‘Earth Futures’ Symposium shows urgent need for sustainable transformations

Published on
October 23, 2018

“We need to safeguard our home to sustain the quality of life.” With that powerful message, Rens Buchwaldt, member Executive Board WUR, opened the symposium ‘Earth Futures’ on Friday 19 October.

Buchwaldt emphasised the history of interdisciplinary research at WUR on the earth as a system.  This interdisciplinarity  was exactly the approach for this symposium. International scientists from environmental- and social sciences took the stage to discuss the need and possibilities for ensuring a sustainable future for planet earth. This was done divided over four themes: the Anthropocene, Inequality, Biosphere – Techno sphere, and Earth Futures, each followed by a lively discussion between the speakers and the audience.

All discussions proved the need for transformations, in energy-, food- and social systems. However, as Prof. Katrina Brown pointed out, transformation has multiple risks, leading amongst other things to social inequality. Dr. Aarti Gupta, one of the organisers of the symposium, summarized this by saying "the most important challenge is how to design anticipatory and just institutions to steer transformations towards a sustainable future."

The second main outcome was that, in order to have a sustainable transformation, this needs to be sold to the future generation, since they are the ones who will have to give up their privileges compared to the current situation. There was not one clear solution on how to solve this challenge, but consensus was that it at least involved creating a common value for our natural system.

The speeches and discussions from the scientists were supported by presentations of artists. Three of the artists from the project ‘creative innovation’ showed to and with the audience new insights created by the combination from science and art, on topics of bioremediation, climate change adaptation, and movement and collaboration.  Composer and Sound Artist Sytze Pruiksma closed the day by performing music inspired by nature, that also features in the new movie The Wadden Sea, Living on the Edge.  

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