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Campus Plein Sud, ULB, 21/02 - 25/03/2011

"Campus Plein Sud" is an annual forum organised by the nine francophone university campuses in Belgium that offer platforms for debate and action around sustainable development issues and international solidarity and cooperation. It's been said so many times: Water is life. This year's edition has a focus on the water crisis.

Mundus maris - Sciences and Arts for Sustainability asbl is participating with activities in support of the Campus Plein Sud agenda at the campus of the Free University of Brussels (ULB). Two contributions have been confirmed:

An open course together with Prof. Jacques van Helden on 25 February and a stand at the NGO Forum, 24 March 2011.

The general presentation of Campus Plein Sud, the 2011 programme, participants, themes and partners are explained on the specific website. Click here for the 2011 Programme at ULB.



The open course - ULB, 25 February 2011

Sciences and arts responding together to the water and biodiversity emergency 


Who says water, says food, says health, says healthy and biodiverse ecosystems, says prosperous communities inland and on the coast. Extinction rates of species are currently estimated at 1000 times natural average levels. For freshwater fish, man-made changes in natural ecosystems are the most important drivers of extinction.

In the sea it is overfishing, though until a few decades ago, most people believed that the vastness of the oceans were inexhaustible. But climate change and pollution are becoming more important too.

According to Birdlife International (2010) 1,227 bird species, constituting 12.4 per cent of the 9,865 different bird species in the world are under threat of extinction.

Many scientific results are published and available, but that does not mean that they automatically lead to action. How can citizens get a better sense of research results? What can artists do that scientists can not? How to develop a shared understanding that enables action?

In the open course of Prof. Jacques van Helden, the Mundus maris team will perform a multi-actor intervention to address the problems from different angles and engage the public not only in sharing the diagnosis of the emergency situation, but also in what can be done to remedy it. The team is composed of:


Dr. Cornelia E. Nauen, ecologist based in Brussels, Belgium

Prof. Stella Williams, agricultural economist, Nigeria

Carla Zickfeld, artist and aesthetic operator living in Italy

Dr. Aliou Sall, socio-anthropologist, Senegal

The open course was co-organised with SEDIF from 8h to 10h in the Auditorium UD2.218A, Solbosch Campus, Building U, Entry D, 2nd floor. Click here for the map.



Prof. Jacques van Helden briefly introduced the special session of his course leaving the floor to Luz Garcia Ocampo of SEDIF for opening remarks about the history, the objectives and thrust of this year's Programme of Campus Plein Sud.

The 2011 focus on water is inspired by recently renewed efforts to achieve the recognition of the right to water as a fundamental human right in the context of the United Nations. For the last two weeks of February and March 2011 respectively numerous debates, open courses and other events enable critical reflection and international solidarity activities.

Cornelia E. Nauen explained that the four members of the Mundus maris team each represented a particular professional perspective and experience. Bringing these together enabled a richer analysis of the current crisis. The goal was to develop a shared understanding and perception to eventually enable more effective action.

She then started the open course proper with a short overview of key parameters of the global water balance and the quantities of water required for the production of different types of food stuffs.

The definition of biological diversity and the predominant pressures leading to extinction rates estimated at 1000 times the historical background completed the overview.

Stella Williams then connected these to the more than 30 years of her work in rural and artisanal fishing communities in West Africa and the political economy of differentiated access to resources and the particular dependence of the financially poorer parts of the population on functioning ecosystems in the commons.

She noted that even though much research was published the gap from knowledge to action remained large.

Carla Zickfeld picked up the challenge explaining how socially engaged aesthetical operators like herself were able to touch people at a different level. This approach entails multiple use of all types of media for a verification of reality in a participatory and interactive way. She illustrated this with the example of an international cultural project - Civitella d'Agliano - she had led for many years and which had been instrumental in reviving the medieval town centre and its socio-economic life.

Aliou Sall  discussed which approach a socio-anthropologist would chose against social exclusion and for the sustainability of a society. He would also start with the realities of the natural environment and ask how his instruments could become a catalyser for change? From his work in coastal fishing villages along the West African coast he shared how people organise around shared challenges.

At the end of an intensive session, several students voiced questions about labelling schemes like the Marine Stewardship Council which entailed costly certification processes often out of reach of small producers in developing countries. Consumers willing to make responsible choices but unsure whether to trust the schemes or not face considerable dilemmas. The discussion went on in smaller groups at the end of the course.

The powerpoint is available here (in French).



NGO Forum, 24 March 2011

The NGO Forum was organised by SEDIF at the Free University of Brussels (ULB) to contribute to promoting the spirit of international solidarity characteristic for the whole series of events in the context of 'Campus Plein Sud'.

From 10 o'clock in the morning to 16 p.m. numerous associations and NGOs, including Mundus maris asbl, had their stands in the premises of the Sociology Department of the ULB on the ground and first floors of 44, rue Jeanne. The range of activities proposed by the NGOs was quite wide, but many were addressing sustainability issues, inter-cultural exchange and educational and awareness activities.

A steady stream of visitors came through staying here and there for discussions. It started slow in the morning but picked up during the day.

The Mundus maris team at the Forum was composed of Christiane Daem, Thomas Zadrozny and Cornelia E. Nauen.

Special emphasis was placed in the stand display on the combination between scientific research and how to bring results within reach of citizens, artistic reactions of young people to such results and what can be done.

A selection of 'Darwin posters' and related print materials were used to illustrate the point and engage discussions with visitors. Internet access allowed to showcase a wider range of activities past and forthcoming. The basic concept of Mundus maris asbl met with lots of positive feedback and interest. A number of visitors put down their names and contacts to remain in touch or get involved more actively. The diversity of angles from which such interest arose was quite impressive and a lesson for how students, staff and passing visitors made their own connections between their specific focus and the Mundus maris proposals.

The fish rulers for North Sea fishes were particularly popular as they empower sustainability conscious people to avoid buying baby fish and thus contribute to sending the right signal to fishers, traders and supermarkets for offering only mature fish for sale - thus with a good potential to do something concrete and down-to-earth for promoting sustainable fisheries.