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Reflections on Sapiens collaborative actions symposium no. 1

11 November 2022
On October 14, 2022, the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute (ASI) of Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam hosted the Sapiens collaborative actions symposium No. 1 designed to inspire a vision for the Anthropocene as well as connect people across disciplines to engage in transformative action. The symposium was a successful meeting attended by staff and students of VU Amsterdam and beyond who engaged in lively discussions throughout the afternoon.

Sjoerd Kluiving, Associate Professor of Geoarchaeology & Anthropocene Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam opened with an overview of Homo Sapiens from a historical perspective, the urgencies of the Anthropocene, the 17 SDGs, the 10 systemic transitions needed in the near future and an overview of collaborative actions under the umbrella of Sapiens. Questions like “Is Homo Sapiens anthropocentric or ecocentric?” were raised during the opening and that will also be discussed in Sapiens.

The panel debate with Paul Behrens, academic in environmental change at Leiden University, Livia Regen, social-ecological economist specialising in multi-level governance and Ina Lehman, Assistant Professor of Governance of Global Biodiversity at the Institute for Environmental Studies (IVM) at VU Amsterdam took the debate from tipping points in environmental change, such as meat to plant-based diets and gas to green energy to degrowth strategies implemented in current societies. The debate continued on to the type of governance levels needed for sustainable biodiversity and whether a national governance level is still needed.

The marketplace of the Sapiens event displayed various actual players in the field of the sustainability transformation, such as the Common Good Economy (Dutch chapter), Commonland for sustainable landscape transformation, the Amsterdam Doughnut Coalition, Extinction Rebellion and the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute and Green Office VU.

The keynote by Christian Felber, writer, university lecturer, contemporary dancer and initiator of the "Economy for the Common Good" and "Cooperative for the Common Good", drove home the message that a GDP-dominated economy is at failure with a sustainable future. He promoted the Common Good Economy as an example for a solution. The interactive action with the audience made it clear that GDP values are at odds with a fair and socially just world.

Some of the ideas and conclusions from the debates at the Sapiens collaborative actions symposium No. 1:

  • There is a lively and vibrant community present to feed Sapiens activities.
  • Needs to be discussed: Is Sapiens anthropocentric and is the Anthropocene the preferred term?
  • The symposium No. 1 inspires multiple follow-up events and transformative actions.
  • Personal connections made at the event may accelerate developments.
  • The Amsterdam Sustainability Institute will strengthen its links with the Economy for the Common Good initiative

If you missed it or want to rewatch the entire session, we have uploaded the recording on our YouTube channel

This event was organised by the Amsterdam Sustainability Institute. Sapiens is a joint initiative by VU Amsterdam, Naturalis Biodiversity Center, Inholland University of Applied Sciences and will be based in the green-terraced Valley building in Zuidas from autumn 2023.