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University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute

Promoting collaborative research on biodiversity conservation and its impacts

Studying at Cambridge

Humanitas Chair in Sustainability 2014-2015

by Alison Harvey last modified Nov 03, 2014 03:01 PM


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Johan Rockström

Professor in Environmental Sciences

Executive Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University

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The Humanitas Chair in Sustainability Studies is organised in collaboration with the Cambridge Conservation Initiative (CCI), a unique collaboration between the University of Cambridge and leading internationally-focussed biodiversity conservation organisations clustered in and around Cambridge, UK. As the research arm of CCI, the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute were delighted to co-host the Humanitas programme with CRASSH.  UCCRI also linked up with the Festival of Ideas for the public lecture and the workshop. 

Below is the full programme that Professor Rockström participated in with links to videos of his talks and/or images from the events. CRASSH has also provided a Storify, a summary of the entire programme.


Lecture:  Human Prosperity within Planetary Boundaries

Chair: Dr Mike Rands, Executive Director, CCI

 Humanity is at a new juncture. We have entered the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch, where the World (the aggregate impacts of the global human entreprise) constitutes a geological driving force of change on Earth. We now face real risks of large and irreversible changes in the environmental living conditions on Earth. This redefines world development. Now, rising evidence shows that global sustainability is a prerequisite to attain social and economic development at all scales, from local communities to the global economy. A new paradigm for sustainable development is therefore needed, defined by the new challenge of attaining long term human prosperity within the safe operating space of a resilient and stable planet. “Planetary boundaries” constitute a scientific framework that enables the definition of this safe operating space, defined to provide the world with a high chance of safeguarding a stable planet for future generations. These insights are increasingly recognized by the world community, reflected, e.g., in the development of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which will replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after 2015. The challenge is that nobody knows whether the world in fact can meet the twin objectives of meeting human needs of a rapidly growing and wealthier world population within a safe and just operating space on Earth. It seems clear though that it will require that we become planetary stewards of a grand transformation to global sustainability.  


Seminar: Planetary Boundaries 2.0: Defining a safe Operating Space for Humanity on Earth

Chair: Professor Bill Adams

 Major advancements in Earth system science and resilience research, enabled the scientific proposition in 2009 to define science based planetary boundaries, aimed at delineating a biophysical safe operating space for human development on Earth. The key elements of scientific advancement that formed the ingredients of the planetary boundaries framework include (1) the evidence of the advent of the Anthropocene, (2) tipping elements in the Earth system, (3) the unique role of the Holocene equilibrium as the only stable state of the planet we know that can support our modern world, and (4) the deeper understanding of interactions, feedbacks and threshold dynamics among processes and components of the Earth system. Since its original publication the PB framework has triggered major scientific scrutiny, debate and advancements (with 933 scientific citations and 62 scientific publications directly addressing planetary boundaries, Web of Science 20th October 2014). This has resulted in significant progress in assessing the identification of planetary boundary processes and improved definition of boundary levels. It has also triggered scientific efforts of coupling global planetary boundaries with regional definitions and to deepen the analysis of interactions among boundaries. It has also triggered new integrated research on global governance and equity dimensions of planetary stewardship of a safe and just operating space within planetary boundaries.  

Workshop: Competition of Life Game

Chair: Harriet Allen

Interactive event for teenagers along with Professor Johan Rockström. Participants are divided into teams of 4-5 and using simple tools to represent renewable resources, this activity will hopefully inspire understanding and discussion on the different strategies people use to manage resources in the real world.

Symposium: From Sustainable Development to Global Sustainability
(The video of the symposium will be available soon)

Concluding symposium of the Humanitas Series in Sustainability Studies 2014 entitled series Earth Resilience and World Development: Pathways towards global sustainability in an era of rapid global changes with Johan Rockström.


Bill Adams (University of Cambridge)
Gretchen Daily (Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment)
Bill Sutherland (University of Cambridge)

Interdisciplinary Conservation 

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