From the Blue Marble 1972 to Brussels 2024 with Verena Ringler, SAIS '01, '02 (MA)


Lifelong Learning LogoCourse Title: From the Blue Marble 1972 to Brussels 2024 - An Engaging, Cross-disciplinary Tour through the Cultural History of Sustainability 

Instructor:  Verena Ringler, SAIS '01 (Dipl), '02 ( MA)

Brought to you by Odyssey   

June 13, 2024 - June 20, 2024 (2 Sessions)  

Thursday,  1 PM ET  

Virtual via Zoom 



Course Description: “I'm pro-human, not pro-toad.” The CEO of a major global company CEO reportedly said this as an argument that habitat destruction was sometimes necessary for progress. Yet 500 years earlier, Leonardo da Vinci observed that: "We know more about the movement of celestial bodies than about the soil underfoot.“ 

What connects these two observations? Which key figures and historical milestones have led us to see the sustainability agenda as so important today? 

We will tackle these questions in two engaging and interactive online sessions on the cultural history of sustainability. In a lively parkours tailored to curious minds in the larger Johns Hopkins community, we will unpack key moments and movements in the sustainability movement, as well as their links to international relations, multilateralism, leadership/change management, European Affairs, and peace studies.

Our journey will reveal a number of often-ignored turning points in politics and land management, as well as landmarks in arts and culture, which have preceded today's "green transition" agendas – especially in the transatlantic context.

  • As Columbus sailed West in 1492, a Latin school teacher in the Ore mountains worked on an audacious fictional law case narrative in which Mother Nature accuses miners of reckless exploitation. 
  • When the the Club of Rome published its report on the limits to global growth in 1972, the iconic "Blue Marble" image of planet Earth humbled and moved humans around the world. 
  • The presentation of the European Green Deal in 2019 offers a multi-faceted roadmap for the bloc of 27 countries to move to climate neutrality by 2050. Yet what were the origins of this reform plan – and what do the city of Venice and the Peace Palace of The Hague have to do with the Green Deal? 

Participants in our dynamic exploration will come to understand that civilizational history is indeed a century-long struggle between two camps: extractionist vs. regenerative. Hopping between key milestones and markers, they will emerge with a new orientation and inspiration regarding today's world challenges. They also will be able to apply this approach and historical lessons learned to their own leadership challenges in various fields and contexts. 


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Johns Hopkins alumni, staff, faculty and their spouse or domestic partners are eligible for tuition remission for Odyssey lifelong learning courses. Select the correct ticket pricing during registration. If we cannot confirm your eligibility, you will be requested to pay the full registration price for the course.  Eligibility details can be found here. 

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If a course is canceled or closed, the registrant is notified immediately, and a full refund is processed automatically unless another course is requested. Registrants who wish to withdraw from an active course must complete the online Odyssey Refund Request Form. Attach any documentation to support your request (e.g., medical documentation, family crisis documentation, etc.). 

100% refund- Prior to the start of the course. 

50% refund- During the first week of the course. 

No refunds will be given after the first week of each course unless in exceptional cases. 

Please note, refunds apply only to the tuition portion of an Odyssey participant’s charges and are not applicable to any fees or gifts made to the Johns Hopkins Alumni Association. Registrants will be notified by email if a refund is approved within (5) business days. 

ABOUT Verena Ringler

Verena Ringler founded and directs AGORA European Green Deal, ( a cross-sectoral and forward-looking hub on climate and nature leadership, with headquarters in Innsbruck, Austria.

 Until 2018, she directed the International Affairs Department and Europe project portfolio at Stiftung Mercator in Germany. Prior to that, Ringler was Deputy Head of Public Affairs with a transatlantic diplomatic team in Pristina, Kosovo (2006 – 09). From 2002 to 2006, she worked as staff editor with Washington's Foreign Policy magazine.

 Ringler graduated from SAIS (Bologna, Washington) in 2002 with a focus on European Studies and Eastern Europe. She also studied in Vienna, Innsbruck, and Uppsala. Academic field trips, election observations for the EU and the OSCE, and numerous independent reporting trips took Ringler to China, Central Asia, the Caucasus region, and Russia. 

Today, Ringler is a Senior Lecturer at two universities in Austria and works on various advisory boards and councils, including the Fondation Jean Monnet pour l'Europe (Lausanne) and the European Policy Centre (Brussels), and regularly appears in the media or on stage (Club of Venice, TEDx).

Following a field study on the European Green Deal, during the pandemic, Ringler decided to focus her research and policy and foresight work on the question of climate and nature, in both regional and international terms. 

In 2023, she delivered the SAIS Women in International Affairs Lecture at SAIS Europe Bologna, a festive keynote at the Austrian Foreign Ministry, and her new TEDx talk (Why we need a civic CERN) at Vienna's Technical University. 

Starting in 2024, Verena acts as Ambassador of the international adult-learning network EPALE and convenes engaging analogue crash course days on Europe's cultural history of sustainability and today's transatlantic commonalities, in a spellbinding setting at 2.000 meters above sea level, close to Salzburg, Munich, and Bologna. 

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 Event Date
Thursday, June 13, 2024
1:00pm EDT

Thursday, June 20, 2024
3:00pm EDT

1-800-JHU-JHU1 (548-5481)

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