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CBS/Global Futures grad student attends the Global Futures Conference in New York City

By Dina Ziganshina Lienhard, a fifth-year graduate student

Photo of NYC buildings
New York City Photo credit: Dina Ziganshina Lienhard

Last month, in September 2022, I had the exciting opportunity to travel to New York City for the Global Futures Conference co-hosted by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at Arizona State University and the Earth League. Without exaggeration, this was the most exciting conference I have been to so far and it was an honor to be selected as one of the few ASU students invited to this conference. The excitement was heightened even more by the timing and location of the conference—it occurred at the same time as the United Nations General Assembly in NYC. Simply being in the same city as most global leaders discussing the future of our planet is exciting but being able to participate in helping with the conference made the experience even more invigorating for me.

            The purpose of the Global Futures conference was to discuss the “10 Must Haves” for a sustainable global future, which is very positive and encouraging, but also incredibly helpful in mapping out the priorities for research at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. The “10 Must Haves” we discussed were:

1.         No more loss of nature’s functions and services

2.         An economy that operates within safe and just planetary boundaries

3.         Limit global warming to well below 2°C by 2050

4.         Transform governance to stay within planetary boundaries

5.         Stability and peace for a global society

6.         Healthy planet for human well-being

7.         Healthy and secure food for the global population

8.         Safe digital world providing for security, equity, and education

9.         Equitable access to responsible consumption for all

10.       Resilient global society

Photo of Dina's conference badge

The conference was very organized, so we were able to have targeted discussions about each of the “Must Haves.” For each “Must Have” there was a keynote speech, a panel discussion, and 1-2 breakout working sessions, during which we formulated actionable “Must Dos” for each “Must Have.” I was very impressed by the diversity in the keynote speakers, panelists, and other conference participants. This was a very inclusive and friendly conference that brought together key stakeholders from the private and public sectors to better understand the complexity of building a sustainable future for all from different perspectives.

Photo of Dina in NYC
ASU Bio & Society, 5th-year graduate student Dina Ziganshina Lienhard Photo credit: Ashley Foster

On the first day of the conference, we only talked about the first two “Must Haves” and I attended all sessions as a listener. It was incredibly refreshing to hear venture capitalists talk about increasing investments in sustainable and impactful businesses, not just the most profitable ones. The day ended with a beautiful reception at the rooftop of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library and an incredibly moving poetry performance by Valencia Clement.

Things got even more exciting the second day of the conference. The day was packed with back-to-back keynote speeches, panels, and breakout sessions. I volunteered to help take notes, build slides, and write the conference report, which is the final product of the Global Futures Conference. I took notes in all breakout sessions that day, which was a bit stressful at first, but I got used to the process by my second session. My own expertise lies in reproductive health, so it was quite challenging to follow all conversations on conservation, but I learned a lot about it. I was even selected as the rapporteur (the person who reports on the proceedings of a meeting) on “Must Have 4—transforming governance to stay within planetary boundaries.”

Photo a a speaker at the conference
Photo credit: Dina Ziganshina Lienhard

The third and final day of the conference was also very interesting. First, I presented the results of our breakout session discussion on governance within planetary boundaries to the whole conference, emphasizing the importance of education and inclusion in governance at all levels. We finished conversations about the last two “Must Haves” and watched Johan Rockström and Peter Schlosser, the conference co-chairs, present the slides we built over the last couple of days as the conference “report out.”

Photo of Dina in front of a car
​ASU Bio & Society, 5th-year graduate student Dina Ziganshina Lienhard Photo credit: Ashley Foster​

Many attendees expressed interest in reconvening in a year to continue this work, as the positivity and the purpose of the conference inspired a lot of people, including myself. I am incredibly thankful to Manfred Laubichler for nominating me to attend the conference and to Clea Edwards for allowing me to help with notetaking and making me feel comfortable with these responsibilities. The Global Futures conference made me realize how much I value mission-driven work and gave me a lot of confidence that we will have a bright sustainable future, as long as we all work together to solve them.