Symposium on sustainability, nonhuman animals and nature

On Thursday April 9, 2015 a 1-day symposium will be held at Maastricht University (The Netherlands), called Humans, Animals and Nature: A Sustainable Relationship? Organized by the Maastricht University Graduate School of Sustainability Science (MUST) and its Founding Director professor of “Sustainable Development” Pim Martens. The symposium will feature contributions from scientists on the subject of sustainability and our human relationship with other animals and nature.

Esteban Rivas, director of the Institute for Animals in Philosophy and Science has been invited to give a talk at the symposium. The title of his lecture is “An abolitionist approach of the concept of sustainability.” This is the summary of his talk: “In this lecture I will first give a short review of the two major positions within animal ethics: utilitarianism or Peter Singer’s animal liberation, and deontology or Tom Regan’s animal rights. I will then present the abolitionism of Gary Francione, who argues that equality among sentient or conscious animals implies an abolition of all forms of human use of nonhuman animals. Departing from this abolitionist view I will then discuss the concept of sustainability. Is abolitionism compatible with sustainability? But more importantly, how compatible is sustainability with abolitionism? I will argue that the concept of sustainability in itself has no implications for how we should treat other animals and that it is compatible with any position within animal ethics. Your “sustainability” may therefore not be my “sustainability.” Most often the concept is currently used and formulated in an anthropocentric way. It has pragmatic appeal in that it seems the only logical thing to do. But it also obscures the fundamental philosophical questions of what value nonhuman animals should have and may give the impression that nonhuman animals will benefit, when in practice they will continue to suffer as before. My conclusion then is that sustainability can only be useful when combined with a clear expression of the particular position within animal ethics one has.”

Sustainability symposiumThe other speakers and lectures are as follows:

Pim Martens: Sustanimalism: About (un)sustainable human-animal relationships.

Maud Huynen: How our health depends on biodiversity.

Carijn Beumer: Novel nature in urban futures: How cultural perspectives influence our relation to nature and animals (in and) around our homes.

Karen Soeters: Animal advocacy and the political agenda.

The symposium concludes with a showing of the movie One Single Planet.

For the full program and abstracts of all lectures, check out this link.

The symposium will be held in English and will take place at Kapoenstraat 2 in Maastricht, starts at 10.15 and ends at 16.30 hours. Attendance is free for students and university staff. Others are also invited and welcomed to the symposium and only pay 25 euros (includes lunch and coffee). Register now for this interesting symposium by sending an email to

See you in Maastricht on April 9!

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