Some short reflections on the 2017 Lund Conference on Earth System Governance
It is now just under three weeks since the 2017 Lund Conference on Earth System Governance. In the months running up to the event, my team and I put in many hours of preparation for the event. Much of it was logistical to ensure a smooth and comfortable conference for all of you. However, the best part for me as the conference chair was sinking my teeth into the substance and content of the conference. Allocation & Access in a Warming and Increasingly Unequal World was a conference theme which spoke to the rapidly changing socio-political and geo-biophysical conditions we face, to the need to engage with a whole system perspective on the earth system and most excitingly for me personally, to ask questions of justice and fairness when interrogating access and allocation and all facets of our work.
At the 50 formal sessions where we, as a community of the Earth System Governance network, discussed and debated the issues and our contributions to earth system governance, the maturity of the discussion, the valuable intellectual contributions and the openness to learn across disciplines was inspiring and challenging. I hope that you had many more informal conversations over the days that served the same purpose. Thinking about the implications of the Anthropocene concept; what is needed for transformation; how we foster decarbonisation; what kind of democracy is necessary and whether our work contributes to justice outcomes were some of broad questions that swirled around the conference.
As a final word on the conference, I would like to leave you with the reminder that the issues we engage with in our research and intellectual enquiry are the very essence of life and well-being for all people and the planet. We, as a community, can and must continue to contribute through our activism, our politics and our science for a just and sustainable world.
It was so nice to get together and again meet the Earth System Governance community. It is such a nice bunch of people! The atmosphere(!) is always great with a good balance of humour and science-based doomsday prophecies. I was particularly pleased to hear a new voice in the Earth System Governance context, Erik Olin Wright (University of Wisconsin). Coming from a radical branch of sociology he provided new perspectives on issues of earth system governance. It was a positive message: that change for the better is possible if underpinned by a profound and systematic understanding of the political economy and the drivers of unsustainability.
As always, the conference was full of interesting (and some not so interesting) parallel sessions / semi-plenary session and lots of discussions and talks during and in between sessions. The US president was more present than ever in these talks, providing many opportunities for both despair and laughter. The logistics worked really well – thanks to the venues being some 300 m apart we got our daily dose of fresh air (and even some rays of sunshine) and exercise. The food was great and I even managed to keep my bio-degradable coffee mug throughout the entire week – just waiting for it to degrade now when the conference is over.
Luckily, it seems that the Earth System Governance project will not go the same way as my coffee mug, the New Directions team made great progress towards a new and revamped science plan to be presented at the next conference in Utrecht in October/November 2018. Also, the International Project Office (competently operated by Ruben and Charlotta) seems to defy decomposition and will get a new home at the University of Utrecht, thanks to competent lobbying by Frank. Congratulations!
Finally, the conference team, led by Charlotta, Isabell, Ruben, and Vasna (in alphabetic order) are to be congratulated for arranging and running such a successful and memorable conference, and the same goes for the enthusiastic student volunteers.