Prof Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs, incumbent of the DST/NRF Research Chair in Social-Ecological Systems and Resilience, delivered her inaugural lecture with the title Resilience: An approach to navigating towards more sustainable futures in the Anthropocene, on 5 August 2019.

An NRF P-rated scientist, Prof Biggs is based at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University. She is also affiliated with the Stockholm Resilience Centre in Sweden.

Prof Biggs has summarised her lecture as follows:

We live in the Anthropocene, a new geological era where the increasing scale, speed and connectivity of human activities are profoundly changing the functioning of the Earth.

The economic, political and cultural processes underlying these changes are also leading to growing social inequalities and the breakdown of traditional relations that can provide support and meaning in people’s lives. At the same time, they are also creating a variety of social innovations and technological developments, which are opening up exciting opportunities for addressing these challenges.

Resilience is a key concept that has emerged for navigating the novel and turbulent conditions of the Anthropocene and fostering transformations toward more sustainable and just development pathways. Resilience refers to the capacity to navigate change and uncertainty through investing in systemic features such as diversity, connectivity and learning.

One innovative example of the application of a resilience approach is the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project ( Through a series of transdisciplinary workshops and an online campaign, a wide variety of ‘seeds’ are being catalogued – real initiatives that demonstrate elements of a positive future. Using these seeds, a suite of provocative alternative visions for ‘good Anthropocenes’ have been developed through a novel participatory visioning approach.

This presentation briefly introduces the concept of the Anthropocene and resilience as a strategy for building systemic capacity to navigate change and uncertainty. It then illustrates how the resilience approach is being applied in the Seeds of Good Anthropocenes project to identify actions that have the potential to leverage deep systemic change towards more positive futures.

  • To watch a video of the inaugural lecture, click here.
  • This article was authored by Ronél Beukes and originally appeared on the Stellenbosch University website.