Countries, regions and cities are increasingly recognizing their vulnerability and their (in)ability to withstand and respond to crises induced by global concerns such as climate change, finance, energy and general resource scarcity, terrorism and civil unrest. At this moment of deep crisis of our socio-political, economic and environmental subsystems, we gradually move beyond the myth of unlimited growth for all and the dominant paradigm of attempting to control change while maintaining the status quo; hopefully in many cases, we start planning for alternative futures…
In this context, ‘resilience’ has become the new paradigm and a banner for various efforts aiming at planning the future across the globe. Following the ardent appeal to ‘Resilient dynamism’ by Christine Lagarde at the World Economic Forum on January 2013, as well as Barack Obama’s State of the Union speech on February 2013, resilience turns out to be the most important message in reference to the quality of life awaiting our planet. Resilience is ‘the ability of an individual, a household, a community, a country or a region to withstand, adapt, and quickly recover from stresses and shocks such as drought, violence, conflict or natural disaster’ (European Commission, 2013). The concept of resilience focuses therefore on the degree to which various environments and systems can tolerate changing conditions and circumstances before adapting and re-organizing around a new set of structures and processes. In this context, every country, its policies, its research, etc. will have to deal with and be directed towards the increase of the resilience of populations and territories, as well as of economic, cultural and environmental systems.
Even if the concept is often understood mainly as resilience to climate change and geo-environmental hazards, its utility has been soon generalized to comprise studies in engineering, in planning & development, as much as the social sciences. This is not at all surprising, considering the multifaceted nature of local and global challenges we actually face. The contemporary stakes require innovative and sustainable solutions in the creation of more resilient societies, which balance technological innovation, economic competitiveness, environmental protection and social flourishing. Multidisciplinarity is therefore a prerequisite for addressing effectively the complexity of situations met all too often in our ‘risk societies’ (see Beck, 1992).
It is against this background that the World Engineering Education Forum 2015 focuses on and address the general theme of resilience to varying aspects and scales. There will be an opportunity to engage with the concept and explore its applicability and value in engineering education and in engineering overall. But, considering that it is also of importance to engage with a dialogue among disciplines in order to be capable to propose effective (that is holistic) solutions to future risks, the Forum will cede considerable space to interdisciplinary reflection on the notion of resilience, its utility and its limits. Besides, and in order to ensure a smooth passage in engineering education from the previous paradigms to that of resilience, a strand for ‘teaching teachers’, at university and pre-university level (elementary and high school) will be also of importance to the Forum.
Choosing Florence for the venue of WEEF 2015 is not a neutral choice, given that the city is historically hit by several devastating floods. Considering the rich learning experiences that these past events offer, as well as the upcoming (in 2016) 50th anniversary of the 1966 flood in Florence, the general theme of the Forum also connects to the Project ‘Firenze 2016’. This latter aims at making up a comprehensive project of protection of population and goods, involving all concerned international, national, regional and municipal actors, such as cultural institutions, public and private entities, etc. Due to the joint involvement of the Università di Firenze, the Italian University Line (IUL), IFEES, IGIP, SEFI, ENAEE, as well as the GEDC, it is expected that the debates will take special regard for cross-societal and cross-cultural themes, thus promoting exchanges between participants from all continents. We are confident therefore that innovative content will be infused to reflect the variety of local contexts and circumstances which offer true laboratories for studying the current challenges posed to engineering education by the need of moving towards a resilient society.
WEEF 2015 will include the following strands, though not exclusively, given that issues that are in other ways relevant to the key theme will also be considered:
- Climatic change adaptation
- Natural disasters
- Growing population and urbanization
- Energy transition
- Water crisis
- Food crisis
The topics around which WEEF 2015 revolves are strongly correlated to EXPO 2015 “Feeding the planet, energy for the life” to be held in Milan. The proximity –geographical, thematic, as much as in terms of timing– with EXPO 2015 will render WEEF 2015 the ideal platform for all interested delegates and participants to benefit from a dense and polyvalent experience. In less than two hours by train from Florence, the participants of WEEF 2015 will be able to attend several events and workshops at the universal exhibition of Milan, thus rendering their visit to Italy exceptionally cost-effective.