WISE Symposium on Creeping Catastrophes

WISE organized a virtual symposium on “Creeping socio-ecological catastrophes: Is excluding the long term in decision-making inevitable?” on 4 November 2020.

In addition to WISE researchers, the invited participants were Tony Barnosky, Stanford University; Arjen Boin, Leiden University; Olivier Borraz, SciencesPo; Mikulas Cernota, University of Economics in Bratislava; Ashley Dawson, City University of New York; Michael Depledge, University of Exeter; Alkistis Elliott-Graves, Bielefeld University; Eeva Furman, Finnish Environment Institute; Paula Puskarova, University of Economics in Bratislava; Emery Roe, University of California Berkeley; and Limor Samimian-Darash, Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Please refer to the bios at the end of this text for more information about the participants.

Based on the video material we sent to the participants beforehand, we asked them to critically reflect on the simulation exercise, Policy Operations Room (POR), which we arranged for the top politicians and a group of experts from the City of Helsinki in November 2019. We also asked them to briefly describe their current approach to the symposium theme, creeping catastrophes. The interventions and the lively discussions that followed constituted a sort of international academic situation room, which we thought was a fruitful and exciting way to update each other what is going on in different parts of the world right now.

WISE professor Janne I. Hukkinen giving a 10-minute briefing on the Helsinki Policy Operations Room (POR):

A Zoom recording of the 3-hour symposium:

Participants’ bios:

Barnosky, Anthony, Stanford University, California, US

Anthony D. Barnosky is Executive Director of Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve and Professor of Biology at Stanford University and Professor Emeritus of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Author of numerous scientific publications, op eds, blog posts, and books, Barnosky has spent three decades conducting research related to past planetary changes, and what they mean for forecasting the changes to come on Planet Earth in the next few decades.  He has worked in South America, India, China, Africa, Europe, and the western USA in a quest to learn how past species reacted to major environmental changes and what that tells us about the changes to come in our future. His popular books—Dodging Extinction (UC Press, 2014) and Tipping Point for Planet Earth (coauthored with Elizabeth Hadly, Thomas Dunne / St. Martin’s Press, April 2016) — examine the state of the planet today and how we can guide it toward a future we want, rather than one that inadvertently happens to us.


Boin, Arjen, Leiden University, the Netherlands

Arjen Boin is Professor of Public Institutions and Governance at the Institute of Political Science, Leiden University. Before he moved to Leiden, he was a professor of public governance and crisis management at the Utrecht School of Governance and associate professor at the Public Administration Institute, Louisiana State University.

Boin has published widely on topics of crisis and disaster management, leadership, institutional design and organizational issues. His most recent book, Managing Hurricane Katrina (Louisiana State University Press, 2019), investigates the lessons that should be learned from this mega-disaster. Boin is the previous editor of Public Administration (Wiley), a premier journal in the field, and serves on the editorial board of the following journals: Asia Pacific Journal of Public Administration (Routledge), Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management (Wiley), Risks, Hazards and Crisis in Public Policy (Wiley), and International Journal of Emergency Management (Inderscience). 

He is also a managing partner at Crisisplan BV and a founding member of the European Societal Security Research Group.


Borraz, Olivier, SciencesPo, Paris, France

Olivier Borraz is a CNRS Research professor and the Director of the Centre for the Sociology of Organisations. Over the last 20 years, he has conducted research in the field of risk governance and regulation, and more recently crisis preparedness and management. Initially interested in risk governance related to environmental health, with case studies on controversies, scientific expertise, and decision-making process, he later moved on to the study of risk-based regulation. On this latter topic, he undertook with colleagues a comparison of the diffusion of risk-based instruments in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands, in sectors as diverse as occupational health, flooding, food safety and education. This led to several major publications highlighting the role of institutional variables in the implementation of risk-based regulation and the variations between countries in what risk actually means.

His more recent work focuses on crisis preparedness and management, with a study of the French nuclear sector and currently a research project on volcano alerts in the French Antilles with the Institut de Physique du Globe de Paris. In 2020, he published with Henri Bergeron, Patrick Castel and François Dedieu a book on the handling of the Covid-19 crisis in France.


