Human activities are reshaping our planet in profound ways. This has led scientists to propose a new geologic epoch called the Anthropocene, characterized by rapid technological progress that has brought many human beings many benefits. Overall, it has created tremendous new options for many on Earth and protects us from earlier harsh consequences of the environment we have lived in for thousands of years. But this rapid progress in the last few decades, combined with the growing world population, creates new problems and raises pressing questions about possible limits. Suddenly a concept like planetary boundaries starts to matter.
The Sustainable Society is happy to announce that prof. dr. Will Steffen will be keynote speaker at our ‘Symposium ‘Emerging societal challenges, new research agendas?’. Steffen is one of the internationally leading scientists that created this overarching concept of Planetary Boundaries. With his colleagues, he works on a systematic examination of the most pressing problems and tries to understand how close humanity is to the boundaries when processes could become irreversible. Important questions are: Which important effects do our human activities have? Which are the main natural processes that our lifestyles affect? Is it the loss of biodiversity, greenhouse gasses and related climate change, or the nitrogen crisis? How close are we to a tipping point in the entire Earth System? What would it imply if we could reverse these processes?
The Sustainable Society theme of the University of Groningen aims to contribute to the realization of future societies with a high quality of life. During our Symposium pressing societal challenges will be discussed, with special attention for the potential future role of universities. In addition to the keynote of prof. dr. Will Steffen, the symposium consists of lectures from academic experts, showcasing existing interdisciplinary UG research groups and close conversations with colleagues to explore emerging agendas.
From 1998 to mid-2004, Steffen was Executive Director of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme, based in Stockholm. His research interests span a broad range within climate and Earth System science, with an emphasis on incorporation of human processes in Earth System modelling and analysis; and on sustainability and climate change. More recent work initiated an international debate about ‘Planetary Boundaries’ which define the ‘safe operating space for humanity’ (publications, among others, in Science and Nature).
Steffen is a Councilor on the publicly funded Climate Council of Australia that delivers independent expert information about climate change, an Emeritus Professor at the Australian National University (ANU); Canberra, a Senior Fellow at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden; and a Fellow at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm. He is also the chair of the jury for the Volvo Environment Prize; a member of the International Advisory Board for the Centre for Collective Action Research, Gothenburg University, Sweden; and a member of the Anthropocene Working Group of the Sub-committee on Quaternary Stratigraphy.
Wednesday 22 april, 2020
Venue: Forum Groningen, Nieuwe Markt 1
Time: Starting from 13.00 until closing drinks
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