Visions of a Sustainable World, at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, supports public lectures presenting inspiring visions of a sustainable world, practical strategies to achieve them, and methods to promote rapid and transformative social change. The series articulates the possible economies, political systems, cities, transportation and energy systems, values, and lifestyles of a sustainable world. It also addresses the causes of transformative social change and identifies past, present and possible future inflection points.

Clive Hamilton

Our most recent speaker of our series, Clive Hamilton, is an Australian author and public intellectual. He is professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University in Canberra and has held various visiting academic positions, including at the University of Oxford, Sciences Po and Yale University. His books include Growth Fetish, Requiem for a Species: Why we resist the truth about climate change and Earthmasters: The dawn of the age of climate engineering, published by Yale University Press last year.

In Hamilton’s talk, “The Anthropocene: An engineered age?,” he explores the Anthropocene: a new geological epoch that our planet has entered according to Earth Scientists. He explained that human activity has become such a powerful force that it now overwhelms other sources of change in the planet’s evolution.  What does it mean for humans in the 21st century to assume the role of a force of nature?  Should we attempt to minimize our disturbance to the great natural cycles or seize control of the Earth system? What would it mean for humans to use geoengineering in an attempt to regulate the climate, to make the Earth itself into an artifact designed to suit our needs?  Hamilton feels that these profound questions can no longer be avoided, and explored them during his presentation at Yale in October 2014. Click below to read his full talk and view his slide show:

Dr. Robert Costanza, co-founder of the field of ecological economics and Editor in Chief of the new journal Solutions was our third speaker. His lecture explored how a cultural transition that respects biophysical boundaries and balances built, human, social and natural capital assets can create a sustainable and desirable future. The short video below distills his thoughts:

The second speaker was Alex Steffen, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Worldchanging and Editor of Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century. He spoke about “Building a Bright Green Future That Works,” on the emerging tools available to create sustainable, prosperous communities. Watch this ten-minute video interview with Alex, Worldchanging 2.0:

The first speaker in the series was Dr. Paul Raskin, President of the Tellus Institute and a Director of the Great Transition Initiative. Dr. Raskin presented a provocative “history from the future” – a look back at how global sustainability was achieved, from the vantage point of the year 2084. A shorter interview with him is on YouTube:

The Visions program is an outgrowth of an October 2007 conference convened by the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies entitled “Toward a New Consciousness: Creating a Society in Harmony with Nature.” Held in Aspen Colorado, the conference sought to identify the shifts in core human values and ethics required to support a more sustainable relationship with the natural world and ways to help catalyze this transformation. A summary report is available.  An edited volume of essays on these themes, The Coming Transformation: Values to Sustain Human and Natural Communities, is also available.

Two of the conference organizers, Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Grim, co-produced the film Journey of the Universe which connects humanistic insights on the nature of the universe with discoveries in astronomy, ecology and evolutionary biology. The film inspires viewers to reexamine their relationship with Earth and the role of humans in addressing the growing environmental and social crisis.

In a related effort, Yale F&ES celebrated an historic environmental visionary and alumnus of the school in April 2009. The Aldo Leopold Centennial Symposium brought together leading scientists, historians, ethicists, conservationists, and practitioners to celebrate the centennial of Aldo Leopold’s graduation. The symposium focused on Leopold’s contributions to environmental ethics and natural resource management, and explored the implications of his land ethic for the global environmental and social challenges of the 21st century.