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UCSRN conference on utopia was a great success!

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On the 27th of February 2016, the UCSRN had a conference on Utopia at EUC, in Rotterdam. The day started with the introductory speaker Maarten Frens, a teacher at Erasmus University College. Afterwards you could choose to attend a lecture by Anne de Graaf, on Conflict and violence or Tessa van Hoorn on Refugee policies. At the same time, there was also a workshop by Cory Wright on Building intercultural solidarity and self-reflectivity. All very interesting, posing some confrontational questions, and opening the UC student to problems facing the world today.

After the first break, providing students with some actual food, besides the food for thought which seemed to be the theme of the day, there was a wonderful lecture by Jelmer Mommers. Jelmer is a journalist for the ‘De Correspondent’, a Dutch newspaper. He provided the students with the perspective of the news on the hype of Climate change. One of the most interesting aspects was his look on sustainable energy. About how third-world developing countries have to develop on green energy rather than the fossil fuels that the West used to industrialize. Opposite of the West, those developing countries do not get the 2/3 hundred years to discover the Climate Change effect of fossil fuels, they have to be green from the start.

Another interesting aspect was the ‘Responsibility’ aspect of Climate Change. That the west holds not only the belief that Climate Change is something they (or their energy use) had caused, but also that the West should solve it. It draws similarities to the French colonist policies, who’s superior civilization gave it the responsibility to re-educate the inhabitants of the colonies. According to Jelmer Mommers it is this responsibility perspective that should be eradicated, as the developing world is gaining a rather heroic attitude towards Climate Change. How even should they suddenly have the power to turn around Climate Change, they are so to say not God.

Then after another break, during which the students got some time to admire the beautifully designed EUC building that seemed very in tune with the sustainability aspect of the day. Sustainability was also the topic of the lecture by Jaap Hanekamp. Professor Hanekamp is a Chemistry teacher at University College Roosevelt. In his lecture he posed that Climate Change is as questionable as most scientific results: Highly. One part of the lecture that definitely stuck was that
‘Science is culturally privileged as the ultimate source of the authority in relation to decision making. Disagreement, a normal response in any scientific debate, is called denying, a clear sign of utopianism’

Prof. Hanekamp made a rather controverting argument stating that even though Climate Change is the conclusion of scientific research, it is treated as the ultimate truth, which is dangerous. And as he concluded his lecture another something stuck:

‘Change starts with individuals. Individuals change the course of history. Move away from the group thinking.’

Then as the students were slowly drowning in all the new perspectives, theories and arguments that were heard and seen, one last lecture was still on the agenda. Erik laan, a Space Industry Consultant, gave a lecture on the advancement of the World into space.

Finally, as the heads might just explode with information, and with the brains working over-time processing, students headed back to their UC. Certainly the day posed some interesting questions about the main theory on Climate Change and sustainability. And as Hanekamp advised us: we should be moving away from this popular opinion to be in the position to change history.

Who knows, trying to keep up with UC students’ ambitions, we just might.