ISIE Update: the Gordon Research Conference and COVID-19

Dear members,

I am aware that we are all feeling an awful lot of disruption caused by the still accelerating COVID-19 crisis. I certainly hope that you and your families are not directly impacted and that you are keeping yourselves safe. There is also disruption to our professional lives. We have just been informed that this year’s Gordon Research Conference needed be rescheduled for 2022. This is a real pity because we were all looking forward to an excellent meeting that Anu Ramaswami has so perfectly organised. Nevertheless, there were no other options and rescheduling is certainly the only responsible way to go.

We can also be sure that there will be more disruption as we move ahead in time and this may also affect the conferences in the Americas and the socio-economic metabolism section conference in Japan. We will keep you posted as these developments unfold.

In the meantime, the ISIE leadership continues the core business of the society as I am sure you are continuing your professional life to the extent possible. In many countries we have moved to measures of social distancing which appears to be a good step to at least slow the progress of the virus and to ease the pressure on the capacity of the health system. I am aware that our colleagues in Europe are most affected at this point, but the numbers are growing in other parts of the world as well.

There are interesting side effects of the crisis and I think we cannot expect that we will return to business as usual when the virus will be over. We may just have arrived at a historical moment – a bifurcation – that may change the path of future development and perhaps we will not go back to long-distance air travel and face to face meetings but may use virtual communication more often in the future. There may also be a trend of localisation where countries are relying more on their own manufacturing capabilities and less on traded goods. The learnings from the crisis will become clearer when we have arrived in this future and it may have beneficial environmental and climate co-benefits. It is hard to forecast but I believe there is a general sense of changing circumstances that may affect the way we interact with natural resources and with each other. When this happens, I hope that our industrial ecology community can help understand and unpack these changes.

At this time, I am hoping that you are all safe and well connected and that you are looking after each other.

All the best,

Heinz Schandl
ISIE President