Interdisciplinary Workshop “It’s the (bio)economy, stupid!” 7th & 8th October 2020

Foto: Jan-Peter Kasper

It’s the (bio)economy, stupid!
The future of growth and the promise of the bioeconomy

7th – 8th October 2020, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany

The report
Programme
Presentations in the Workshop
Videos

Mario Giampietro, ICREA Research Professor, Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona: “The policy legend of the circular bioeconomy: A biophysical view of the sustainability predicament”, online lecture, October 7th, 2020. Moderation: Anne Tittor


Daniela Thrän, UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research Leipzig, 2012-2019 member of the German Bioeconomy Council: “Bioeconomy’s Contribution to Economic Growth”, online keynote speech, October 8th, 2020. Moderation: Dennis Eversberg.


What was the workshop about?

The dominant narrative of the ongoing debates on the bioeconomy paints the picture of a future economy based on renewable energies and biological resources that will both deliver ‘green’ economic growth and enable modern societies to phase out fossil fuels and build a sustainable future. But are these promises of a ‘bio-based’ renewed cycle of accumulation and growth warranted? Can growth-based economies really be made sustainable and globally just based on bioeconomic materials and resources? Does the bioeconomy enable a defossilization of economic activity and a decoupling of environmental throughput and GDP? Or would the transformation of modern societies toward post-fossil, bio-based economic activities involve an overcoming of unlimited economic growth? Finally, what can critical debates about the bioeconomy and discussions on sustainable growth, green growth and degrowth learn from each other?

While fossil-fuelled economies run on a constantly accelera­ting linear throughput of extracted fossil resources, bio-based economies rely on materials whose availability is subject to biophysical limits and cyclical regenerative processes that cannot be expanded and accelerated at will. It is uncertain whether the accumulation of ever-increasing amounts of energy and goods can continue in an economy based on renewable resources. Any break with the logics of accumulation, extraction and expansion is likely to entail new distributional conflicts, but it may also be a starting point for a fundamental transformation of modern societies: The social organization of work and care activities, consump­tion patterns and people’s mindsets might change, or it might become clear that they need to change. In a similar vein, political actors and strategies often claim that the bioeconomy will bring far-reaching change – the EU’s bioeconomy strategy anticipates ‘rapid, concerted and sustained changes in lifestyle and resource use that cut across all levels of society and the economy’. At the same time, the concrete actions of key players in politics, science and industry seem to assume that the bioeconomy will allow them to continue with business as usual and avoid a turn away from the growth paradigm.

The aim of our workshop was to discuss the relationships between the bioeconomy and economic growth from a multidisciplinary and global perspective. We wanted to foster an exchange between debates on the ecological and social implications of the bioeconomy and critical debates on sustainable growth, green growth and degrowth.

Flumen contributions at the Degrowth Conference 2020

This years Degrowth Conference in Vienna will take place online because of the COVID-19 restrictions. From 29th of May to the 1st of June 2020 there will be workshops and lectures on current debates that relate to degrowth issues. The junior research group flumen will participate with five contributions to the conference:

  • Matthias Schmelzer, together with Nina Treu, Tadzio Müller, Julianna Fehlinger and Brototi Roy, will present the newly published book “Degrowth in Movement(s)” on Friday, May 29th at 11:45 a.m. The book launch takes place in English with German translation.
  • Dennis Eversberg and Melissa Büttner will also give the workshop “Sozial-ökologische Transformation: Mit wem – und gegen wen?” on Friday at 6 p.m. The workshop takes place in German.
  • Dennis Eversberg will then take part in the panel discussion on “Understanding transformations and the role of strategy” at 6.45 p.m. The discussion will take place in English with German translation.
  • On Saturday, May 30th, Matthias Schmelzer will take part in the panel discussion on “Advancing a Degrowth Agenda in the Corona Crisis” at 10 a.m. The discussion will take place in English with German translation.
  • On Sunday, May 31st, at 5 p.m. Lilian Pungas together with Susan Andreatta, Christina Plank, Robert Hafner, Mladen Domazet and Branko Ancic will give the workshop: “Restructuring the Third / Corporate Food Regime: How Farmers and the Public are Transforming Food and Agriculture for the Future – Post-Covid-19 “. The workshop takes place in English.

Further information on the conference and a detailed program can be found here: https://www.degrowthvienna2020.org/en/program/.

