news is that we are the main responsible for the environmental crisis. The good news is that we are also those who can fix it. So we have a lot of power.
  • Our priority is to safeguard the quality of ecosystems globally, because our quality of life is already very high. In practice, this means renouncing to impacting things we have or could have (flights, cars, meat, etc.). This trade-off appears inevitable to me.
  • This very same message might not be valid in other parts of the world where the priority is increasing quality of life.
  • SDGs are interrelated so prioritising between them doesn’t make much sense, but for the sake of the discussion my personal priority list is: SDG13 Climate Action, SDG15 Life on land, and SDG16 Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.


Many excellent points were raised by the other speakers and the audience.

I appreciated a comment from Ben Dorfman about having a better dialogue between people, and a common understanding of social and environmental issues across cultures and geographies. This is a pre-requisite to achieve all the other actions. Unfortunately, we don’t see much of this lately.

Another important point: there is no quick fix or silver bullet. Tech alone won’t bring us out of trouble and neither will a carbon tax. Top-down, bottom-up, demand-side, supply side, you name it. We need all of those solutions ASAP.

Making priorities is making choices and these are value-based choices. Thus, this was a political event, not a scientific one. Slightly science-informed, perhaps.

But I wish we could have more of these discussions and on a personal level it has been much more rewarding and meaningful to attend Building Utopia than a scientific conference, I must say.

The science is quite clear on these matters and more science won’t radically change things in my opinion, political action will.

Thanks to Project 2030 for organising the event and for inviting me.