Blog series #5: How COVID-19 affects sustainable transformation

Dr. Prajal Pradhan is a postdoc at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK). He is working on food systems and urban transformation in response to climate change.

Name / Institute:

  • Dr. Prajal Pradhan
  • PIK – Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  • Leibniz Section E

Research topics:

  • Food systems & Sustainability
  • Bioeconomy & Cities
  • Climate change

Main featured instrument or technique:

  • Online surveys and online workshops

“To fight COVID, I generate knowledge on its challenges and opportunities for sustainable transformation.”

What was your main research topic in the last 1-2 years before spring 2020?

Since the beginning of 2020, my main research topic is to understand the impacts of climate change on the bioeconomy sector in Europe, considering its interlinkages with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). My research also focuses on sustainable cities, mainly from the food systems perspective. Before this research topic, I was investigating various aspects of sustainable food systems and interactions among SDGs.

What are the main findings of your work on COVID; and did the results surprise you?

We mainly found that COVID not only poses challenges to SDGs, but also opens opportunities for sustainable transformation. This finding is based on our Nepal case study. In Nepal, COVID has negatively impacted most SDGs, weakly promoting impacts on a few SDG targets in the short term. Many of these negative impacts may subside in the medium and long terms. Surprisingly, COVID has also opened a short-lived and narrow window of opportunity for sustainable transformation. These opportunities need to be utilized for achieving SDGs by 2030 before rebounds occur following past trajectories.

How has COVID affected your life?

COVID has both, negatively and positively affected my life. The negative effects are fewer physical contracts with colleagues, difficulties in balancing childcare and home office work, and no travel opportunities required for breaks and mental health. Among the positive effects were new opportunities to network and do remote cooperation with various colleagues across the world. Our study on COVID-19 and SDGs is one such example.

Does the COVID situation in your home country influence your research?

Somewhat it influences concentration at work thinking about parents and relatives exposed with COVID in the home country. However, this effect is not substantial.

What would be the one take-home message of your research?

We should look at crisis not only as a challenge, but also identify hidden opportunities behind this challenge for sustainable transformation and further development at personal and professional levels.

How does your perfect day off work look like?

A perfect day at work or “home office” has a mixture of activities, including meetings with colleagues, working on papers and proposals, and analyzing data. I start with a reviewing paper during the day off; if any review request is pending. Afterward, it would be more family time.

We would like to express our sincere thanks to Dr. Prajal Pradhan for supporting our new blog interview format with active participation.

Find out more about Dr. Prajal Pradhan and his work:

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