Update: In response to the current measures in place to contain the spread of Covid-19, The second Utrecht Degrowth Symposium: From Circular Economy to Circular Society will be held online on Friday, May 15 (see updated program below). As the international pandemic Covid-19 disrupts the lives of billions of people around the world, it exposes dangerous structural problems of our globalized economic system. Exponential resource extraction, for instance, increases the likelihood of cross-species transmission of zoonotic viruses (such as the one that causes Covid-19). It is now clearer than ever before that preserving natural ecosystems is a question of our health and well-being, and will require a complete reconfiguration of our socio-economic system.

We invite everyone to discuss the possibilities of a holistic societal transformation towards sustainability. During the event, we will explore what a circular society can look like and how it can be achieved from the perspectives of practitioners and academics alike.

Background: Experts warn of the high risk of climate change, resource scarcity and mass extinction of species if we continue on the current path of increasing resource extraction and dependence on fossil fuels as the main source of energy. Wholescale transformations are thus needed to keep the Earth within the safe limits of 1.5 degrees, and preserve resources and ecosystems for the future, while providing for the needs of a rising human population. The concept of the circular economy so far has been largely promoted as a solution that would enable the decoupling of economic growth from environmental degradation. Many scholars, on the other hand, argue that a democratic and equitable sustainability transformation cannot be achieved in conditions of continuous economic growth.

What to expect: In this online symposium we will discuss how a circular economy and society can rise up to the above challenges by tackling the following questions:

·  What does a de-growing circular society mean?

·  Why do we need to transition from a circular economy to a circular society?

· How can a circularity transition address social and environmental well-being while reducing humanity’s global environmental footprint?

· What are policy solutions for a circular economy and society that stays within the planetary boundaries?

The event will build on the first Utrecht Degrowth Symposium which was held in June 2019 and introduced the notion of degrowth to the public in the Netherlands. The second Utrecht Degrowth Symposium aims to further connect stakeholders from academic and non-academic institutions to discuss holistic societal transformations needed to address the socio-ecological crisis of the 21st century.


13.00 Welcome

13.10 From a circular economy to a circular society: historical origins and evolution of the circularity debate. Martin Calisto Friant, PhD researcher at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development.

13.20 Diversifying and de-growing the circular economy: Radical social transformation in a resource-scarce world. Dr. Kersty Hobson, Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at Cardiff University. Talk followed by Q&A.

13.50 Policies for a thriving city within the planetary boundaries. Ilektra Kouloumpi, Senior Strategist Thriving Cities at Circle Economy. Talk followed by Q&A.

14.20 Interactive break-off rooms: Towards a circular society by 2050

14:50 Panel discussion. Enabling a circular society in practice: opportunities and barriers. Joey Hodde (De Ceuvel); Dr. Socrates Schoutens (Waag); Martine Postma (Repair Café).

15.25 Q&A for all speakers

15.45 Reflections on degrowth and circularity. Ernst Worrell, Professor of Energy, Resources & Technological Change at the Copernicus Institute of Sustainable Development.

15.55 Closing

Registration is open here!


Utrecht University researchers work together with colleagues from other universities and civil society at the Dutch degrowth platform to study and discuss degrowth and circular economy in a transdisciplinary way. The symposium is organised by:

-       Organizers (alphabetic order)

Dr. ir. Sanli Faez, an Assistant Professor of Physics at Utrecht University

Dr. Giuseppe Feola, an Associate Professor of Social Change for Sustainability at Utrecht University

Martin Calisto Fiant, a PhD researcher at Utrecht University

Olga Koretskaya, a PhD researcher at Erasmus University Rotterdam

Laura van Oers, a PhD researcher at Utrecht University


The symposium is supported by The Towards a Circular Economy and Society hub of Pathways to Sustainability.