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Global changes and transition management: in the singular or plural form?

Changements globaux et gestion de la transition : au singulier ou au pluriel ?

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Published on Tuesday, June 28, 2022


Major disruptions impact present times on a global scale that should engage our societies to adapt to face the consequences of these changes. Besides observing and evaluating changes, it is necessary to prepare men and women to become aware of their roles and influences to implement the required transitions. Scientific research has a duty to contribute to debates on the urgency of the situation and how to accompany climate, energy, digital and democratic transitions. The symposium organised by the research team Sphères of the University of Liège invite you to take stock of these issues of global changes and the transition management.


Global changes and transition management : in the singular or plural form ?

Liège (Belgium), 20th and 21st October 2022


Major disruptions impact present times on a global scale that should engage our societies to adapt to face the consequences of these changes, mitigate risks, or even slow down certain ongoing processes. Besides observing and evaluating changes, it is necessary to prepare men and women to become aware of their roles and influences to implement the required transitions, considering local characteristics. Scientific research has a duty to contribute to debates on the urgency of the situation and how to accompany climate, energy, digital and democratic transitions. During these two days of the symposium organised by the UR SPHERES of the University of Liège, with the support of the FNRS, we invite you to take stock of these issues of global changes and the transition management. How can we predict these changes and their impacts on the different spheres that make up the Earth ? How can we support the different power levels, including citizens, in the necessary transitions ? How articulate the different approaches to these issues to consider the risks of interference and negative feedback loops ? The 180 researchers of the interdisciplinary UR SPHERES are pleased to welcome you to Liège.

Topic proposals

We invite you to contribute to the debates, through eight thematic workshops, by proposing an oral communication or a poster.

1) The transition by territory (Jean Marie Halleux, Hubert Maldague)

The territories are led to adapt to environmental, social, and economic challenges. The health crisis, increasingly destructive floods, other extreme weather events, and rising energy prices have highlighted this need to rethink spatial planning. However, the actions to be undertaken require developing our knowledge of the territory with an urgent need for new data and analyses that can serve as a basis for reflections and political decisions.

On the one hand, the European and Walloon strategies to preserve soils aims for Zero Net soil sealing by 2050. However, what are the capacities of the territories to respond to this vision ? The regular observation of the soil sealing, which eventually declined according to the uses of the land use plans and/or by municipalities, allows one to evaluate how it evolves in time and space and identify the points of tension in certain parts of the territory.

On the other hand, the various economic sectors are experiencing rapid changes. Some of these are called to be rethought in a degraded socio-economic and environmental context and in the light of health and geopolitical crises that have pointed out the weaknesses of our systems. Relocations/deployments of the economic activity are on the agenda marked by the so-called emerging economies, including the digital, circular, and creative economies.

2) The Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach to improve the management of critical resources (Joost Wellens, Bernard Tychon)

Nearly one billion people worldwide suffer from malnutrition and have no access to clean water or electricity. Without a profound change in the use of these three resources, it will not be possible to meet future needs. Therefore, food, water and energy insecurities are expected to increase, leading to political uprisings, population displacement and armed conflicts. For politicians, development actors, and the economic world interested in these essential resources, developing and using innovative, more efficient and integrated approaches seems obvious and even an obligation. While technological improvements for better resource management are crucial, they will not be sufficient. They will have to be associated with greater policy coherence in these three sectors to move towards more efficient, equitable and sustainable use of resources.

The Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach highlights the interdependencies between these three resources and identifies responses based on understanding the synergies between these sectors. The development of policies and procedures that neglect cross-sectoral consequences, poor coordination and institutional fragmentation reinforce unsustainable use of resources and threaten sustainability in many parts of the world, especially in the poorest countries.

The NEXUS session will provide an opportunity for speakers to present examples of integrated management of these critical resources in different regions of the world and to verify the relevance but also the challenges of such an integrated approach.

3) Ecological transition : democratic experiments in tension (Pierre Marie Stassart, Sanda Nicola et Dorothée Denayer)

The global ecological crisis calls for “accelerating” the ecological transition. The tension between acceleration/urgency and slowing down/debate/reflexivity questions our ability to transform our way of making socio-technical and political choices, particularly through participatory citizen processes. The recent example of the citizens’ climate convention is “the tree that best hides the forest”, both criticised at its launch for its relevance (how far are experts willing to compromise with other types of knowledge ?) and unravelled during the conclusions by governments. It corroborates the sceptics concerning renewed forms of participation. The tensions and contradictions reflected in the exercise deserve nonetheless to be taken seriously : impact on climate issues at the local and regional level, tensions on the ethical dimension of participation as a form of commitment of citizen collectives in the face of market logic, redistribution, and reconfiguration of networks of skills rather than established logics of expertise, point of support for legal actions calling into question the inaction of the State. This session proposes to take seriously formalised mechanisms for experimenting with citizen participation at the local, territorial, and regional levels in their consultative or transformative dimensions but above all in their diversions, inventions, and subversion.

4) Smart management to reduce the environmental and health impact of buildings (Sébastien Doutreloup, Xavier Fettweis, Philippe André and Anne-Claude Romain)

Current and future climate changes will require reviewing and adapting construction and renovation practices in many countries. In addition to the energy issue, which imperatives are reinforced by the geopolitical situation, the design of buildings, including ventilation, is a crucial issue highlighted by the recent health crisis. These adaptations of the ways of building and living benefit from technical solutions but also from the development of “smart” solutions for building and energy grid management. By analysing concrete initiatives and interdisciplinary confrontations on the possible solutions, the session will compare choices in the adaptations of buildings regarding climate change and the importance of the environmental and health impact of buildings.

