Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

Symposium "Earth Futures"

Date: 19 October 2018
Location: Wageningen

This symposium is co-organised by SENSE fellow Aarti Gupta (Environmental Policy, WUR)

'Earth Futures’ is a unique 1-day symposium that brings together WUR researchers and internationally renowned speakers to debate earth system transformations, from both natural and social science perspectives. Wageningen University and Research has a long history in contributing to the interdisciplinary study of earth system science and governance, and seeking solutions to both longstanding and newly emerging global sustainability challenges. This symposium revisits breakthroughs in interdisciplinary scholarship on these topics, by highlighting both current insights and identifying new frontiers of knowledge needed to address pressing nature-society interactions in the context of ongoing earth system transformations.

We focus on four key themes in plenary presentations during the course of the day: the Anthropocene, Inequality, Biosphere-Technosphere and Earth Futures. In each plenary session, three invited speakers (from WUR and abroad) offer their perspective on the current state of the art on each topic, and on novel forms of knowledge and engagement still required to cope with diverse earth futures.

Four themes

The Anthropocene: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead

In this session, speakers engage with the concept of the Anthropocene by sketching, for example, long term trends in changing climate factors, and the role of humans in modifying these over time. They also critically scrutinize the political implications, and implications for interdisciplinary research, of the concept of the Anthropocene as a new era in human-induced large-scale planetary transformations.

Inequality: Implications for Earth System Research and Governance

In this session, speakers examine trends in inequality across the globe, and discuss various dimensions of inequality as a major challenge in the study and pursuit of global sustainability, both currently and into the future. The focus is on understanding how to visualise and analyse varied dimensions of inequality over time, how trends are evolving, and how earth system scholarship has sought (or not) to address inequality in analysing and tackling major sustainability challenges.

Biosphere – Technosphere: Interrogating the Interface

In this session, speakers consider how humans have drastically changed landscapes and the functioning of the biosphere, and the role that visualisation and measurement technologies have played in revealing and shaping these trajectories. Technology is instrumental in fostering large-scale human impact, yet its role in furthering sustainable outcomes can be effective or ineffective, and empowering or disempowering, depending on conditions of use and goals pursued. The session will analyse how making visible, measuring and/or seeking to engineer biosphere-technosphere interactions facilitates or impedes the search for, inter alia, sustainable land use, biodiversity conservation, and effective responses to climate change.

Earth Futures: Research Frontiers

In this concluding session, a panel of distinguished speakers, both academic and practitioners, and from WUR and abroad, will provide their perspective on the research frontiers going forward in analysing, and seeking to govern, varied and uncertain earth futures, and on possible effective and equitable trajectories in interdisciplinary earth system scholarship and societal engagement going forward.

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