Professor Dr. Arjen E.J. Wals

Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen UR, The Netherlands

In my keynote I will sketch what such an education looks like and will challenge the notion of ‘excellence’ and ‘honours’: what does it mean to be excellent on a dying Planet? This is not a doom-and-gloom talk that will leave you depressed, but rather one that shows that humans are just as capable to regenerate and invigorate as they are to destroy.

If we do not reflect on what kinds of values our education strengthens in society and what kind of values it silences or ignores, then we risk that we are educating people to destroy our planet. In my talk I will point at, what I refer to as, the ‘hidden curriculum of unsustainability’ where schools and universities are doing their very best to make students more competitive, entrepreneurial and resilient lifelong learners who can generate an income, hop flexibly from one job to the next, and willingly spend their income on consumer products or their next ‘unique’ exotic experience. Less attention is spent on cultivating a culture of care, solidarity, mindfulness and inclusiveness.

We currently have entered a new epoch called the Anthropocene where, if we are to survive as a species, we need to learn to live within planetary boundaries, start seeing relationships and making connections instead of making distinctions, but also need to question some basic assumptions about how the conventional economy works. Doing so requires education that is critical, relational and transformative.​​​

"Learning to live within boundaries - career development with people and planet in mind"

Arjen Wals is a Professor of Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at Wageningen University in The Netherlands. He also holds the UNESCO Chair of Social Learning and Sustainable Development. His teaching and research focus on designing learning processes and learning spaces that enable people to contribute meaningful sustainability.  His books include: ‘Social Learning towards a Sustainable World’ (2007), ‘Learning for Sustainability in Times of Accelerating Change’ (2012) and ‘Envisioning Futures for Environmental and Sustainability Education’ (2017).

My drive and purpose in two minutes:

My blog at:

Twitter: @arjenwals