Up in flames by MESPOM professor Anke Schaffartzik

January 16, 2024

Anke Schaffartzik, MESPOM professor, has a background in social ecology and ecological economics, with a focus on social metabolism, that is, on the forms of resource use (extraction, imports, exports, stocks) required to reproduce a society. Much of her research has been on the role of trade in international material (and other) inequalities. Her interest revolves around how societal organization, e.g., the prevailing economic system, shapes resources use and vice versa.

At CEU, she teaches classes related to ecological (macro)economics, thesis writing, and quantitative research methods and will be premiering a class on emotions in the environmental sciences, this academic year.

She told us about her participation to the Climate Strike, held in Vienna, along the side of her students.

Up in flames

In all the 257 years that Austria has been recording temperature, there has never been a September as warm as in 2023: In the lowlands, temperatures were 3.2°C above the 1991-2020 average; in the mountains, 4.2°C. The heat was quite literally on when the relatively new-to-Vienna students of MESP and MESPOM took to the streets on September 15 to participate in the global climate strike.

Despite Austria’s emphasis on renewable energy sources for electricity generation, it is one of the countries that has been doing too little too late when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. Under the “Scientists for Future” banner, academics from almost all Viennese universities called for an end to fossil fuel extraction and combustion. The students at the Department of Environmental Sciences and Policy, however, didn’t hesitate to give Austrian politics the sign(s) it might have been waiting for: Calls for social and economic change, in solidarity with our planet and its human and more-than-human inhabitants, and a clear stance against the manifold forms of social inequality that fossil capitalism perpetuates.

With each year in which we globally fail to curb greenhouse gas emissions, it seems that MESP/OM students become more engaged and more vocal about the need to address not ‘just’ emissions but the entire social system that has been built around competition and combustion. We’re burning up, we’re burning out, and the priority is still not to miss a single class? To get top grades? To publish yet another paper? The system-wide change that our students called for at the climate march needs to be put into action at universities, as well.