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Leiden University for a liveable planet

Scientists from all different disciplines at Leiden University work on sustainability challenges. Together we strive for a liveable planet by connecting these scientists. Are you a researcher and do you want to contribute to tackling sustainability issues? Join our program and work together on solutions for the future of our planet.

What is the Liveable Planet program?

The Liveable Planet (LP) program is one of the eight interdisciplinary programs from Leiden University (LU). The program is led by a multidisciplinary group of four professors: Wil Roebroeks (Archeology), Marja Spierenburg (Anthropology), Eefje Cuppen (Governance) and Jan Willem Erisman (Environmental Science) and managed by Suzanne Marselis (Environmental Science). The aim of the Liveable Planet program is to enable researchers from all different disciplines from Leiden University to work together on tackling sustainability issues.

What does a liveable planet mean?

For us, a liveable planet means well-being for every human being, within the planetary boundaries and social foundations. To achieve this, local solutions are needed that have multiple dimensions. This multi-dimensional and multi-disciplinary approach integrates facets such as policy & governance, environment, history, technology, economy, society & culture. Local solutions are only effective when they take into account the impact on and influences of those scales, ranging all the way from a local to global scale.

We want to achieve a liveable planet by connecting scientists and groups inside and outside the university and bringing them into interdisciplinary collaboration to contribute to those local solutions in a global context.


Achievements in the first two years

The primary focus in the first two years was on building a network. It was a very stimulating to see colleagues from all kinds of disciplinary backgrounds joining our program. We currently have over 100 members from all faculties of the Leiden University in the Liveable Planet program!

At the same time, the core team had to develop a common “language”, given the vastly different track records of the scientists involved, and the different disciplines they come from. Earlier work from some of us was immediately relevant and applicable to current sustainability issues, while for instance the relevance of data about our very deep past (>100,000 years ago) connects to current issues on a much more abstract level. Sharing our knowledge and expertise and connecting it to the current sustainability issues has been exciting challenging, and stimulating all at once.

How do we connect?

The network members participate in the monthly lunchtime lectures and discussions on various sustainability topics. There is a great need for this connection and making the sustainability research that already takes place at LU more visible. New initiatives for projects and programs have also already emerged from our network, and the first ones have been submitted to NWA and NWO.

Involving students

In our endeavors, we have also profited from the passionate involvement of Leiden’s student population committed to sustainability (LUGO), one of the key factors behind the fact that most curricula are now already paying attention to sustainability issues. Regarding education, our program has contributed to strengthening the subject of sustainability within the bachelor, master and PhD degree programs. Most importantly, we are setting up the bachelor sustainability, following the successful master Governance of Sustainability.

Interdisciplinary initiatives

Two living labs have been initiated from the LP program: the Polderlab Vrouwe Venne and the Sustainable city lab The Hague . In both labs, the LP approach is central to finding local solutions through multidisciplinary collaboration in interaction with stakeholders within a global context.

Our network is also starting to grow outside of LU. We are developing a training and research plan together with the Climate Action program from TU Delft under the name Fair Futures.

Interdisciplinary (i.e. collaborations beyond scientists) work requires strong connections with practitioners. Thus, we are also working hard to grow our network outside of universities. We do this through the living labs, but also through other common activities such as the conference co-organized with the VNG, planned for April 14.

Two of our core-team members have given their inaugural lecture in 2022. Jan Willem Erisman held his speech online due to covid restrictions on January 14, you can view his speech entitled “In vrijheid, maar niet vrijblijvend”. Marja Spierenburg’s held her inaugural speech live on February 25, a recording of her speech should be published soon.

Plans for the near-future

Throughout the year we organize our monthly lunch lectures. These consists of 20-30 minute presentations by our members and invited scientists from a variety of disciplines, followed by a reflection of 2 or 3 invited scientists of various disciplines and closed with a group discussion on related topics and emerging questions.

Developing and strengthening relationships is essential for Liveable Planet to perform well. To this end we are organizing a Liveable Planet conference for local governments, scientists, water boards, and industry stakeholders, on April 14, 2022. In this half-day conference we will share the Liveable Planet vision on bottom-up initiatives for a sustainable transition, while governance actors and practitioners share their experiences on using such methods into practice. Together we will highlight the system requirements within which this method works. This meeting will be organized in Dutch because of the strong focus on local governments.

Together with the Leiden-Delft-Erasmus (LDE) initiative, we will organize a conference in mid-June on tackling the nitrogen problem and specifically the area processes involved. Furthermore, we aim to improve teaching on sustainability issues by providing teachers and concrete contributions via the website of the program.

Becoming a member

In the LP program, we stimulate new interdisciplinary research, integrate sustainability into our education programs, and put Leiden University on the map as a key collaboration partner for sustainability issues. Everybody can become a member of the program. Members will be engaged in programming and discussions and will be invited to our monthly lunch meetings and other exciting events. Members are added with their expertise to the program’s website. If you are interested you can join us.

If you wish to work with us or contribute to any of the above activities, or if you have any ideas yourself to improve interdisciplinary sustainability research at Leiden University, please get in contact!

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