The question of the “value of life” has become increasingly pressing. The possibilities for lavish and global lifestyles for some in the 21st century are uncomfortably connected to rising global inequality, interrelated environmental, food and developmental crises and concomitant increasing pressures on humans and other living beings. Within this fast-changing context, more and more institutions and organisations focus on addressing and enhancing “quality of life.” Wageningen University – our conference’s host – hence defines its mission as: “To explore the potential of nature to improve the quality of life”. But this seemingly straightforward statement raises a wealth of tricky questions. What exactly does “quality of life” mean? And what does it mean to “improve” it? How should this “quality” be measured? Can “quality” actually be measured quantitatively? Who gets to decide all of this and why? And what precisely is this “nature” whose potential is at stake in all this?
On 28-30 June 2017, more than 150 researchers from the Netherlands and around the world will come together to explore these questions and others at the international conference “The Value of Life: Stakes, Measurements and Implications.” Keynote addresses by Professor Katherine Gibson of Western Sydney University and Professor Annemarie Mol of University of Amsterdam – both world-renowned experts in their fields – will set the stage for the series of presentation sessions to follow over the three days. Sessions will address a wide variety of themes including “The Politics of Plants and Animals: Valuing Other Lives”, “The Production and Use of Citizen Science and Academic Knowledge in Political Grassroots Movements”, “Valuing Life: Affective Socio-Nature Encounters and Co-Becomings”, and “Whose Heritages Matter? Re-imagining ‘Dutch-ness’ through Migration In and Beyond the Netherlands”, among many others. All sessions are united, however, in a common aim: to critically but constructively create time and space to explore the deeper meanings and enactments of the quality and value of life, in all its diversity and complexities, as we plunge into the 21st century.
The conference is organized by the Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS) of Wageningen University. It will take place at the Hotel de Wageningense Berg in beautiful Wageningen, an old, small Dutch city in the centre-east of the Netherlands, but only an hour away from Amsterdam Schiphol airport. The Hotel is situated at the edge of town, in the woods, with a magnificent view over the lower Rhine River that, we hope, will add to participants’ quality of life while they discuss and debate exactly this.