Sustaining Dairy – PhD thesis by Georgina Villarreal Herrera

On Monday 26 June 2017 at 13.30 hrs Georgina Villarreal Herrera will defend her PhD thesis entitled ‘Sustaining Dairy’ in the Auditorium of Wageningen University. The ceremony will be live streamed by WURTV but can be viewed later as well.

The full thesis will be available online after the defence ceremony.




Summary of the PhD thesis

Dairy in Europe has undergone many changes in the last few years—the abolition of milk production quotas being a fundamental one. This study explores these changes in relation to the sustained social and environmental viability of the sector and how dairy processors’ sustainability programs are a part of that.

This study traces the evolution of the dairy sectors in the Netherlands, Ireland and the United Kingdom since the post-war era, outlining the dominant logic that has guided their development. The analysis shows that the post-war logic based on the increase of scale and intensification of dairying has continued to shape the development of the sector through today. While the visible impacts of intensive dairy have led to adaptations to the dominant rules and practices, these changes have not been fundamental in nature. The analysis of dairy processors and their sustainability programs revealed that these programs can be an additional tool for compliance to legal standards and the alleviation of pressing societal concerns. However, processors address social and environmentally relevant dairy-related challenges when an effective link to profit can be established. These programs have been unable to ensure that the dairy sector operates within established environmental limits and societal expectations, while providing a stable livelihood for farmers.

Assessing the Sustainability of Local and Global Food Chains – GLAMUR Special Issue

GLAMUR main messages

The EU-funded research project GLAMUR has been completed earlier this year. More info on the project, its sustainability performance-based approach and the findings can be accessed at the website. Next to all reports a synopsis of the project, its approach, the main findings and recommendations has been published, a leaflet with the main messages and finally a Special Issue of Sustainability: Sustainability Performance of Conventional and Alternative Food Chains was recently published containing eight open access articles following an editorial by Gianluca Brunori and Francesca Galli.

BSc Thesis opportunity: The Human Factor in Place-shaping

We are looking for motivated BSc students that are interested in writing a thesis with the Rural Sociology Group on the topic of place-shaping. The student will engage in a literature-based study, starting literature will be provided by the supervisor. The report will preferably be written in English.

  1. The (re-)appreciation of places; paying attention to socio-cultural practices; people’s sense of place; regional identities, narratives and story-lines, and branding of places[1];
  2. Individual values and collective culture as the ‘inner’ dimension of sustainability; addressing questions such as: why would people get engaged in sustainability initiatives and self-organization; how and why do people value places but also oppose to the spatial planning of new projects, such as wind-energy parks; how are citizens initiatives and place-shaping influenced by awareness, culture, identities and values; Which ‘policy scripts’ can be identified addressing the role of culture in places?
  3. Collective agency, emerging grassroots initiatives, alliances and coalitions; addressing the questions: how can spatial development enable the ‘energetic society’? How do people on the local and regional administrative level reflect on and negotiate the conditions of their engagement in place-shaping, how do they express agency and create a countervailing power in rural and urban development; how can effective (public-private) alliances and coalitions be build?
  4. Leadership of place; which acknowledges the role of shared, collaborative (knowledge) leadership in building collective agency, in attuning the institutional setting to the specificities of place, thus enabling a place-based approach.
  5. Methodology; Qualitative case-study research; Participatory approaches; Action-research; Value-oriented approach, Appreciative Inquiry.

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Culture in, for and as sustainability

picture culture blog

Is culture truly a ‘fourth’ pillar of sustainability alongside ecology, society and economy? Or is it more  central, more fundamental, more essential? How does culture act as a catalyst for ecological  sustainability, human well-being and economic viability? What would our futures look like if  sustainability was embedded within culture in all of its multiple dimensions, including different  worldviews and values, ways of life, and other forms of cultural expression? A cultural transition that embeds sustainability in the cultural understandings and daily practices of society has the power to shift humanity’s currently unsustainable trajectory.

