Advancing the topics of environmental inequalities and sustainability with Pieter Leroy

Pieter Leroy, social scientist and environmentalist, is currently welcomed as a “fellow” by the University of Bordeaux within the framework of the project for an Institute of Advanced Studies. With over 40 years’ experience in the field of environmental policies, this 6-month fellowship represents an opportunity for both him and our University to delve deeper into the topics of environmental inequalities and sustainability!

  • 14/02/2020

Prof. Leroy’s interest in environmental inequalities goes back to the late 1980s, when along with Prof. Andy Blowers (Emeritus Professor at The Open University), he embarked on the study of “peripheralization”. This term refers to the localization of nuclear power plants and other hazardous industrial activities in remote areas. Apart from geographic factors, their studies revealed a strong convergence between environmental risks and social/economic factors, i.e. these high risk industries are found in peripheral towns whose populations generally have a lower level of education, less access to information and are highly dependent on such industries for employment. The findings illustrate how people are not equally “equipped” in response to environmental issues - the social dimension, of prime importance, is often neglected when mobilizing populations around the topic of environmental sustainability. It thus raises the question of how to manage such inequality when communicating and implementing environmental policies.

Analyzing and comparing the application of EU environmental policies

Professor of political sciences of the environment at the Nijmegen School of Management (the Netherlands) for 25 years, Pieter Leroy’s research has focused on policy analysis and evaluation within the environmental field: the emergence and functioning of new policy arrangements, in a context of more encompassing institutional and political changes.

He has investigated how EU environmental policies are applied,looking at cross-sector topics such as public participation, the role of knowledge in environmental decision-making, the science-policy interface and participatory environmental policy evaluation. His research compares the process at different levels: between the EU and nations, between different nations, and between environmental sub-domains (e.g. waste management, water policies, nature conservation and biodiversity, climate change, energy policies) and it poses the question: What is effective under what circumstances?

Promoting an interdisciplinary approach to environmental challenges

As member of the scientific council of the Laboratory of Excellence of the University of Bordeaux, COTE from 2012 to 2020, Prof. Leroy is no stranger to Bordeaux. He now returns to our city from November 2019 to April 2020, bringing with him years of expertise cultivated in a nation, reputed as a leader for its environmental performance. After an initial period of interviews and meetings with various profiles in order to evaluate the situation, the next steps of his mission while here are to:

  • Share his knowledge and research about the topic of environmental inequality with the academic community of the University of Bordeaux via lectures, meetings, conferences, etc.
  • Identify potential “meeting points” between disciplines, projects and people, in order to promote an interdisciplinary approach to the topic of environmental inequality. The aim is then to work towards the creation of a research network composed of diverse profiles from both social and environmental sciences.

In addition to these objectives, Prof. Leroy is collaborating with the research department CHANGES (Social sciences of contemporary changes), with a vision to reinforcing the environmental aspects of their platforms and social innovation centers. He is also contributing to the development of the University of Bordeaux Sustainable Development strategy. This is a priority for our University and an auto-evaluation procedure has been implemented in order to identify and plan the deployment of this strategy (e.g. a territorial alliance, Agir Ensemble, for a sustainable campus within a sustainable city, collaboration with 8 European Universities within the ENLIGHT consortium with a mission to promoting the quality of life, sustainability and global citizen engagement thanks to a transformed Higher Education system).

One of the key elements Prof. Leroy identifies in the elaboration of such a sustainable development strategy, is to emphasize the “fun” element and forge strong connections with artistic and cultural influences. He also stresses, as always, the importance of an open, interdisciplinary approach.

Sustainable development needs to go beyond the boundaries of the purely academic community.

Pieter Leroy —

Those responsible for construction, I.T., campus landscaping, technical infrastructures, etc. need to be involved. Such an approach is facilitated by the fact that since the summer of 2019, the University of Bordeaux has taken over official ownership and management of its campus real-estate from the French government.

Prof. Leroy’s fellowship concludes on the 22nd April 2020 – Earth Day. A telling sign? The end maybe of a fellowship, but for sure just the beginning of new and interdisciplinary projects and networks dedicated to the environment at the University of Bordeaux.

Institute of Advanced Studies

In 2017, the University of Bordeaux launched a study dedicated to the project of creating an Institute of Advanced Studies, in line with its ambition to further develop as a leading, international research university. The mission of this institute would be to host researchers from a variety of disciplines, cultivate an openness to society and thus create a space for interdisciplinary debates and collaborations.

A pilot fellowship program, supported by the Initiative of Excellence University of Bordeaux, has been implemented from June 2019 to June 2020. It is within this framework that several fellows, including Prof. Pieter Leroy, have been welcomed to the University of Bordeaux. As fellows, these researchers promote interdisciplinary scientific networks, on the basis of their particular expertise, here in Bordeaux. They may contribute to the institutional policy of the university and, with the organization of conferences for the general public, they also provide opportunities for our university to open its doors to society.

Earth day

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of “Earth Day”, and to support the development of the University of Bordeaux Sustainable Development strategy, our University is organizing a climate day of action on the 22nd April. During this day, students, staff and visitors will be invited to partake in activities that provide information about the environmental impact of our University. Participants will be encouraged to reflect together on how to find efficient and sustainable solutions and how to share such information and knowledge with others.