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Sander van der Leeuw

Sander van der Leeuw
Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability
Director, Center for Biosocial Complex Systems, Arizona State University-Sante Fe Institute
Foundation Professor, School of Sustainability
Foundation Professor, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Co-Chair, Complex Adaptive System Initiative
Visiting Distinguished Professor, Beijing Normal University, People's Republic of China
Honorary Professor, Faculty of Management, University of Johannesburg
Emeritus Member, Board of Directors of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU
Affiliated Faculty, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

School of Sustainability
Arizona State University
PO Box 875502
Tempe, AZ 85287-5502

Sander van der Leeuw is the 2012 United Nations Champion of the Earth for Science and Innovation. His expertise lies in the role of invention, sustainability, and innovation in societies around the world. He and his research team investigate how invention occurs, what the preconditions are, how the context influences it, and its role in society. An archaeologist and historian by training, Dr. Van der Leeuw has studied ancient technologies, ancient and modern man-land relationships, and Complex Systems Theory. He has done archaeological fieldwork in Syria, Holland, and France, and conducted ethno-archaeological studies in the Near East, the Philippines and Mexico. Since 1992 he has coordinated a series of interdisciplinary research projects on socio-natural interactions and modern environmental problems. The work spans all the countries along the northern Mediterranean rim. Dr. Van der Leeuw is an External Professor of the Santa Fe Institute and a Corresponding Member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences. He teaches courses on the ethnography of innovation.

PhD, University of Amsterdam, 1976

ADM/MLitt, Medieval History/Prehistory, University of Amsterdam, 1972

BA, History, University of Amsterdam, 1968

Journal Articles


Wiek, A., J. Harlow, R. Melnick, S. van der Leeuw, K. Fukushi, K. Takeuchi, F. Farioli, F. Yamba, A. Blake, C. Geiger and R. Kutter. 2015. Sustainability science in action: A review of the state of the field through case studies on disaster recovery, bioenergy, and precautionary purchasing. Sustainability Science 10(1):17-31. DOI: 10.1007/s11625-014-0261-9. (link )


Rockstrom, J., G. Brasseur, B. Hoskins, W. Lucht, J. Schellnhuber, P. Kabat, N. Nakicenovic, P. Gong, P. Schlosser, M. Manez Costa, A. Humble, N. Eyre, P. Gleick, R. James, A. Lucena, O. Masera, M. Moench, R. Schaeffer, S. Seitzinger, S. van der Leeuw, B. Ward, N. Stern, J. Hurrell, L. Srivastava, J. Morgan, C. Nobre, Y. Sokona, R. Cremades, E. Roth, D. Liverman and J. Arnott. 2014. Climate change: The necessary, the possible and the desirable Earth League climate statement on the implications for climate policy from the 5th IPCC Assessment. Earth's Future 2(12):606-611. DOI: 10.1002/2014EF000280. (link )

Wiek, A., A. Xiong, K. Brundiers and S. E. van der Leeuw. 2014. Integrating problem- and project-based learning into sustainability programs: A case study on the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education 15(4):431-449. DOI: 10.1108/IJSHE-02-2013-0013. (link )


Wiek, A., D. Guston, S. van der Leeuw, C. Selin and P. Shapira. 2013. Nanotechnology in the city: Sustainability challenges and anticipatory governance. Journal of Urban Technology 20(2):45-62. DOI: 10.1080/10630732.2012.735415. (link )


van der Leeuw, S. E. 2012. For every solution there are many problems: The role and study of technical systems in socio-environmental co-evolution. Geografisk Tidsskrift-Danish Journal of Geography 112(2):105-116. DOI: 10.1080/00167223.2012.741887. (link )

van der Leeuw, S. E. 2012. Global systems dynamics and policy: Lessons from the distant past. Complexity Economics 1(2012):33-60. DOI: 10.7564/12-COEC3. (link )

van der Leeuw, S. E., A. D. Wiek, J. Harlow and J. L. Buizer. 2012. How much time do we have? Urgency and rhetoric in sustainability science. Sustainability Science 7(Supplement 1):115-120. DOI: 10.1007/s11625-011-0153-1. (link )

