2020-21 Opening of the academic year lecture at the International Studies programme at Leiden University.
In the beginning of the academic year 2020-21, the International Studies programme at Leiden University kindly invited me to give an opening lecture. The idea of the lecture was that I draw on my research to comment on the wider topics of environmental mindfulness and global environmental justice. The lecture was live-streamed and here is a video-recording.
In the lecture, I combine personal reflections with my research on minimalist lifestyles in order to critically discuss the notion of 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 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 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.
It was lovely to meet staff and students on that day. Thanks a lot for the invitation!