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ASU conference explores green growth approach to global sustainability

Global Systems Science Logo
October 07, 2014

Beginning Oct. 8, scholars and practitioners from Arizona State University and abroad will convene for a transcontinental conference aimed at reinventing the path to sustainable development.

Due to events like the recent economic crisis, increasing resource scarcity, urban pollution and climate change, nations around the world face a number of sustainability challenges. According to Sander van der Leeuw, Global Systems Science co-founder and Distinguished Sustainability Scientist at ASU, many formal discussions on how to best overcome these challenges place a strong emphasis on burden-sharing and prove largely unproductive. Additionally, they establish a negative connotation of sustainable development in some minds.

Unpacking Green Growth,” the third conference arranged by Global Systems Science, seeks to replace this negative connotation with a positive one. Over the course of three days, sessions in North America, Europe and Asia will explore a new strategy for attaining global sustainability – one that instead emphasizes equal opportunity-sharing. This strategy is termed “green growth.”

Green growth pursues a comfortable standard of living for all people while improving environmental health through economic activity. It has enjoyed a positive reputation since its inception and was adopted as a national strategy in South Korea. Because it encourages transformative action, it shows particular promise in the developing world where systems are more supple.

Global Systems Science organized “Unpacking Green Growth” with the intention of testing and ensuring the robustness of the strategy. To do so, the conference assembled the brightest minds in the arena of systemic solutions to global problems. These scholars and practitioners will share scientific insights, explore possible challenges and further develop research on the topic of green growth.

“My colleague Carlo Jaeger and I founded GSS (Global Systems Science) after realizing that solutions to the global predicaments we face are necessarily interconnected,” says van der Leeuw. “This conference looks at one of the few truly comprehensive solutions proposed to date. Not only does green growth galvanize through hope rather than paralyze through fear, it fundamentally encourages us to think outside of the box.”

The North American portion of the conference will take place at ASU’s SkySong facility on Oct. 8 and 9. The European portion will take place in Brussels, Belgium, while the Asian portion will be split between Beijing and Lu’An, China. Though varying time zones prevent all sessions from happening simultaneously, many will be connected via internet.

Conference participants may also access an app that allows them to view sessions at each location in real time.

The idea for the “Unpacking Green Growth” conference was conceived during a workshop titled “Rescuing Climate Policy,” held at ASU last February. In addition to Jaeger and van der Leeuw, the workshop was attended by Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability Director Gary Dirks, Senior Sustainability Scholars Dan Bodansky and Ken Abbott, and Senior Sustainability Scientist Sonja Klinsky.

The conference was made possible through collaboration between the ASU Wrigley Institute, DG CONNECT of the European Commission, the Global Climate Forum, the Development Research Center of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and Beijing Normal University.