Preparing Erasmus University for environmental collapse: an urgent task

Group of people in a workshop

All faculties need better resilience practices, and colleagues wanting to act on climate risks need more support. This was one of the main conclusions from the Vice Deans of Education, Directors of Operation, Learning and Innovation Officers and EUR’s Risk Manager, who visited the offices of the Design Impact Transition (DIT) platform on 19 January 2023. The DIT team, and assistant professor Ginie Servant-Miklos of ESSB, invited the group to reflect on the risks climate change poses to Erasmus University, and to spur thinking about the resilience of the EUR over the next 30 years.

Written by Ginie Servant-Miklos and Marieke de Wal; edited by Lena Baunker

Simulating environmental collapse

The meeting started with a striking overview of the Planetary Boundaries Framework pioneered by the Stockholm Resilience Institute. It made clear that the climate-related problems we face are worse than we think, will happen sooner than we think, and we are less prepared than we think. Afterwards, the group played the serious game COLLAPSE, in which teams are first tasked with building a resilient community that provides energy, transportation, agriculture, security, art and culture infrastructures. Then, natural disasters are drawn at random to test their resilience.

collapse game

Lessons from the COLLAPSE game

The game taught us that:

  • in the event of extreme weather, players with more infrastructure redundancy and diversity are more resilient and better prepared to withstand the challenges
  • systems are interdependent; therefore, we are faced with cascading failures when something goes wrong upstream (like losing energy infrastructure)
  • in the event of catastrophes, it becomes difficult to make decisions; this is because cascading failures occur fast, we lose our overview of the systems and needs compete when everything is under strain

Is Erasmus University prepared for the environmental collapse?

We already see the impacts of global crises on our university: two years of emergency remote teaching, 1.1 million euros of heating bill increase forecast, with the possibility that some buildings may close due to the energy crisis, Ukrainian students stranded in The Netherlands due to the war, inflation affecting everything from employee salaries to supplies all along the chain. However, during the meeting it became clear that EUR largely reacts to crises rather than anticipates and plans for them. Individual efforts are often hampered by a lack of institutional support and alignment amongst colleagues.

Participants agreed that all faculties should better prepare themselves, their communities, their students, and Dutch society for the climate crisis. Action is needed with regards to improving operational resilience and risk management, adapting educational content and methods to raise awareness, empowering students to act, and changing the way academics and staff talk about climate issues.

We need to work together to achieve resilience

To achieve better resilience, we need to act now. The science is clear that we will not keep global warming below 1.5°C, and the first year at 1.5°C might come as soon as 2024. Soon, our world will be less stable, less peaceful and full of more unpleasant environmental, socio-economic and geopolitical surprises. This has consequences for our university. To raise awareness, the DIT platform will follow up by exploring possibilities for running COLLAPSE sessions in the different faculties.

More information

If you are interested in playing COLLAPSE with your students, research group, department, or faculty, please contact the Design Impact Transition (DIT) platform at

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