Navigating the Anthropocene

This seminar will take place online. Please register to receive joining instructions.

Online seminar followed by Q&A – all welcome. (NB – all times given in UK time)

The urban, interconnected world of the Anthropocene is terra incognito for humanity. The future is unpredictable and uncertain, witnessed by the recent pandemic, political upheavals, and climate extremes. Human institutions of the past are proving to be inadequate to manage an uncertain future. Through long experience, surprising strategies have evolved in nature to persist through unpredictable, sudden shocks. Some of these strategies – investments in diversity, redundancy over efficiency, self-correcting feedbacks, and decisions based on bottom-up knowledge – provide clues for humanity to safely navigate the human-constructed world in the Anthropocene.

Ruth DeFries is a professor of ecology and sustainable development at Columbia University in New York. She uses images from satellites and field surveys to examine how the world’s demands for food and other resources are changing land use throughout the tropics. Her research quantifies how these land use changes affect climate, biodiversity and other ecosystem services, as well as human development, with a focus on the forests and people of central India. DeFries is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, received a MacArthur “genius” award, and is the recipient of many other honors for her scientific research. In addition to over 100 scientific papers, she enjoys writing for a popular audiences in her books “The Big Ratchet: How Humanity Thrives in the Face of Natural Crisis and “What Would Nature Do?: A Guide for Our Uncertain Times”.