Guests from foreign and Polish scientific centres arrived today at the University of Gdańsk, where the first international scientific conference titled ‘Science and education for sustainable development’, organised by the Centre for Sustainable Development of UG, began. – ‘We host researchers from Polish and foreign research centres, including partners from the SEA-EU alliance and other European universities, including those from Malta, Spain, Ireland, Finland, Norway, Italy, Slovakia and Lithuania. Meeting in such a large group is an excellent opportunity to present research results and exchange experiences and integrate the scientific community dealing with sustainable development,’ – says dr Krzysztof Szczepaniak, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development at the University of Gdańsk.

Fot. Alan Stocki

Events on the first day of the conference took place in the UG Main Library and the Faculty of Social Sciences. Among the numerous participants (about 140 people), there were dr Igor Mitroczuk from the Kozminski University in Warsaw, prof. Mark Mifsud from the University of Malta, prof. Manuel Larrán Jorge from the University of Cadiz or Bernadette Kumar from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.

Official opening of the conference, November 24

The conference was opened by dr hab. Sylwia Mrozowska, prof. UG, Vice-Rector for Cooperation and Development UG, who welcomed the gathered guests during her speech at the UG Main Library.

– ‘I am convinced that our conference will become a platform for sharing the latest knowledge. We will discuss the challenges for higher education institutions in supporting the process of achieving the goals of the 2030 Agenda,’ – says dr hab. Sylwia Mrozowska. – ‘I would like to stress that the topic of the conference is not only important from an academic perspective. For we are in the process of implementing the European Green Deal, which involves, among other things, trying to meet the challenges of EU energy policy. We are therefore looking for practical solutions, and our conference is an excellent opportunity to seek answers to questions about how universities can become more socially oriented. I wish you fruitful debates and proceedings.’

The floor was then taken by the Vice-Rector for International Cooperation, dr hab. Anna Jurkowska-Zeidler, prof. UG., who expressed her delight at the addition of a second woman to the rectoral authorities.

– ‘I am delighted that we are opening today’s conference together with prof. Sylwia Mrozowska. This is the first time in the history of Gdańsk that two women have sat on the university’s governing body as rectors,’ – said prof. UG Anna Jurkowska-Zeidler. She then warmly welcomed all the guests gathered at the conference: – ‘Welcome to Gdańsk, the city of freedom, solidarity and our open, beautiful university. At UG we are dependent on certain European values. We are one of the key founders of the SEA-EU alliance of European maritime universities, which was established in 2019. In establishing the alliance, the European Commission wanted to evoke the vision of universities as visionaries and key centres committed to building a sustainable future for people and the planet, with a special dedication to the sea that unites us.’

Later in the meeting, conference participants were welcomed by dr Krzysztof Szczepaniak, Director of the Centre for Sustainable Development at the University of Gdańsk, who in his speech referred to the 1992 UN conference:

– ‘In 1992, sustainable development, the environment and the economy were at the centre of the world’s interest. Since then, UG academics have been conducting research related to sustainable development, taking action for the benefit of society and the environment. Today, more than 400 UG research, teaching and research staff are working on this issue. Sustainability research is ongoing and will continue, and this conference is a great opportunity to showcase it and share our experiences so that we can be even more involved in further research.’

The first plenary session started with an address by a researcher from the University of Malta. Prof. Mark Mifsud talked about the vision of sustainability in an extremely interesting way:

– ‘We live in a unique, fragile place, our planet is a ball suspended in space, made of air, soil and water. It’s all beautiful, it’s all nice, it’s all pleasant, but the question has to be asked: are we going to live like this forever? All you have to do is go on the Internet and read what is happening in the world at the moment. To give just a few examples: global warming, the Earth is warming up, sea levels are rising, insect infestations will occur, which will cause an increase in diseases, droughts will occur, there will be problems with food production, with water supplies – there are already more than 8 billion of us on the Planet. The examples could be multiplied. The question is, are we doing anything about it?’

Prof. Mark Mifsud pointed out that a long-term vision for action is essential for sustainable development. He then referred to the education system, which he said is not geared towards sustainable development goals. He talked about his research and the work being done on sustainable development in Malta. Finally, he stressed that although any change is difficult, one should never lose hope.

This was followed by a paper entitled. ‘Universities and their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals: The Spanish case’ was delivered by prof. Manuel Larrán Jorge from the University of Cadiz, who connected remotely with the conference participants.

This was followed by the presentation of awards for gender research, conducted by a team led by prof. dr hab. Ewa Łojkowska. Distinctions, for gender-inclusive research, were received from prof. dr hab. Krzysztof Bielawski, director of the University Centre for Applied and Interdisciplinary Research, and prof. Ewa Łojkowska: mgr Katarzyna Jagłowska (for the highest-scoring master’s thesis) and dr Krystian Tomala (for the highest-scoring doctoral thesis). We wrote about the competition here

Panel sessions

Another part of the programme were four parallel panel sessions. Three of them were held at the UG Faculty of Social Sciences.