Wheeler, Q. D., S. Knapp, D. W. Stevenson, S. D. Blum, R. M. Boom, G. G. Borisy, J. L. Buizer, M. R. De Carvalho, A. Cibrian, M. J. Donoghue, V. Doyle, E. M. Gerson, C. H. Graham, P. Graves, S. J. Graves, R. P. Guralnick, A. L. Hamilton, J. Hanken, W. Law, D. L. Lipscomb, T. E. Lovejoy, H. Miller, S. J. Miller, S. Naeem, M. J. Novacek, L. M. Page, N. I. Platnick, H. Porter-Morgan, P. H. Raven, M. A. Solis, A. G. Valdecasas, S. E. van der Leeuw, A. Vasco, N. Vermeulen, J. Vogel, R. L. Walls, E. O. Wilson and J. B. Woolley. 2012. Mapping the biosphere: Exploring species to understand the origin, organization and sustainability of biodiversity. Systematics and Biodiversity 10(1):1-20. DOI: 10.1080/14772000.2012.665095. (link )


Westley, F., P. Olsson, C. Folke, T. Homer-Dixon, H. Vredenburg, D. Loorbach, J. Thompson, M. Nilsson, E. Lambin, J. Sendzimir, B. Banerjee, V. Galaz and S. van der Leeuw. 2011. Tipping toward sustainability: Emerging pathways of transformation. Ambio 40:762. DOI: 10.1007/s13280-011-0186-9. (link )


Ernstson, H., S. E. van der Leeuw, C. L. Redman, D. J. Meffert, G. P. Davis, C. Alfsen and T. Elmqvist. 2010. Urban transitions: On urban resilience and human-dominated ecosystems. Ambio 39(8):531-545. (link )

Miller, F., H. Osbahr, E. Boyd, F. Thomalla, S. Bharwani, G. Ziervogel, B. H. Walker, J. Birkmann, S. van der Leeuw, J. Rockstrom, J. Hinkel, T. Downing, C. Folke and D. Nelson. 2010. Resilience and vulnerability: Complementary or conflicting concepts?. Ecology and Society 15(3):Art. 11. (link )


Rockstrom, J., W. Steffen, K. Noone, A. Persson, F. S. Chapin III, E. F. Lambin, T. M. Lenton, M. Scheffer, C. Folke, H. J. Schellnhuber, B. Nykvist, C. A. de Wit, T. P. Hughes, S. van der Leeuw, H. Rodhe, S. Sorlin, P. K. Snyder, R. Costanza, U. Svedin, M. Falkenmark, L. Karlberg, R. W. Corell, V. J. Fabry, J. Hansen, B. Walker, D. Liverman, K. Richardson, P. Crutzen and J. A. Foley. 2009. A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461:472-475. DOI: 10.1038/461472a. (link )


Young, O. R., F. Berkhout, G. Gallopin, M. A. Janssen, E. Ostrom and S. E. van der Leeuw. 2006. The globalization of socio-ecological systems: An agenda for scientific research. Global Environmental Change 16(3):304-316. DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.03.004. (link )


van der Leeuw, S. E. and C. L. Redman. 2002. Placing archaeology at the center of socio-natural studies. American Antiquity 67(4):597-605. (link )



Anderies, J. M., H. Eakin, M. A. Janssen, C. Redman, A. Barnett, J. Baggio, S. B. BurnSilver, D. Manuel-Navarrete, M. Schoon and S. van der Leeuw. 2014. Resilience thinking in an urbanizing world. Presentation at the Resilience 2014 Resilience and Development: Mobilizing for Transformation, 4-8 May 2014, Le Corum, Montpellier, France. (link )


Lobo, J. and S. E. van der Leeuw. 2005. Allometric scaling and urban systems. Presented at 7-12 August 2005 90th Annual Meeting of the Ecological Society of America, Montreal, Canada.

Conference Papers

In Press

van der Leeuw, S. E. Information processing and its role in the rise of the European world system. June 12-17, 2005, Berlin.