Dear AESS community
As President of AESS, one job I have is to develop the conference theme. This year, after some discussion with the AESS Board, I chose the theme of “sustainable futures.” Personally, I come to this topic thinking about the existential threats we face globally, and the ways in which these threats are socially predicated and structurally caused. I also think about how embedded political forces work hard to mislead the public about these challenges, such as climate change; though, that is probably because I have spent a lot of time studying the climate change counter-movement that is responsible for this misinformation campaign—a topic we discussed at the closing plenary of the 2018 conference.
But the fact is, while I think of the grim threats to sustainability, others come to this subject from an entirely different perspective. Perhaps you think of sustainable futures alongside eco-communities and progress in environmental sciences, or with the optimism of an educator who sees students deal with environmental issues with energy and enthusiasm, unencumbered by the shadow of cynicism.
Further, the plural form of future in this theme is purposeful, because there are many futures at stake, and many peoples who should have a voice in our shared future. Having just returned from the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco to conduct research on sustainable development projects there, I met Indigenous Amazigh people who had so little, but were organizing collectives to build a brighter future for themselves, their children, and the ecological systems in which they lived. Perhaps the most inspiring thing about their future was that it was being constructed on the cornerstone of honest solidarity with each other.
Finally, because sustainability has fairly contested meanings and contexts, this is a theme that we can approach as an organization to debate and think about from many different directions. Thus, I invite you to submit a paper or panel on this theme so we can begin those conversations. I think there is a lot we can learn from each other, and there is a lot at stake in these efforts.
AESS President 2018-2020