Leave the pathway of unsustainability

17 May 2021

The coronavirus pandemic, which has shaken up our world and caused countless suffering, might also force us to change for the better. Derk Loorbach, Professor of Socio-economic Transitions at the Erasmus University Rotterdam, sees a chance that the crisis can trigger systemic shifts that are necessary to move towards a sustainable way of life.

Over the past 12 months many city administrations have been able to make major policy advancements in response to the crisis – new ways of managing mobility, health care, social services, green spaces, and more. In fact, according to Loorbach, there is a momentum in cities right now that policy makers should seize upon.

He argues, in this keynote speech delivered at the Eurocities Environment Forum 2021, that the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated many transitions that were already happening in response to societal upheavals that are much more evident at the local level – “think about pollution, air quality, social economic difference, health inequalities”.

And it’s necessary, he says, because “we are still on a pathway of unsustainability.”

What lessons from the crisis?

“The lesson from covid is that we should take it as a warning sign of how vulnerable our systems are, but also should be positive in the sense we can see how these triggers can help inspire faster moving and more radical change than we ever thought possible,” says Loorbach.

The other message is that it’s possible to make major changes in a short period of time, he says, and we don’t need to negotiate or plan or do everything incrementally.

You can watch and listen to his full speech here:


Alex Godson Eurocities Writer