Friday, 19 October 2018: Symposium ‘Earth Futures’

'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.

Time: 8:30-18:30
Location: Waaierzaal, Orion

Registration is closed, it is however still possible to register on the day at the symposium.


Time Activities
08:30-09:00 Registration and coffee
09:00-09:15 Opening and introduction: Rens Buchwaldt, member Executive Board WUR, Dr. Aarti Gupta, Prof. Gerlinde de Deyn
09:15-10:45 Session I: Interrogating the Anthropocene: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead
10:45-11:00 Coffee break
11:00-12:30 Session II. Inequality: Implications for Earth Systems Research and Governance.
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-15:00 Session III. Biosphere - Technosphere: Exploring the Interface.
15:00-15:30 Coffee break
15:30-17:00 Session IV. Earth Futures: Research Frontiers.
17:00-17:15 Closing remarks
17:15-18:30 Drinks & bites*
*also accessible for WUR students participating in Science Week System Earth activities to interact informally with speakers and attendees


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.


  • Prof. Wouter Peters, WUR Environmental Sciences
  • Dr. Eva Lövbrand, Linköping University, Sweden
  • Prof. dr Arthur Mol, Rector Magnificus/Vice-President Executive Board WUR
  • Gionata Gatto, Artist Creative Innovation

Chair and moderator: Dr. Aarti Gupta

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.


  • Prof. Bas van Bavel, Utrecht University
  • Dr. Narasimha Rao, International Institute for Applied system analysis (IIASA), Vienna
  • Prof. Bram Büscher, WUR Social Sciences
  • Ludmilla Rodrigues, Artist Creative Innovation

Chair and moderator: Prof. Gerlinde de Deyn

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. 


  • Dr. Heleen de Coninck, Radboud University
  • Prof. Martin Herold, WUR Environmental Sciences
  • Prof. Esther Turnhout, WUR Environmental Sciences
  • Cody Healey-Conelly, Artist Creative Innovation

Chair and moderator: Dr. Aarti Gupta

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.


  • Sytze Pruiksma, composer & sound artist
  • Prof. Katrina Brown, University of Exeter, UK
  • Dr. John Ingram, University of Oxford, UK
  • Ir. Natasja Oerlemans, WWF Netherlands
  • Prof. David Kleijn, WUR Environmental Sciences

Chair and moderator: Prof. Gerlinde de Deyn

Registration for the 'Earth Futures' symposium is open, use the orange button on this page!