Humanities Honours Blog


23 maart 2023
19:15 - 21:00
Utrecht, Janskerkhof 2-3 0.21

Transfacultary symposium: ‘Nobody’s Land’ on (extraterrestrial) environmental ethics and colonialism

Limited spots available!

Registration form:

March 23 2023, 19:30-21:00

The doors open at 19:15

Utrecht, Janskerkhof 2-3 0.21

Throughout history, colonists have looked upon lands inhabited by native peoples and declared it their own. Now, scholars are using new lenses to uncover previously suppressed histories of environmental damage during colonial times. As we find ourselves amongst new dreams of possibly empty lands beyond our planet, a careful reflection on our past mistakes is invaluable. This, amongst other things, demands we think critically about parallels between historic colonialism, current-day manifestations of colonialism, and perhaps future colonisation of other planets. To what extent has colonialism not only impacted native humans, but also native ecosystems? And how is this question relevant in societal debates concerning extraterrestrial environmental ethics? These are some of the questions we will discuss with a crossdisciplinary group of experts from the Geosciences, Humanities and International Space Industry.

This event is the result of an innovative collaboration between the Geosciences and Humanities Honours Programmes and will feature three esteemed speakers.

Dr. Diana Vela Almeida, Assistant Professor in Political Ecology of Sustainability, will share her insights on the issue. Her academic interests can be placed at the interface of political ecology, ecological economics and critical geography and her research focuses on resource extraction and political participation, green neoliberal schemes, the energy transition, social movements and socio-environmental transformation.

Artemis Westenberg, CEO of Explore Mars Europe, will pose a thought-provoking question: to whom belongs Mars? Is a microbe less entitled to Mars than us humans? As we continue to explore and potentially colonize our neighboring planet, how should we approach issues of ownership and responsibility? With her work for Explore Mars, Artemis is committed to enabling industry cooperation, international collaboration, and public determination dedicated to achieving human exploration of Mars by the 2030s. In the Netherlands, Artemis is often the spokesperson for the space community when Mars is in the media. She has been quoted in numerous national and international newspapers and magazines and has appeared on national and international television and radio. Furthermore, as president for The Netherlands Association for Women’s Rights Artemis is a nationally decorated feminist.

Dr. Claudia Zeller, a literary scholar, will propose to read colonialism, both historical and speculative, through the lens of ecocriticism. Arguing that with the advent of the Anthropocene, mankind has become a geological force, she will use various examples drawn from science fiction to discuss how the juxtaposition of the ‘space cowboy’ and the ‘solar punk’ as two distinct conceptual personae – a term she derives from philosopher Gilles Deleuze – can help us think through various ethical and environmental questions that arise when it comes to ‘terraforming’ other planets.

This is an event not to be missed, offering a rare opportunity to engage with leading experts from diverse fields on an urgent and timely topic. Register now to secure your spot at the symposium.

For questions, please contact Daan van den Broek ( or Thomas Sanders (