5) The extreme rainfalls management : prevent, prepare, protect (Kevin Thibaut, Bakary Djaby and Pierre Ozer)

Recent news report major crises related to an excess or a rainfall deficit worldwide. Whether we are talking about floods – rather brutal phenomena and impacted small spaces – or droughts – phenomena with slow kinetics and wide magnitude – the consequences of these events are multiple, cumulative and often dramatic. In addition to the human, economic and patrimonial losses, these disasters damage the territory deeply and traumatise its populations.

The lack of preparedness and anticipation and the limits of current models are often pointed out as leading causes of the importance of the impacts of hydrological climate extremes, especially when these events are out of the frame and quite exceptional. If it is almost impossible to avoid these hazards, it should be possible to reduce the negative consequences efficiently and sustainably. Preventing, preparing and protecting oneself are three societal responses that make it possible to achieve this goal. In a world in transition, where it is now accepted that the current climate change - the responsibility of Man - will cause an increase in global temperatures and the frequency and intensity of climatic extremes, it is fundamental to change the methods of managing floods and droughts – before, during and after crises – and to put this theme at the centre of our concerns.

The session aims to compare research addressing the issue of the management of extreme rainfall, whether in Belgium, Europe, or in the South, with priority given to studies focusing from an interdisciplinary lens on the prevention, preparation, and protection in the face of these events.

6) What future for our rivers in the face of global changes ? (Geoffrey Houbrechts)

The July 2021 floods in Europe showed the vulnerability of our societies to natural disasters amplified by global warming and the hydro morphological alterations suffered by waterways. These alterations in the physical quality of watercourses result from anthropogenic pressures exerted on watercourses for centuries (cleaning, rectification of alignment and channelling, riprap of banks and removal of riparian forest, soil sealing, etc.). To make rivers more resilient in the face of extreme events linked to global changes, it is necessary to rethink their management. This would include proposing solutions to restore the hydro-sedimentary functioning of waterways and improve their ecological quality.

The session aims to compare knowledge acquired by scientific research and river managers to outline the main lines of the evolution of rivers and their management, particularly in temperate zones.

7) Coastal management (Aurélia Hubert, Pierre Ozer)

Coastal areas are highly exposed to many natural or anthropogenic hazards, particularly in the current context of rising sea levels. These areas are also more populated and urbanised than the interior, which will continue in the future. There is an urgent need to develop more integrated and sustainable coastal management. In high-income countries, resorting to ever more expensive and sophisticated engineering, as in the Netherlands in response to the 1953 storm in the North Sea, is still the preferred solution, even if proposals integrating more ecological and sustainable aspects can be implemented. However, the most exposed countries are those with low incomes, in Asia or Africa, where the population living in a low coastal zone will increase sharply. These countries generally have neither the resources nor a detailed understanding of the physical processes at play to face the challenges of managing their coastal zones. This problem is particularly exacerbated on reef islands such as the Maldives, for which no retreat inland is possible.

8) Anthropogenic disturbances of terrestrial ecosystems : from organisms to ecoregions (Alain Hambuckers, Louis François)

The disturbances of terrestrial ecosystems are deeply marked by the impoverishment of biocenosis, the increase in permanent agricultural areas and wastelands with impoverished or polluted soils. Climate change is another major threat, which is less visible. Mitigating and taking these changes into account requires understanding the processes involved for implementing actions on the ground. The processes are studied using a variety of methodological approaches, ranging from in situ observation of organisms to remote sensing, reinforcement of animal populations and modelling focusing in particular on the movements of animals in their habitat, the prediction of disease and crop yield, distribution and growth of trees in forests or pollination efficiency.

The session will focus on such studies, and their integration and extension into mechanistic models will improve regional understanding of ecosystem functioning and provide an opportunity to explore the relevance of planned mitigation and remediation measures.

How to apply

Please, submit an abstract of 300 words, the selected workshops and a brief bio to Spheres2022@uliege.be

before July 31, 2022.

Organizing Committee

  • Serge Schmitz (Président),
  • Bruno Bianchet,
  • Jean-Marie Halleux,
  • Geoffrey Houbrechts,
  • Sanda Nicola,
  • Hubert Maldague,
  • Pierre Ozer,
  • Kevin Thibault,
  • Bernard Tychon.

Scientific Committee

  • Neil Adger (Univ of Exeter),
  • Philippe André,
  • Charles Bielders (ULouvain),
  • Florence De Longueville (UNamur),
  • Bakary Djaby,
  • Sébastien Doutreloup,
  • Xavier Fettweis,
  • Louis François,
  • François Gemenne,
  • Jean-Marie Halleux,
  • Alain Hambuckers,
  • Geoffrey Houbrechts,
  • Aurélia Hubert,
  • Emmanuel Mahieu,
  • Michael Meadows (Univ of Cape Town),
  • Anne-Claude Romain,
  • Serge Schmitz,
  • Pierre-Marie Stassart,
  • Bernard Tychon,
  • Joost Wellens.

Practical information

Conference Venue :

Institut de géographie, Clos Mercator, 3, 4000 Liège (Sart-Tilman)

Organising Committee


  • Exèdre Dick Annegarn et Institut de géographie - Sart Tilman, Agora 1
    Liège, Belgium (4000)

Event attendance modalities

Full on-site event


  • Sunday, July 31, 2022


  • transition, changement global, recherche scientifique, environnement, société


  • Serge Schmitz
    courriel : S [dot] Schmitz [at] uliege [dot] be

Information source

  • Serge Schmitz
    courriel : S [dot] Schmitz [at] uliege [dot] be


CC0-1.0 This announcement is licensed under the terms of Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal.

To cite this announcement

« Global changes and transition management: in the singular or plural form? », Call for papers, Calenda, Published on Tuesday, June 28, 2022, https://calenda.org/1005732

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