Call for Participation

Contested Society-Nature-Relations – Forest related Emotions, Practices and Conflicts in Times of Societal Change

New Deadline for Cfp: 15.06.2020

International Multidisciplinary Workshop 
24th – 25th November 2020
Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany

The aim of our workshop is to discuss the changing and contested relationships between individuals, society as a whole, and nature – especially forests – from a multidisciplinary perspective. The varying types of human-forest relationships indicate what forests mean to humans, and they can provide insight into broader underlying ideas and practices of how individuals, communities, and societies relate to nature. Different relationships with the forest (i.e. values, perceptions, decisions, and actions relating to it) are an expression of these society-nature-relations, and in turn, have a formative impact on humans themselves and onto their environment. In this workshop, we want to foster exchange and debates between Finnish and German-speaking researchers working on the cultural and social implications of different types of human-forest relationships. Our perspective focuses on human-forest relations at both, the individual and the societal level, and we are interested in past and present developments as well as possible futures.

We welcome contributions from different academic fields of social sciences and humanities, including (but not limited to) Sociology, Political Science, Human and Critical Geography, Social and Political Ecology, History, Political Economy, Philosophy and Cultural Studies. Contributions may be based on theoretical analyses, case studies, empirical investigations, and comparative or in-depth studies.

The workshop will be held in English in Jena (Germany), hopefully with participants being present. We will enable online participation if necessary. In the meantime, the coordination team continues to closely follow the development of the situation and will make further decisions accordingly as needed.

If you are interested in contributing to the workshop, we invite you to submit an abstract of max. 500 words to jana.holz@uni-jena.de until June 15st, 2020. Draft papers or presentations will be due until November 1st, 2020. Workshop discussions will be based on these draft papers or presentations, aiming to refine them for possible publication.

You will find more Information on the ‘Call for Participation’  here.

Call for Abstract: It’s the (bio)economy, stupid! The future of growth and the promise of the bioeconomy

Extended Deadline until 30th April!

Workshop from 7th – 8th October 2020, Friedrich-Schiller-University Jena, Germany.

The aim of our workshop is to discuss the relationships between the bioeconomy and economic growth from a multidisciplinary and global perspective. We want to foster an exchange between debates on the ecological and social implications of the bioeconomy and critical debates on sustainable growth, green growth and degrowth.

We welcome contributions from different academic fields such as sociology, political ecology and economy, human and critical geography, social ecology, history, philosophy, economics etc. Contributions may be based on theoretical analyses, case studies, empirical investigations, comparative or in-depth studies.

If you are interested in contributing to the workshop we invite you to submit an abstract of max. 500 words to flumen@uni-jena.de until April 30th, 2020. Draft papers will be due until September 18, 2020. Workshop discussions will be based on the draft papers, aiming to develop them further for a possible publication.

You will find more Information here.

Workshop: Transitions, ‚pileups‘ and the rule of abstract Energy: Energy regimes and social transformations in and beyond the fossil era, May 15, 2019

Research Workshop with Éric Pineault (UQAM, Montreal/Kolleg Postwachstumsgesellschaften) in Jena, May 15, 2019

In this workshop, we will discuss several related controversies concerning the relations between changes in the energy basis of modern capitalist societies on the one handand transformations of their social and mental infrastructures on the other hand. In his famous book „Carbon Democracy“, Timothy Mitchell has claimed that the material properties of fossil energy sources shape the social, mental and political structures of the societies using them to a very high degree, pre-forming as it were the opportunities and limits of democratization processes. Against this view, Andreas Malm has objected in „Fossil Capital“ that the takeoff of a coal-based industrial economy in 18th century Britain was not the „work“ of coal as a resource itself, but the outcome of an expansionary social logic and mentality that had been at play long before, and that merely found its preferred medium of abstraction from social and material restraints in the innovation of the steam-powered factory. Larry Lohmann and Nicholas Hildyard have emphasized that „energy“ itself is an abstract concept that, analogous to the logic of exchange value, enables economic actors to disregard social and material limitations to their activities and conceive of them as capable of infinite expansion. How such expansion has been enabled again and again in the course of the past two centuries by adding oil, gas, nuclear and other energy sources to the energetic base has been demonstrated by Vaclav Smil. His empirical analyses of global energy use in the fossil era amount to the thesis that these energy sources, rather than being the drivers of expansion in several stages that societies have successively ‚transitioned‘ through, have in fact progressively ‚piled up‘ to meet a ceaselessly expanding energy demand. Based on texts by these authors, we will discuss these and related issues, with a particular focus on what conclusions may be drawn from these debates in view of the necessity of far-reaching change that societal energy systems will face in the near future if a post-fossil, bio-based economy and society is to be achieved and catastrophic global warming averted.