Stockholm seminars

Ethical reflections on the Sustainable Development Goals

Stockholm Seminar with professor Bert J.M. de Vries, 28 March 2017


In this seminar professor De Vries will reflect upon ethical aspects of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs are interpreted as an expression of the Modernist worldview, attempting to reconcile aspirations for the good life with local, regional and planetary boundaries. He will first address the underlying image of (wo)man, nature and the (welfare) state, and the implicit notion of ‘the good life’. He will then briefly evaluate the feasibility of the SDGs according to Global Change analyses such as Limits to Growth, TARGETS, SRES and the recent Shared Socio-economic Pathways.

He will interpret the findings of this analysis in the context of prevailing ethical theories and questions surrounding the sustainable development debate, using his “worldview approach” as the basis of a broader framework that he argues is necessary if the SDGs are not to be seen as a “naïve wish-list”. The talk concludes with examples of how this can be applied, notably within the financial system, by presenting a simple system dynamics model which explores the role of money (creation) in the economy.

About Bert J.M. de Vries

Bert J.M. de Vries has a background in Theoretical Chemistry. He received his Ph.D. in sustainable resource-use and modelling from Groningen University. From 1990 he has worked at the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency on energy and global change issues. He was Professor of Global Change and Energy at Utrecht University (2003-2013) where he is now emeritus professor.

He has published extensively on resource and in particular energy analysis, modelling and policy; climate and global change modelling and scenario construction; and (complex) systems modelling for sustainable development. He has co-edited several books, including Perspectives on Global Change: The TARGETS Approach and Mappae Mundi: Humans and their Habitats in a Long-Term Socio-Ecological Perspective. He published the textbook Sustainability Science, based on ten years of teaching the course “Sustainable Development - An Integrating Perspective”.

At present, his interest and research is focused on worldviews and ethics in relation to sustainability, and the connection between sustainable development and the financial system.

Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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