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SENSE Research School – The Challenge of Earth System Governance: Agency, Accountability and Adaptiveness

The Netherlands
Event start: 20120618
End date: 20120620

Event description

This year’s course focuses on Earth System Governance. In the face of large-scale changes in the natural environment, actors and institutions are faced with new challenges. The Training School will familiarize participants with some of the key questions and issues for Earth System Governance and help students to better understand the causes of global change in an integrated manner and at the same time to develop options for the governance of a transition to more sustainable development paths at the national and global levels.


Scientists today see mounting evidence that the entire earth system now operates well outside safe boundaries. According to a recent scientific assessment, human societies must change course and steer away from critical tipping points that might lead to rapid and irreversible change, while ensuring sustainable livelihoods for all. This requires a fundamental transformation in current patterns of consumption and production. The key question from a social science per­spective is how to organize the co-evolution of societies and their surrounding environment, in other words, how to develop effective and equitable governance solutions for today’s global problems.

The concept of Earth System Governance allows analyzing these questions with a particular view to a number of concrete research challenges. First, the course will explore the dimension of agency in Earth System Governance. This includes analyses of new actors, their strategies and powers. Second, the course will scrutinize the dimension of accountability in Earth System Governance. Questions include the relevance of new accountability mechanisms vs. established ones; the role of transparency for accountability and the relation to broader concepts such as democratic legitimacy. Third, the course will look at the question of adaptiveness of social institutions and systems in the context of Earth System Governance. Here, the analysis is on the ability of social organizations to adapt to environmental changes beyond physical measures.

The course will combine a number of theoretical and empirical lectures from recognized experts of environmental politics and governance with an interactive PhD Master Class seminar, in which students present their work to their fellow colleagues and the invited speakers for comments and discussion.

Target group

The target group for this summer course involves PhD students within the field of environmental policy and governance. Students need to have a paper ready linked to one of the three themes (agency; accountability; adaptiveness). This paper will be presented and discussed in the master class section of the course.  

The course is organized in close collaboration with the SENSE Research School and endorsed by the Earth System Governance Project and will be held between 19 – 21 June 2012 in Enschede, ITC – UT.


Dr Aarti Gupta (Wageningen UR), Dr Agni Kalfagianni (VU University Amsterdam), Dr Pieter Valkering (Maastricht University) and Dr Annemarie van Zeijl-Rozema (Maastricht University)



Registration deadline: 31 May 2012

Course Fee: € 200 (The fee includes study material, lunches and dinner on Tuesday and Wednesday evening, it excludes other dinners, accommodation & the conference fee).

For more information on the SENSE Symposium, see

For more information please contact the course coordinator:

Dr Philipp Pattberg (VU University Amsterdam/IVM)  

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