The first one, on climate change and energy transition (chaired by dr hab. Marek Rewizorski, prof. UG), featured speeches by dr Igor Mitroczuk from the Kozminski University in Warsaw (his lecture concerned Poland’s energy policy until 2040), dr hab. Tomasz Bojar-Fijałkowski, prof. of the University of Kazimierz Wielki in Bydgoszcz (he talked about the green transformation), and dr Agnieszka Fiszka-Borzyszkowska from UG (a lecture on improving water quality through advanced treatment technologies). Other speakers included dr Andrea Figulova from Comenius University in Bratislava (she talked about energy transition based on a case study of Slovakia) and prof. Ramunas Povilanskas from Klaipeda University (in a lecture he spoke about sustainable coastal development and climate change).

The second panel was chaired by dr Elżbieta Czapka from the University of Gdańsk and dealt with the topic of migration, health and sustainable development. The papers in this part were given by Bernadette Kumar – Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Rose Azzoropardi – University of Malta, Mette Sagkbaken – Oslo Metropolitan University (presentation on how the time experience of refugees affects their mental health and well-being), prof. Bengt Morten Wenstøb – Østfold Univerity College, Jennifer Gerwing – Akershus University Hospital (lecture on the health risks of unacknowledged linguistic and cultural diversity) and dr Omar Grech – University of Malta.

The topic of the third panel, chaired by dr Irena Chawrliska, was humanities in the face of the challenges of the climate crisis. Six speeches could be heard here. Speakers included: dr Rick Dolphijn – Utrecht University (who delivered a speech titled ‘Waves: recognising the rhythms of land and sea’), dr Vincent Caruana – University of Malta (who spoke about getting out of the crisis by changing the way we think), dr Monika Szuba, prof. UG (the paper dealt with a looming reality: the climate crisis and communities), dr Thomas Aiello – Valdosta State University, dr hab. Magdalena Bielenia-Grajewska, prof. UG (‘Corporate discourse on climate change’) and Delma Rodriguez Morales from Anilla Cultural Latinoamérica-Europa en Uruguay & Redes Globales.

The fourth panel, held at the UG Library, addressed the issue of transforming higher education institutions towards sustainability. This part was chaired by dr hab. Bożena Matusiak from the University of Łódź. Speeches were given by: dr Sinikka Suomalainen and dr Annina Kainu – Turku Academy (on the example of Finland, they talked about the transformation of higher education institutions towards sustainable development), dr hab. Natasza Kosakowska-Berezecka and dr Magdalena Żadkowska (the speech concerned gender equality, and was discussed on the example of UG, where the implementation of the gender equality plan was initiated), dr Mariola Zalewska from the University of Warsaw (the lecture concerned the competences and skills of sustainable development managers), dr hab. Tymon Zieliński, Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences (lecture on ‘Sustainable future through sustainable education and science’), Ewa Stoecker and Aleksandra Migalska from Jagiellonian University in Kraków (with a lecture on ‘Support for transgender and non-binary students at the oldest university in Poland’), dr hab. Janusz Reichel, University of Łódź, dr Natalie Sampson, University of Michigan-Dearborn and dr Joanna Morawska from UG (lecture on ‘Together for people, environment and prosperity. UG community engagement through the lens of sustainability’).

Discussions with young researchers

After the lunch break, it was time for discussions with young researchers moderated by experienced researchers. The presentations took place in parallel, under the pillars of sustainability: human & social, economic and environmental. The Human & Social panel was moderated by dr Barbara Kijewska (WNS) and dr Maciej Nyka, prof. UG (WPiA). The Economic panel was moderated by dr Małgorzata Bielenia (WE) and the Environmental panel was moderated by dr hab. Tymon Zieliński from the Institute of Oceanology, Polish Academy of Sciences. This part featured a total of 16 papers and presentations by young scientists sharing the results of their research to date.

Second day of the conference – November 25 – Emigration Museum in Gdynia

The second day of the conference is planned at the Emigration Museum. Guests will be welcomed by Sebastian Tyrakowski – Deputy Director of the Emigration Museum in Gdynia, and at 10:00 a.m. a presentation of the project: Narratives of Sustainable Development. A Polish perspective.

For detailed information about the presentations on the second day of the conference, see the agenda.

The International Science Conference ‘Science and Education for Sustainable Development’, co-financed by the Minister of Education and Science as part of the ‘Excellent Science’ programme and organised by the Centre for Sustainable Development UG, was organised to promote a multifaceted and interdisciplinary approach to sustainability. Importantly, the event provided an excellent opportunity to critically discuss ongoing research and initiatives.
Elżbieta Michalak-Witkowska/UG