Susan de Koning en Cristina Y Aoki Inoue samen
Susan de Koning en Cristina Y Aoki Inoue samen

‘We need a transdisciplinary approach for today’s sustainability challenges’

They both deal with biodiversity and governance. Last October, Cristina Yumie Aoki Inoue and Susan de Koning went to Toronto for the 2022 Conference on Earth System Governance. Next year’s edition will be held at Radboud University. “A great opportunity to have an impact.”

“My main area of research is governance of biodiversity in the Brazilian Amazon”, says Cristina Y. Aoki Inoue. She had been a professor at the University of Brasilia for years before she moved to Nijmegen last year to join the chair group Environmental Governance and Politics as an associate professor. “I am especially interested in ways to move from destructive deforestation to alternatives that respect both the forest and the local people that make a living from it.”

Susan de Koning has a bachelor’s degree in forest and nature conservation and a master’s in marine governance, both from Wageningen University. She is now a PhD candidate in Nijmegen. “I am mostly interested in the conflict between nature and the use of nature. My PhD project is about biodiversity in rural areas. It is a living lab in a specific area of the Netherlands: the Duin- en Bollenstreek. There I combine concepts of partnerships, landscape and transformative governance to study how local partnerships can enable biodiversity restoration.”

Portretfoto Susan de Koning

Real connection

Last October, the two scholars met hundreds of international colleagues at a conference on Earth System Governance in Toronto. Inoue: “The Earth System Governance Project is a global, interdisciplinary research network that connects scholars from the social sciences. They all study environmental change and governance, but from different perspectives.”

The Toronto conference was De Koning’s first live conference, having started her PhD project during Covid. “It was really inspiring. Not everything was related to my research topic, but it is interesting to see how people from different countries approach different environmental issues. And the lenses and concepts they use are often very similar. I felt a real connection with people and came back very happy, knowing that there is so much interesting stuff being done and also so much still to do.”

“For me, such a conference is mainly about networking and feeling connected”, adds Inoue. “And it is great to see that you are part of a larger but still relatively small community of researchers. Within that community, I try to make sense of what I do and find an identity for myself as a researcher.”

Cristina Y. Aoki Inoue portret

Bridging sciences and societies

The 2023 edition of the Earth System Governance Conference will be held in Nijmegen. “The Radboud Centre for Sustainable Challenges thought it would be a good idea to host an international conference”, says Inoue. “And since I am also a member of the Scientific Steering Committee of the Earth System Governance Project, I presented this idea in one of our meetings. The whole committee was enthusiastic about it.”

Next year’s theme will be ‘Bridging Sciences and Societies for Sustainability Transformations’. Inoue: “The idea is to build bridges: not only between social sciences and natural sciences, but also between the academic world and society.” De Koning: “It is an important theme. We need an interdisciplinary or even transdisciplinary approach ­– i.e. with stakeholders from outside academia – to bring different worlds together.” Inoue: “That is indeed crucial to deal with the sustainability challenges we face.”

According to the scholars, the conference will be a win-win situation. “It is a good way to present Radboud University and can help strengthen our profile”, says De Koning. Inoue adds: “Hosting a conference is also a great opportunity to network, to help build a community and to have an impact. And since Radboud has made it clear it wants sustainability at the core of its mission, this conference will fit this university perfectly.”

The 2023 edition of the Earth System Governance Conference (24th – 26th October 2023) will be open to all alumni and provide opportunities to strengthen inter-and transdisciplinary collaborations and exchanges with partners from around the world. Click here for more information about the Earth System Governance project and call for papers.

Text: Machiel van Zanten

Photos: Duncan de Fey

Contact information