Studying for sustainability: “Every contribution counts”

It is a cry that is getting louder and louder: Let us leave the Earth in a better state for future generations. Of course, you can do this through climate-conscious everyday choices, but you can also allow it to lead you in your study choice. A couple of Radboud University students talk about the electives on offer and why they opted for them. “Basically, because our future depends on it.”

When you say ‘sustainability’, people usually think of issues such as climate change, recycling, and carbon emissions. But at Radboud University, various study programmes and electives address a variety of sustainability issues, including the wellbeing of human populations, corporate social responsibility, the equality/inequality in the creative industry, and the accessibility of culture and art. “We are invited to deal with scientific theories and critical thinking in a completely different way,” says Desirée Kruizinga, who completed the Sustainable Creativity course as part her Creative Industries Master's programme.

Make a difference

The course in question explores how creativity and innovation can contribute to resolving issues of sustainability. This is done from different perspectives, such as a political perspective, but also the perspective of the design and production of a product or its consumption. Desirée: “This also makes it clear how important the relationship is between all these different perspectives, and that social issues relating to sustainability can only be resolved if there is good collaboration.”

The latter still sounds like a complex challenge. “Take climate change, which can be quite a daunting topic, because it feels like something we cannot stop,” confesses Lindsey Denton-Fray, Master's student in Philosophy, Politics and Society. In the Climate Crisis elective, however, she discovered a wealth of opportunities to bring about change. “This helped me to see the climate crisis not as pessimistic and depressing, but rather as informative and motivating,” she explains. “I learned how we as individuals can have impact, and therefore make a difference.”

Social justice

At the same time, sustainability is not only about how people treat the Earth, but also how they treat each other. This is reflected, among other things, in the Gender, Conflict and Security course completed by Johanna Klemt. She did this as part of her Master's programme in Political Science, with a specialisation in Gender Equality, Diversity and Inclusion. “Many environmental issues are directly related to social justice and the imbalance of power and decision-making between the global North and the global South,” she says. “It is therefore impossible to address sustainability issues adequately without also tackling the various social justice issues.”

Promoting sustainable behaviour

For Lisa Weller, too, there was no hesitation in focusing on sustainability during her Master's programme in Communication Science. “Basically, because our future depends on it,” she explains. “If we carry on as we are doing now, we will reach a point where we can no longer save our planet.” Based on this conviction, she decided to take the Sustainability, Communication and Media elective. “In this course, you learn how sustainability is communicated in the media. At first, the media mainly used the term ‘climate change’; now, they refer to it as the ‘climate crisis’. This choice of words calls for more action, in the hope that everyone will change their behaviour. Besides the media, films and documentaries can also promote sustainable behaviour. For example, the Netflix documentary Seaspiracy brought more attention to corporate fishing practices, making many people aware of the harm done to fish. Sustainability is the roadmap for our future. Whether you eat less meat or no meat at all, avoid flying every year, or cycle to work every day: every contribution counts.”

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