Culture plays many roles in (un)sustainability, but the scientific, policy-making and societal spheres  have lacked understanding of the essence of culture in sustainability. During a four-year period  (2011-2015) European research network Investigating Cultural Sustainability  ( has sought out state of the art and radical research across Europe and beyond. The network has highlighted this research in order to provide researchers and policymakers with instruments for integrating culture as a key element of sustainable development.
The main results of the work are:
• A final report: “Culture in, for and as Sustainable Development” summarizing the conclusions of the work and introducing three roles of culture in sustainable development:
• a new book series, Routledge Studies in Culture and Sustainability and its first three volumes draw directly from the Action’s work, focusing on culture and sustainability in European cities, heritage and regional development:
• an international transdisciplinary conference Culture(s) in Sustainable Futures: theories, policies, practices in Helsinki 6-8 May, 2015 at which the results of the Action were discussed by almost 300 scholars and practitioners. On the website you can find an overview of the sessions and streamed registrations of the plenary sessions, student’ reflections, the list of abstracts and the list of participants:  Lummina Horlings of the RSO group organised a session on Values in Place and gave a presentation during the plenary session on Culture in Sustainable Futures (starting at minute 36):

Altogether 100 researchers from 25 countries within the EU with additional participants from  Israel, Albania, New Zealand, and Australia contributed to the work in different ways. The network  incorporated a wide variety of disciplines and fields of research, ranging from cultural, humanistic  and social sciences, through political and natural sciences, to planning. The profiles and research interests of the members are introduced in the publication,  Investigating Cultural Sustainability: Experts and Multidisciplinary Approaches:  The work was co-ordinated by the University of Jyväskylä and supported by the European COST Association (Cooperation in Science and Technology), which is funded within the European Commission’s research programme Horizon 2020.

VALUES IN PLACE – MSc Thesis opportunity on the role of values in sustainable places

At the rural Sociology Group we would like to do research on values, place and sustainability. Therefore we are looking for students who are interested in doing a MSc Thesis.

Place based approaches to sustainable development are increasingly favoured, assuming that place specificities really matter in the form of social, cultural and institutional characteristics. People shape places which is expressed in practices, relations, rules, symbols and place-identities. A central question is how human values play a role in place-shaping – aimed at sustainable development – and how to analyze and map values.

Values are not self-standing concepts which can be analysed as atomized issues, but intertwined, context determined, culturally varied and linked to how we see our self and how we perceive our environment. A value-driven perspective on sustainable place-shaping benefits dialogues based on people’s values and beliefs, and aims to provide a more in-depth insight in what people consider as worthwhile, feel responsible for and are willing to commit to in the context of their own place. This is relevant as we can see a trend towards forms of self-organisation, the ‘do-democracy’ and the participative society where people (are expected to) take responsibility for their own environment.

Our goal is to analyse how values are expressed in places, distinguishing between the following dimensions:
• The economic dimension: adding value to places;
• The intentional dimension: why people contribute to sustainable change in places
• The symbolic dimension: how people appreciate place and attach meanings to place
• The integral dimension: how cultural worldviews and levels of human behaviour play a role in place-shaping.
Does this make you curious and/or do you have an interest in this research theme, please contact Ina Horlings at:

The course Sustainability Leadership starts soon!

The course sustainability leadership: new concepts and practices PAP-52806 will start in Period 1. If you are interested, please register soon.

Profile of the course
The governance of sustainability issues in their environmental, social and economic dimensions requires leadership that goes beyond many of the leadership models and practices. Potentially relevant forms of leadership include collaborative, visionary, complexity, adaptive, value-based or eco-leadership. Yet these emerging leadership concepts are elusive just as the concept of sustainability. This course approaches this challenging field by asking some key questions: How does sustainability leadership differ from other types of leadership? How can the contribution of actors (individual and collective) as sustainability leaders be analysed and evaluated? Who are the most successful sustainability leaders and what makes them effective?

Course themes
1) Traditional (hierarchical, positional) versus new (emergent) forms of leadership
2) Leadership to achieve what? Sustainability and sustainability related goals
3) Different types of leaders (individual v.s collective, private vs. public etc)
4) Leadership at different scales and governance levels: from local networks to global negotiations
5) The means of leadership: knowledge, values, power and legitimacy
6) Evaluating successful leadership: functional and ethical dimensions

The course consists of a mixture of lectures, tutorials and individual feedback sessions with students. The students grade will be based on tutorial assignments, an exam paper and the presentation of this paper.

For who?
This is a master course, open for students in different disciplines. Courses in social science are a helpful background but not obligatory. Students with no social science background can receive extra support in the form of individual feedback on their exam paper.
If you need more information, please contact the lecturers: S.Karlsson-Vinkhuysen or L.G.Horlings.