Impact is about lasting sustainable solutions. In the last decades, the word sustainability for most has become directly linked to climate sustainability. Creating environmental impact has high priority for the SFI initiative. Any research or development of future-proof solutions in any field, be it political, economic or educational, has to strive for positive impact towards a more climate neutral and circular economy. We believe that this mindset should be part of the entire journey. Through this expedition we show the importance of interdisciplinary and on-site international research to create impact, and we prove that this can be done in a way that minimizes the negative environmental impact. As this is a core belief that we implement on ourselves from the start, it will translate into the research and its output. We study and consider the Green New Deal throughout the journey and our research. The economic, governmental and educational impact that we aim to create ultimately share this goal. Offshore, we will be working on research aiming to inspire new initiatives around the Green New Deal and nature regeneration. For example, we will be working towards making our ship more circular based on bio-inspired technologies that will put the sailing industry on a path towards being a regenerative transportation method.
The world is changing rapidly with constant innovation to keep up with environmental changes and a globalising world. We are convinced that education needs to be innovative as well. SFI could set the example for a new and alternative idea about the way master theses and higher education in general are conducted. With this project we showcase, amongst other things, holistic and systemic thinking and the value of alternative scientific outputs than a research report. Furthermore, the ship will be used as a learning environment by itself by experiencing the effect of a constantly changing environment - where objectives and methods are a direct subject to the elements during our learning process. We share the network and the values of the strategic alliance (UU, TuE, WUR, UMC), and we aim to embrace collaboration between universities and create more impact together instead of competing against each other. Through our expedition, it is possible to have students from different backgrounds together and have different perspectives. It will allow us to not only create scientific impact concerning the Green New Deal with our research but also create social impact through the broad foundation of students from three universities. This project is hoped to induce an irreversible trigger to set up more innovative projects for future generations.
This journey will impact policy and governance in those areas that are relevant to our project.
Governance is a multi-levelled system. On different scales, depending on location (jurisdiction), field and political context, governance plays an important role in creating our landscape and seascape. It is logical that our ship and its crew are abiding under differing national and international law. Additionally, we believe that the ship, as an actor of change, has the potential to alter policy – be it through opinionating, communicating science or through setting points on the agenda or even actively propagating specific laws.
Governance and policy is enacted upon citizens on a Global level, through for example the UN-mandates or SDG’s, and on a somewhat smaller scale on a European Level, through the Green New Deal, COVID-19 laws and the Natura-2000 allocations. To achieve the goals, scientific research is critical in attaining these goals as science lays the foundation for identifying innovative approaches, solutions and technologies to understand and address the global challenges of the future (NWO, 2019). Here, the SFI-initiative can collect information in various member states to study the effect that the corona crisis has (had) on the planned energy-transition in different locations, to give an example.
Additionally, policy is enacted on a National and Local scale. Here we can provide adapted solutions in the policy gaps that are open. Local initiatives can be identified and possibly combined to obtain impact on a larger scale. In this way, new restoration projects can possibly be combined to join forces and learn from each other. We believe our main impact can be on a local scale, proving bottom-up change. In order to be able to do this, we will develop a communication plan when travelling through European waters to spread the word. We can set up a network that facilitates change, through bringing together relevant people when travelling. We will study local law making or policy making to be able to make our efforts practical.
The economy is the engine of modern society, we need it to keep running. However, no matter how strong the engine is, it also requires steering; and as with cars, our economy has been running on fossil fuels for too long. It is crucial to realise that fostering the economy and protecting the environment are not opposing aims - only very short-term economic thinking could lead to that conclusion. In the long term, an economy which is not sustainable cannot sustain itself by definition. Therefore, we are convinced that a durable economy needs to reconsider its position within nature, while at the same time successful environmentalism has to get its economics straight.
In line with the European Green New Deal, we consider that sustainable change can be highly profitable: green growth - economic growth that is decoupled from increasing greenhouse gas emission - will benefit everyone in the long term and can provide a way out of the recession that COVID-19 has thrown the world into. Our research will have impact on these processes in a myriad of ways: some projects could result in concrete innovations related to green growth, whereas others deal with the practicable transition of existing companies, sectors, municipalities and other stakeholders towards a sustainable path.
In short: we want to put the “eco” into “economy”. And what better metaphor for an ecological economy could there be if not the sailing ship, our swimming think tank: it moves using renewable energy, it does not require streets or other artificial structures to travel on, and, importantly, it can never go against the forces of nature but it moves within them and with them. This is what the future economy should look like.