Černota, Mikuláš, University of Economics, Bratislava, Slovakia

Mikuláš Černota is an Assistant Professor at the Faculty of International Relations of the University of Economics in Bratislava. His specialisation lies at the interdisciplinary issues of the natural resources management, human impact to the environment, environmental migration, development issues and climate change diplomacy. He was a member of the Managing Committee of the COST Action IS 1101 Climate Change and Migration: Knowledge, Law and Policy, and Theory. He has wide experiences from being a member of the research groups from Finnish Forest Research Institute in Helsinki, École Nationale du Génie Rural des Eaux at des Forets in Nancy and Swedish Agricultural University in Uppsala.

His focus is on the current challenges of the principles of sustainable management of Earth’s resources and human population nexus in the frame of ethical and socio-economic conditions and interdisciplinary solutions to development issues such as food security, human health and adaptation to climate change and degradation of natural resources.


Dawson, Ashley, City University of New York, US

Ashley Dawson is currently Professor of English at the Graduate Center, City University of New York (CUNY), and at the College of Staten Island. Much of Dawson’s work hinges on the experience and literature of migration, including movement from postcolonial nations such as Jamaica and Nigeria to the former imperial center and from rural areas to mega-cities of the global South like Lagos and Mumbai. He has also worked recently on global media cultures and on contemporary discourses of U.S. imperialism.

Dawson is the founder of the Climate Action Lab at CUNY and a member of the Occupy Climate Change! research project headquartered at the Environmental Humanities Laboratory in Sweden. Dawson is also a long-time member of the Social Text Collective, where he served for many years as editor of Social Text Online. In this capacity, he curated dossiers of essays on topics as diverse as the legacy of Black British intellectual Stuart Hall, the strengths and pitfalls of the Occupy movement, and the politics of debt, among many other subjects. His recent books include People’s Power: Reclaiming the Energy Commons, Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change, and Extinction: A Radical History.


Depledge, Mike, University of Exeter, UK

Emeritus Professor Michael Depledge is Chair of Advisory Board at the University of Exeter Medical School. Since 1990 he has been an expert advisor on marine pollution to the United Nations, working in Brazil, Costa Rica, India, China, Vietnam and several other countries to develop the RAMP (Rapid Assessment of Marine Pollution) programme for UNEP’s Global Oceans Observing System (GOOS).

Depledge is interested in all aspects of biology, but especially the ways in which anthropogenic activities affect the environment and human health. The ecotoxicological research he conducted has focused on the effects of environmental pollutants on the physiology and behaviour of marine invertebrates and subsequent ecological and evolutionary consequences. He has a particular interest in biomarkers that allow changes in the health and physiological status of organisms to be monitored over time. Another aspect of his work has been to look at how environmental change impacts the health and wellbeing of humans.


Elliott-Graves, Alkistis, University of Bielefeld, Germany

Elliott-Graves is a Junior-professor in Philosophy at Bielefeld University. Her main research areas are general philosophy of science and philosophy of applied sciences (especially Ecology and Climate Science). Her interests are in complex systems: what makes them interesting but also difficult to investigate. Elliott-Graves’s recent work focused on the difficulty of making precise and accurate predictions in Ecology and Climate Science, and what this means for the scientific status of these disciplines. She is currently working on the broader implications of this research for the relationship between traditional philosophy of science and applied scientific practice.


Furman, Eeva, Finnish Environment Institute, Finland

Professor Furman’s duties include directing the Environmental Policy Centre and being part of the lead group of Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). She leads national and international research projects and her positions of trust include chairing and participating boards in the fields of sustainable development, environment, biodiversity and ecosystem services and of research linked to them.

Furman has been researching and developing environmental and sustainable development governance for more than 20 years. The last 10 years she has been occupied by Europe wide research collaboration where the focus has been on challenges and solutions for human environment relationship. Before that Furman was involved in intergovernmental environmental collaboration in the Arctic, Asian and European context.


Hukkinen, Janne I., University of Helsinki, Finland

Janne I. Hukkinen (PhD, University of California Berkeley, 1990) is professor of environmental policy at the University of Helsinki. He studies the cognitive aspects of sustainability assessment and strategy, with empirical applications in participation, expertise and risk in environmental policy. Hukkinen is a Member of The Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters, Editor of the journal Ecological Economics, and Expert Counsellor on the Environment for the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland. In addition to over 90 peer-reviewed scientific articles or book chapters, he is the author of Sustainability Networks (2008) and Institutions in Environmental Management (1999), both published by Routledge.

