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Acting in the Anthropocene: Rethinking a Planet in Crisis

The Anthropocene is a proposed term for the current geological earth era, in which humans are having a defining and irreversible impact on the planet’s biosphere, atmosphere and natural resources. The term was coined in 2000 by nobel prize winning biochemist Paul Crutzen and has since then been embraced by scholars from many different fields to explore the tensions between humans and nature. Are we losing control of our impact on the planet, or were we never in control in the first place? What does rethinking our relation with nature mean for the way we protect ecosystems or the way we produce our food? What are possible and desirable scenarios and actions for the future?

How to apply

Programme at a glance 

Academic dates: 19 July - 6 August 2020
Housing dates: 18 July - 7 August 2020
Academic fee: € 1600 read more about what’s included
Housing fee:

€ 550 for a private room with shared facilities and € 75 refundable deposit. For more information, see Housing and practical matters.

Credits: 6 European Credits
Who is this programme for?                                                                                                                       For current university students (Bachelors and Masters) in the arts and social sciences with an interest in urban studies, ecology, sustainability, and design thinking. 
Academic director:

Joris Buis & Elias den Otter 

Early application deadline: 1 February 2020
Regular application deadline: 1 April 2020

Programme description

Ecologists and nature conservationists alike have been sounding the alarm clock for some decades. Species and populations are vanishing with astonishing speed and habitat destruction is the number one reason for what some scientists are calling ‘the sixth mass extinction’. Monocrop agriculture, mining and urbanisation are considered among the main drivers for the ecological disaster we have entered.

From a social scientists point of view, the Anthropocene is highly value-laden. If humankind is changing nearly all aspects of nature (and itself), then what is nature and what is man-made? What does nature conservation mean, when everything that is ‘conserved’ was ‘made’ by humans in the first place? Is food natural food when in the production process plants have been manipulated? Above all, are we facing all our environmental challenges because mankind is interfering with natural processes, or are we simply not capable of intervening in the right way yet? We need to rethink our impact as humans on the planet.

During this summer programme we will explore  both theoretical perspectives on the Anthropocene from ecology and the social sciences, as well as practical projects that we visit during fieldtrips in and around Amsterdam. We will focus mainly on land-use for ecosystems as clear and visible cases of tensions between humans and nature.

  • Extended programme information

    Besides reading fundamental texts of influential scholars, we will make multiple field trips to state-of-the-art initiatives to see how the Anthropocene is ‘lived’ in and around Amsterdam. Doing so, we will try to make this highly theoretical debate as tangible as possible, and stimulate you to take a stand in the complex debates. After the course, you not only have an overview of the different theoretical perspectives, but more importantly you will acquire hands-on knowledge about possible and desirable scenarios and actions for the future.

    • You will develop a critical interdisciplinary perspective on the body of academic literature relating the Anthropocene
    • You will learn to link theoretical perspectives to practical case studies
    • You will be challenged to take position in the debate and visualize future scenarios for positive action

    After the course you will understand why some ecological measures are highly contested by some, and loved by others. But more importantly, you will understand your own perspectives better. And, hopefully, you will feel inspired to keep working on desirable scenarios for our future way of caring for the earth and ourselves. 

Get in touch with us at summer-info-gsss@uva.nl or call +31 (0)20 525 3776.

Acting in the Anthropocene: Rethinking a Planet in Crisis
Vorm Kortlopend
Studielast 6 EC, 3 weken
Voertaal Engels
Start Juli