School of Geography

Knowledge in a Transforming World

Wednesday 16th December 2020 (14:00-15:00)
Please contact for the link

With Ioan Fazey, University of York.

All seminars online. Please contact for the link. Subject to change.

Part of the Environment and Society Seminar Series.


Humanity and the planet are entering a period of major, transformative change in economies, political power, human-environment relationships and technology. Whether for the good or for the bad, transformation of society is, in some way, inevitable. Humanity has therefore no option other than to try and find ways to help steward such transformations towards more equitable and sustainable futures. While science and knowledge have an important role to play in this process, these are arguably failing humanity when its impact is measured against the level of progress being made towards addressing burgeoning global environmental and social crises. For all its brilliant success, science, research and technology have also led to many of the problems to which transformative responses are now needed, including climate change, obesity, smoking, mental health, plastics in the oceans and premature deaths from air pollution. This raises important questions about the kinds of knowledge and learning needed for, and in, a transforming world. 

This seminar explores some of these issues, highlighting that, in the world of 21st century challenges in which we find ourselves, nothing can be taken for granted. In effect, we are all apprentices and need to rapidly develop new ways of approaching problems. In relation to knowledge, five critical aspects are needed: (1) we need to accept we are all apprentices; (2) we need to draw on much more diverse forms of knowledge; (3) we need to develop wisdom about how to act in the world, not just knowledge; (4) we need to unleash creativity and possibilities for magic; and (5) we need to ask difficult questions. These not only need to be about what we should be doing differently but also the difficult existential questions about who we should be at the end of the world as we know it. 


Ioan Fazey is Professor of the Social Dimensions of Environment and Change at the University of York. He has over 60 research publications in knowledge, learning, resilience, vulnerability, sustainability and how to support societal transformations. His work has included innovative projects on community resilience in the South Pacific and Scotland, co-creative projects to build flood resilient floating homes in Bangladesh, and helping facilitate conversations about how to transform responses to rapidly rising sea levels in Louisiana, USA. He is actively involved in helping support and facilitate emergence of a growing field of research and practice related to Transformations to Sustainability. This includes convening the Transformations Conference Series and being a co-founder of the SDG Transformation Forum. He is also atrustee of H3Uni, an action oriented organisation seeking to promote transformative thinking and capacity for working within a changing world. To find solace from a turbulent world and help him foster inspiration and support he spends time connecting with the non-human world, including with his dog.  



School of Geography

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