Järvensivu, Paavo, BIOS Research Unit, Helsinki

Paavo Järvensivu, D.Sc. (Econ.), is a senior researcher at BIOS, an independent multidisciplinary research unit which studies the effects of environmental and resource factors on Finnish society and develops the anticipatory skills of citizens and decision-makers. Currently, he studies the political economy and culture of ecological reconstruction, a rapid and managed transition of the key social-ecological systems of society. To read more on ecological reconstruction in Finland, please visit https://eco.bios.fi.

In WISE, Järvensivu is a subproject leader and coordinates stakeholder interaction. BIOS researchers were largely responsible for the design and execution of the Policy Operations Room in Helsinki, a simulation exercise held for the city’s top political leaders and experts in November 2019.

Puskarova, Paula, University of Economics in Bratislava, Slovakia

Paula Puskarova serves as the Vice-Rector for Research and Doctoral Studies at the University of Economics in Bratislava, Slovakia. Her current research interests entail regional growth, knowledge and human capital management and migration, inequality spillovers, environmental spillovers as well as other spatial externalities arising from international movements of labor and capital. Each year, she authors a chapter in the Slovakia‘s leading economic scientific monograph – Evolution and perspectives of global economy – published by Slovak Academy of Sciences.

She has experience with EU-level project management and in economic modelling (published author in the field of spatial modelling and regional development). She has published in Economic Systems, Political Economy, Measurement, Comparative Economic Research, International Journal of Management and Economics, Economic Research Guardian.


Roe, Emery, University of California Berkeley, California, US

Emery Roe is a practicing policy analyst and Senior Researcher working on science, technology and environmental controversies. He specializes in developing better management strategies in large technical systems for the provision of high critical services, such as electricity and water. He is author or co-author of many articles and books, including Narrative Policy Analysis (1994), Taking Complexity Seriously (1998), Ecology, Engineering and Environment (2002), High Reliability Management (2008), and Reliability and Risk(2016)

Roe has helped design and direct initiatives on, among others, agriculture and urban sprawl in California’s Central Valley, indicators of ecosystem health in the San Francisco Bay-Delta region, campus/community partnerships in underserved urban minority neighborhoods, and research on issues at the intersection of global population growth, natural resource utilization and the environment.

His blog is: When complex is as simple as it gets


Samimian-Darash, Limor, Hebrew University, Israel

Limor Samimian-Darash is an anthropologist, Associate Professor at the Federmann School of Public Policy and Government at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her research interests include security and preparedness, anthropology of the state and policy, biosecurity, emergency, theory of risk and uncertainty, and governing technologies of the future (scenarios).

She has studied for more than 10 years the topics of preparedness for future risks and uncertainties in fields of health and security. In the past few years she has specifically focused on scenarios as a dominant way to address future uncertainties through imagination and narration. In her ISF-funded research (2015-2018) Turning Points exercises in Israel, she explored through extensive fieldwork, nation-wide emergency preparedness exercises. In her current research project on Global Scenarios, funded by the ISF (2019-202) she examines forms, practices, and conceptualizations of future plausibilities through scenarios in global organizations in the fields of health and energy. Her BSF-funded research on future imagination technologies (2019-2022), examines comparatively modalities of future imagination, design, and planning in the high-tech sector in Israel and the US.

Samimian-Darash was chosen as one of five promising early-career social scientists in Israel, for the Alon Fellowship (2013–2016). Her recent publications include: Modes of Uncertainty: Anthropological Cases’ (University of Chicago press); ‘From Crisis to Emergency: The Shifting Logic of Preparedness’ (Ethnos); ‘Practicing Uncertainty: Scenario-Based Preparedness Exercises in Israel’ (Cultural Anthropology); ‘Governing Future Potential Biothreats: Toward an Anthropology of Uncertainty’ (Current Anthropology). Her forthcoming book entitled: Uncertainty by Design: Imagining and Enacting the Future through Scenarios.