Triple E Lecture by Dr. Maikel Kuijpers: Stories of sustainability.

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Van Steenis, Einsteinweg 2 Leiden

Stories of sustainability. Why we need the past as a story to act upon

A smooth transition to a circular economy requires more than technological innovations. We need to fundamentally redefine our relationship to materials. How do we do this? I will argue that the past is a powerful tool to achieve this. Not because we can learn from the past, but because the past provides us with stories that we can act upon.

Dismantling our traditional linear economy and transitioning to a sustainable one creates tensions that are easily exploited in the political arena. At times of transition people increasingly turn to their heritage and traditions. The nostalgia arising from this tend to be viewed in a negative light as they curb a quick transition. But we can also use nostalgia productively. Through the past we may anchor innovations, and balance them with tradition.

As an example, the notion of craftsmanship is employed. Craftsmanship can act as a trope that carries the values of a circular economy across all layers of society. Craftsmanship is deeply rooted in the past and this gives it considerable emotional force. Traditional craftsmanship can also inspire. Architects are rediscovering the mortise-and-tenon joint as a strong, simple, and sustainable building method. A sustainable economy is an economy of craftsmanship, with fewer, better things, that are made or built to last.

It is in such manner that this presentation engages with a core concern from the NWA circular route: “Implementing a sustainable circular economy requires the public and consumers to recognise and acknowledge its core values, accept the changes accelerated by circularity, and support the circular economy by their behaviour.” We need stories from the past to make this happen.

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