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International Studies' opening lecture of the academic year 2020-2021

vrijdag 18 september 2020
Schouwburgstraat 2
2511 VA Den Haag
Room A.006

Dear colleagues, students,

The International Studies programme would like to invite you to our Opening Lecture of the Academic Year 2020-2021 by Dr. Miriam Meissner (Maastricht University). The event will take place on Friday 18 September 2020 in Schouwburgstraat 2, The Hague, room A.006 and will be live streamed.

If you would like to be present in person, please register here.*


14.55: Walk in
15.00: Welcome - Prof. Dr. Giles Scott-Smith
15.05: Opening Lecture - Dr. Miriam Meissner
16.00: Q&A
16.15: Closing

Miriam Meissner, Maastricht University
Miriam Meissner, Maastricht University

Opening Lecture

Don't mind your own business! Environmental mindfulness in a time of global risk
Miriam Meissner, Maastricht University

While we are often warned of global risks, the Covid-19 pandemic has revealed some of the challenges that come with facing them. It has shown how global risks evolve erratically, how they are shared unequally, and that it does not suffice to mind one's own business in order to tackle them effectively. Measures of protection, such as wearing facemasks, only work if everyone participates in them. This applies just as much to global heating and biodiversity loss. It seems common sense that we need to be mindful of these crises, their unequal global impacts, and our responsibilities in addressing them. Yet, what does it mean to be mindful of the environment? Mindfulness is a catchphrase of our time. It connotes slowing down to sharpen one's awareness.
In this talk, I draw on my research on minimalist lifestyles to discuss environmental mindfulness. Minimalist lifestyles are promoted in popular television, self-help literature and social media. They invite people to de-clutter their homes, live frugal and embrace sufficiency in order to focus on 'the important things'. As a form of mindfulness, minimalist lifestyles supposedly bring wellbeing and save the planet. I will argue that this and related forms of mindfulness are helpful in envisioning sustainable futures, but that they tend to misconstrue environmental engagement as a practice focusing on the self and personal life choices. What this perspective tends to mask is that effectively tackling global environmental crises today requires collective mobilization for institutional change. The most pressing challenge in this regard consists in steering society away from the paradigm of unlimited economic growth. I will argue that economic growth, which is often presented as a cure to global woes, has become a liability. To address this, environmental mindfulness needs to shift its focus from individual choice towards an ethics of mutual care, ecological regeneration and political activism.

Please let us know whether you will attend this event by accepting the invitation.

Kind regards,

The Programme Board

* There are 40 seats available due to the Covid measurements.

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