Skip to content

Opening Plenary Session

On October 24th, during the opening plenary of the Radboud Conference on Earth System Governance, the following keynote presenters will delve into the conference theme: “Bridging Sciences and Societies for Sustainability Transformations”, highlighting the need for sustainability transformations and showing how fundamental such transformations need to be.

Melanie Challenger is a writer and researcher across environmental history, bioethics, and the history and philosophy of science. Her books include How to Be Animal: What It Means to Be Human; Animal Dignity: Philosophical Reflections on Nonhuman Existence (as editor); and On Extinction: How We Became Estranged from Nature. She serves as Deputy Co-chair of the Nuffield Council on Bioethics and a Vice President of the RSPCA. Melanie is also a founding member of Animals in the Room, a project that seeks to expand democratic imaginations to explore how animals can be present, participate, and be represented in the decisions that affect them. Outside of theory, Melanie is an award-winning poet and librettist.

Melanie Challenger – The Who, How, When, and Why of including the voices of other species in human decision-making processes

Today, it is widely accepted among scientists and non-scientists that many nonhuman animals are intelligent, sentient, communicative, and agentive. And yet there is no provision to include their voices as subjects of justice within human decision-making contexts. The need for more inclusive forms of deliberation will become ever more necessary as the interests of humans and nonhumans come into conflict, and in a changing world and environment. But how, when and why should we consider other species in our legal and political spheres? The commonest approaches today are in the Rights of Nature movements, which attempt to represent other beings in aggregate or to safeguard whole landscapes, and in projects like Animals in the Room, which regard the other animals in our midst as individuals capable of communicating their interests. The question for human societies is not can the other beings around us express their interests, but can we listen?

Matthias Schmelzer – Contesting the growthocene: From capitalist realism to ecological reduction

Economic growth isn’t working, and it cannot be made to work. This keynote argues that the ideology of growth conceals the rising inequalities and ecological destructions associated with capitalism, and points to desirable alternatives to it. Contemporary society is held captive by the hegemony of growth. Even proposals for ecological modernization, Green New Deals or post-capitalism base their utopian hopes on the development of productive forces, on redistributing the fruits of economic growth and technological progress. Yet growing evidence shows that continued economic growth cannot be made compatible with sustaining life and is not necessary for a good life for all. Building on a vibrant field of research, the lecture presents analysis of capitalist realism around the growth paradigm, introduces the most important critiques of economic growth, and discusses ways of transforming economy and society beyond growth. Proposals for degrowth, it argues, offer a way to step off the treadmill of an alienating, expansionist, and hierarchical system and create new avenues for sustainability beyond growth.

Matthias Schmelzer is an economic historian and transformation researcher. He is Professor for Social-Ecological Transformation at the University of Flensburg and active in the climate justice movement. His main interests include the political economy of capitalism, social and environmental history, social-ecological transformation, climate justice, and alternative economics. He is author of the award-winning “The Hegemony of Growth” (Cambridge University Press, 2016), co-edited “Degrowth in Movement(s): Exploring pathways for transformation” and is co-author of “The Future Is Degrowth: A Guide to a World beyond Capitalism” (Verso, 2022).

Marjan Minnesma is widely acknowledged as the most influential figure in the field of sustainability in the Netherlands. In 2022, she was honored with the Goldman Environmental Prize, often referred to as the “green Nobel Prize,” in recognition of her outstanding work. She established Urgenda, an organization dedicated to innovation and sustainability, aiming to facilitate necessary transitions. Urgenda works mostly on solutions in the field of climate and biodiversity. However, as more speed was necessary, she brought the Dutch government to court together with almost 900 citizens to demand more action and won three times. This Dutch climate case sparked off numerous climate cases all over the world.

Marjan Minnesma

Urgent action is much more needed and is also possible. Science and society can be more aligned and help each other in pushing government and business. Concrete examples show how we start with concrete and scalable projects, and show that the energy transition should not deteriorate biodiversity, but that climate and biodiversity should both be taken into account when implementing solutions.

Updates & socials


Supported by

Twitter updates

Announcing the next webinar from the Working Group on Governance of Social-Ecological Systems! 🌍🔬

Curious about which framework best suits your #SES research questions? Join the discussion!

📅 June 5, 2024
🕙 10:00-11:30 (EDT) / 16:00-17:30 (CEST)

Join tomorrow's book launch & dialogue on transformative ideas for climate & ocean governance! 📕👏

Building Capabilities for Earth System Governance, 15 May @Radboud_Uni & online, 12:30-14:00 (CET).



👏Thank you #ESGNetwork for your submissions to the #2024ESGForum!

We're pleased to announce our esteemed co-hosts: @queensu, @IDOS_research & @SEI_Sydney. Special thanks also to our sponsors @UniofBath & @FutureEarth.

Stay tuned for the final programme!

Load More

2022 opening plenary of #ESG2022

The official opening session of the 2022 Toronto Conference on Earth System Governance was hosted at the conference venue and streamed live to virtual attendees.

This conference was opened by the Conference Chairs, and the Oran R. Young Prize for best early career paper was presented.

The keynote presentation was by Tzeporah Berman: “Oil Politics in a World on Fire”

Earth System Governance International Project Office

If you have any questions about the 2023 Radboud Conference on Earth System Governance, you can reach out to our international project office. We will get back to you regarding your questions within a few working days.


Utrecht University
Faculty of Geosciences
Princetonlaan 8a
3584 CB Utrecht, The Netherlands