Big Ideas

Seminar Series

Environmental Change Institute, School of Geography and the Environment

Forthcoming events

Booking for Michaelmas Term Big Ideas Seminar Series will open at the beginning of 0th week. Details of the seminar schedule will be released here as they become confirmed.


Weds 11 October 2017, 4.15pm | Doughnut Economics: How to Think Like a 21st Century Economist

  • Kate Raworth | Advisory Board Member and Senior Visiting Research Associate, ECI, and author of Doughnut Economics: How to Think Like a 21st Century Economist
  • Economics – literally ‘the art of household management’ – could not be more relevant this century: we urgently need a new generation of economists who are ready to manage our planetary home in the interests of all its inhabitants. But the economic theories still taught in universities and used by policymakers worldwide are dangerously out of date. From climate change and the rise of the 1% to repeated financial crises, last-century’s theories are simply not up to tackling the central economic challenges of our times. Drawing on insights from diverse schools of thought – including complexity, ecological, feminist, behavioural and institutional economics – Kate Raworth argues that it’s time to rethink economics to make it fit for the 21st century.

    Kate Raworth is a renegade economist focused on exploring the economic mindset needed to address the 21st century’s social and ecological challenges, and is the creator of the Doughnut of social and planetary boundaries. She is a Senior Visiting Research Associate at Oxford University’s Environmental Change Institute, where she teaches on the Masters in Environmental Change and Management. She is also a Senior Associate at the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership.


Weds 18 October 2017, 4.15pm | Big History: Humans and their Environment

  • Sir Crispin Tickell | Advisory Board Member, ECI, and Director, Policy Foresight Programme, Oxford University
  • We know something of our past, which we call history. We think we know the present. Some may see the future as a continuation of both. They are wrong.

    We are in a new situation (well labelled the Anthropocene) which requires us to confront an unprecedented range of issues: the multiplication of our species; how we measure health and wealth; the future source of our food and energy supply; conservation of the natural world and other forms of life; adaptation to climate change; and the shortcomings of the conventional wisdom, even science, in all its aspects.

    Most forecasts are wrong, but let us jump a hundred years. By then humans are likely to be living in a more globalized world of rapid communication. The geographical balance of political power will change. More than ever there will be a single human society in which humans increasingly resemble a superorganism. Even the evolution of our species may take a different turn with effects on the brain. Already many are less interested in words than in visual images, and have difficulty in integrating their thinking and actions. But life itself is so robust that the dominance of any species, even our own, could be no more than a short episode in the story of life on Earth.

    Sir Crispin Tickell is a pioneer in linking environmental and in particular climatic change to the worlds of politics and business. A former British diplomat, Sir Crispen was Permanent Secretary of the Ministry responsible for overseas aid, and British Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, before going on to be Warden of Green (Templeton) College Oxford, Chancellor of the University of Kent, Adviser at Large to the President of Arizona State University, and member of the International Advisory Council of the Oxford Martin School. He has authored many papers and books, including Climate Change and World Affairs and Mary Anning of Lyme Regis.


Weds 25 October 2017, 4.15pm | Transformation for All - Implementing the Agenda 2030 in Germany from a Practical Policy Perspective

  • Dr Jörg Mayer-Ries
  • Environmental and sustainability policy is facing new challenges concerning wicked problems in the accelerating interlinkages of the eco-socio-economic world, in the growing complexity of policy-and-beyond governance to deal with those problems and in the increasingly contested areas of knowledge and ignorance on which concepts of problems, goals and policies are based upon. Dr. Mayer-Ries will outline ideas and experiences of German environmental and sustainability policy dealing with those challenges from the perspective of strategic administrative and policy practice. The implementation of the UN-Agenda 2030 in Germany since 2015 and new German initiatives to strengthen the involvement of science into a sustainable transformation will serve as reference points.

    Dr. Joerg Mayer-Ries has been working as Lecturer for political Economy at University Oldenburg, as Director of Studies at a Lutheran Academy and as Senior Consultant in the private sector. Since 2007 he is Head of Division in the Department for Fundamental Aspects of Environmental Policy at the Federal Ministry for Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) in Berlin. Dr. Mayer-Ries is responsible for the environmental dimension and monitoring of the German Sustainability Strategy and European and global aspects of German sustainability policy. He coordinated the National Environmental Programme 2030 of the Ministry, the first Integrated Nitrogene Report 2017 and several research projects on strategic and fundamental concepts for future environmental policy. Until end of this year Dr. Mayer-Ries is appointed as Senior Fellow to the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies IASS at Potsdam.


Weds 08 November 2017, 4.15pm | Culture's role in hazard and climate change risk: worldviews, belief systems and 'alternative facts'

  • Dr Lisa Schipper | Research Associate, Overseas Development Institute
  • Dr Lisa Schipper is a Research Associate at the Overseas Development Institute. Her research specialty is adaptation and socio-cultural vulnerability to climate change and natural hazards. The context for nearly all of her work has been smallholder or subsistence agriculture in poor communities in Southeast and South Asia, Central and South America, and East Africa.



Previous events


Thurs 9 February 2017, 5pm | Cities as First Responders of Climate Change

  • Cynthia Rosenzweig | Senior Research scientist, NASA

Tues 31 January 2017, 5pm | Prosperity without Growth - Foundations for the economy of tomorrow

  • Tim Jackson | Professor of Sustainable Development, University of Surrey

Weds 2 November 2016, 5pm | Policy for Environmental Change: Info-Gap Response to Uncertainty

  • Yakov Ben-Haim | Israel Institute of technology

Weds 19 October 2016, 5pm | Are universities & research councils doing nearly enough to tackle climate change?

  • Craig Bennett | CEO, Friends of the Earth

Weds 1 June 2016, 5pm | Economic Growth, Structural Transformation and the evolving food security - environment challenge

  • Professor Prabhu Pingali | Director, Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative (TCi), Cornell University

Weds 4 May 2016, 5pm | Can we deliver nutrition security and climate change mitigation without wrecking the planet?

  • Professor Pete Smith FSB FRSE | Chair in Plant & Soil Science, University of Aberdeen

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