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EINBLICKE 49 / Spring 2009 ISSUE

EINBLICKE 49 / Spring 2009 ISSUE

Dear Reader,

until just a few years ago, even members of groups and initiatives actually concerned with sustainable development were divided on whether or not to abandon the word ‘sustainability’ because of its abstractness. In the meantime the situation has changed fundamentally: The sad certainty that processes of global climate change have already begun and the realization of what will happen if we continue down the same path as before, ‘peak oil’ – meaning the end of cheap oil supplies –, and now the global financial collapse and subsequent economic crisis have turned the term sustainability into an everyday word. It is this rude awakening to the fact of our accustomed short-term thinking in matters of production, consumption, and global financial markets that now lends weight to the regulative idea of sustainable development.

Especially the field of economics and business administration, which despite warning voices has been caught totally unawares by the financial and economic crises, is now called upon to make its contribution to resolving the problems: This is because the threatening natural-scientific scenarios must be translated into new development pathways of production and consumption.

Economic research on the environment and on sustainability have a long tradition at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg. The fields of Economics – ever since the University was founded – and Business Administration – since the mid-nineties – have created several chairs dedicated in large part ini tially to teaching and research on environmental economics, and increasingly more so to issues of sustainable development. The Chair for Vocational Studies and Economic Education has an important focus in this thematic area, and so does the field of Law, which is integrated in our department. The department has also carried out a number of research projects with funding from the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research which, with reference to specific empirical and applied fields like energy and the food industry, help to explore new ways of production and consumption.

Under the umbrella of COAST, the University’s center for environmental and sustainability research, some three years ago CENTOS (Center for Sustainability Economics and Management) was established as research center for the fields of Economics, Business and Law. Measured in terms of research and teaching intensity as well as the number of staff, CENTOS occupies a leading position in the German-speaking world and has become an institution of global repute. Accordant with macro economic and societal objectives, issues surrounding innovation and change are the foci of research activities. Applied research and interdisciplinarity are the leading methodological aspects. To name two projects as examples:

  • The WENKE² project (ways to sustainable patterns of consumption with regard to private households’ energy needs and alimentation) applies different branches of economic theory – such as happiness research, evolutionary economics, economic interaction, learning-to-consume, institutionalist approaches, as well as economic aspects of cultural studies – to the conditions and possibilities surrounding the change to green electricity and solar-thermal applications, or organic, regional and fairly traded food products;
  • The GEKKO project (buildings, climate protection and communication in Oldenburg) in collaboration with KoBE e.V., the Oldenburg center of competence for building construction and energy, provides free information and consultation services to interested parties in the Oldenburg and the surrounding region.

The present issue of the research magazine “Einblicke” provides an overview of the productive variety of environmental and sustainability research and teaching at the Carl von Ossietzky University in Oldenburg, focusing on modern concepts and methods of environmental policy, issues of environmental education, relevant aspects of consumption and life-style, culture-based perspectives of sustainable consumption, as well as crossdisciplinary approaches in innovation and entrepreneurship research. Current research topics include climate protection and energy supplies, alimentation, information and communication technologies, the textile industry, and mobility.

A central objective of CENTOS is to combine research and education to levels of excellence. The crossdisciplinary Master’s Program “Sustainability Economics and Management” attracts new recruits for environmental and sustainability research in the field of economics. Outstanding students occupy positions as research assistants and gain hands-on experience in running projects. This Master’s Program is a good illustration of the interdisciplinarity practiced at Oldenburg University, being able to draw on the teaching competence present in other fields such as the natural sciences, for instance. It is currently in the midst of creating a new specialism: “Eco-Entrepreneurship”.

Naturally, CENTOS keenly pursues national and international cooperation with leading research institutes and personalities in the fields of environmental and sustainability research. For instance, the brand new project “NordWest 2050” has enlisted an internationally renowned cooperation partner in the person of Prof. Dr. Klaus Töpfer, who previously held the post of German Minister for the Environment, and was also Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program. The project will run for an initial period of five years and is being carried out in cooperation with the University of Bremen under the umbrella of the Metropolitan Region Bremen-Oldenburg. Research topic is the development of climate adaptation strategies for the North West of Germany.

After reading this magazine we feel confident you will have obtained a good impression of just how useful a university can be for society at large! On behalf of all CENTOS members, we hope you enjoy reading it.

Klaus Fichter, Reinhard Pfriem

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