Azara Blog: Capacity building for sustainable development

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Date published: 2005/02/09

The second lecture of the university's Third Annual Lecture Series in Sustainable Development (2005) was given today by Leo Jansen of Delft University of Technology. He apparently studied chemical engineering but this was not an engineering talk, it was a management talk. It was full of sustainable development jargon ("foresighting", "backcasting", "ecoefficiency", "knowledge fusion", "stakeholders", etc.). There were lots of diagrams with arrows flowing here and there connecting the various pieces of jargon. And it was all presented with a "mom and apple pie" flavour. The Eurocracy that runs Europe would love it all.

Jansen was a member of a large Sustainable Technology Development research programme in the Netherlands from 1992-1997. It was not clear what this programme actually achieved. It seems that "capacity building" is about making sure that more and more of industry worries about "sustainable" design. This would not be a bad thing if it was not such a fuzzy concept. The way Jansen sees industry adopting this viewpoint is for universities to educate their students about sustainable development and wait until they become the captains of industry. You never know, that might be the way forward. But we need less management speak and marketing blurbs and more science and engineering.

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