For an impression of this successful meeting please click here
The diversity of nature is overwhelming and highly fascinating. Biodiversity offers numerous opportunities for new products and processes. Ecosystems offer essential services such as the production of food as well as clean water and air, which are crucial for the sustainability of the human society. However, our planet is changing at an unprecedented rate due to rapid human population growth and an increasingly resource-demanding economy. Ecosystems are under ever increasing pressure. For many systems this pressure has led to a shift into another, mostly non-preferred state. These developments have amplified the notion that well-functioning ecosystems are not only crucial to sustain life on earth, but their decline has many undesired economic and social consequences.
There is increasing societal awareness that we must invest in the sustainability of ecosystems and the biodiversity and services they harbour. Moreover, nature’s economy can teach us wise lessons. It has gone through 3.8 billion years of research and development. Why not apply this for the sustainable innovation of our own economy?
Although science has offered much insight in the functioning of ecosystems and the services they offer, much is still to be known. For example, increasing our understanding in how anthropogenic (global) change affects ecosystem functional relations and how these accordingly affect the systems services and vulnerability. But also, how should systems be managed to optimise the services they offer in a sustainable way.
This symposium dealt with these aspects, first addressing the state of our planet and how, when overstressed, systems can switch. Accordingly there was ample room for optimism, looking at how proper management can lead to sustainable use, how degraded systems can be restored, and how the private sector could contribute to sustainability. Finally we looked at scientific and societal innovation that can be derived from nature and how a new paradigm of socio-economic thinking, including legal aspects, may indeed contribute to sustainability of life.
The day after the Current Themes symposium, another symposium was organised around this theme, namely the annual PE&RC Day. The 2013 PE&RC Day primarily focused on Biomimicry and showed us how nature can serve its own purposes and how we can sustainably use nature for aiding human development and at the same time protecting the natural environment. The PE&RC Day was organised by the PhD Council of the Graduate School for Production Ecology and Resource Conservation (PE&RC) and was held at the National Museum for Natural History "Naturalis" in Leiden on the 31st of October 2013.
9:30 -10:00
Registration and Coffee
Welcome and Introduction by chair
(Louise Vet, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW); Watch Louise Vet's TED Talk "Towards a Circular Economy")
Transitions: causes and socio-ecological consequences, Lake Victoria as case study
(Wolf Mooij, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW); Click here to learn more about Wolf Mooij and his work)
Short coffee / tea break
Optimising ecosystem services in a multifunctional land-use setting
(Pablo Tittonell, Wageningen University; Click here to learn more about Pablo Tittonell and his work)
Ecosystem Restoration
(John D. Liu, The Environmental Education Media Project; Watch John D. Liu's TED Talk "Journey into Ecological Resurgence"
or his "Green Gold" documentary)
Ending the Era of Ecocide
(Polly Higgins, The Earth Community Trust; Watch Polly Higgins' TED Talk "Ecocide, the 5th Crime Against Peace")
New developments: private sector investments in ecosystems conservation and pro-biodiversity projects
(Tineke Lambooy, Nyenrode Business University; Click here to learn more about Tineke Lambooy and her work)
Innovative services from nature: Sustainability by design
(Saskia van den Muijsenberg, BiomimicryNL; Click here to learn more about Saskia van den Muijsenberg and BiomimicryNL)
The Blue Economy
(Gunter Pauli, Zero Emissions Research & Initiatives; Watch Gunter Pauli's TED Talk "The Blue Economy")
Plenary Debate


This Symposium was organised by the Netherlands Ecological Research Network (NERN) in collaboration with the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and was additionally sponsored by The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).