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Regenerative Sustainable Development of Universities and Cities

Regenerative Sustainable Development of Universities and Cities

The Role of Living Laboratories

Edited by Ariane König

Now that the Earth has reached the limits of its biophysical carrying capacity, we have to change technologies, social practices and social norms relating to material production and consumption to ensure that we do not further jeopardize the functioning of our planet’s life support systems. Through research, education and civic engagement, universities have a pivotal role to play in this transition. This timely book explores how universities are establishing living laboratories for sustainable development, and examines the communication networks and knowledge infrastructures that underpin impact both on and beyond the campus.

Chapter 1: Introduction: experimenting for sustainable development? Living laboratories, social learning and the role of the university

Ariane König and James Evans

Subjects: education, education policy, geography, cities, politics and public policy, education policy, social policy and sociology, education policy, urban and regional studies, cities


With ongoing urbanization, over half of the human population now lives in cities. Rapidly growing cities present pollution hotspots and challenges for resource provision. New approaches to organizing social life, infrastructures and research and technological innovation are urgently required. The quest for such new approaches is often framed by ‘Sustainable Development’, which seeks to reconcile economic activity with social progress and environmental protection. The rationale is that biophysical limits to growth demand more resource-efficient approaches to production and new patterns of consumption, with attention to social equity – across the globe. A tall order! Given their considerable resources and durability, universities have a pivotal role to play in addressing sustainable development. As research institutions they have the capacity to generate robust and innovative alternatives to our fossil fuel-driven society, while as centres for teaching and community engagement they can promote social change. This book develops approaches for universities and all involved in higher education policy and science and technology policy to engage insustainable development and mobilize leaders and change agents.