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ITC Centre for Disaster Resilience at UNESCO HQ for the Earth Futures Festival

ITC’s Centre for Disaster Resilience joins forces with UNESCO International Geoscience Program in an international festival to showcase the value of geoscience.

In early October a delegation of the ITC’s Centre for Disaster Resilience (CDR) Executive Team attended the Earth Futures Festival at the UNESCO Headquarters in Paris.

The CDR is an official partner of the Earth Futures Festival, an international film and video festival uniting the arts and science to showcase how our geo-scientific understanding and long-lived cultural knowledge of the Earth provide solutions to pressing global challenges.

Earth Futures Festival Co-Founder and Director, Heather Handley, recently joined the ITC’s Department of Applied Earth Science and CDR as Associate Professor of Volcanic Hazards and Geoscience Communication.

The ITC’s Centre for Disaster Resilience Executive at UNESCO Headquarters for the Earth Futures Festival. Left to right: Associate Professor Heather Handley, Lise-Lotte Smit-Westerhof, Associate Professor and CDR leader Irene Manzella, and Dr. Dinand Alkema.

What's the festival about?

Heather explains “The festival is a new initiative to raise awareness of the importance of geoscience in sustainable development, established in collaboration with the UNESCO International Geosciences Program and the International Union of Geological Sciences. We were amazed at the response it received in its inaugural year. The festival received 972 films from 89 countries, with films ranging from 90 seconds to 90 minutes in length.” 

The films were shortlisted by a team of 15 international judges to select the top 50 films and then 21 finalist films in seven categories, ranging from primary and high school students to media professionals. As a champion for equity and inclusion, Heather was keen to increase and amplify the voices of typically underrepresented groups “creating submission categories for Indigenous and First Nations Peoples and Women in Geoscience”.

Heather adds “You can watch many of the top 50 films online. From poem to dance, song and documentary, there’s something for everyone to enjoy!”

Film screening and panel discussion

“The UNESCO Earth Futures Festival film screening and panel discussion was one of three official in-person events taking place throughout September and October, with other events held at the Columbia Climate School in New York City, USA and the Australian Museum in Sydney, Australia. The Paris event was centred on the theme ‘Human Connection’, one of three festival themes.”

Dr Özlem Adiyaman Lopes, Senior Programme manager UNESCO International Geosciences Programme, Assoc. Prof. Heather Handley, Ms Noëline Raondry Rakotoarisoa, Director a.i of the Ecological and Earth Sciences Division, Natural Sciences Sector of UNESCO and Dr John Ludden, IUGS President opening the event.

Following the screening of six finalist films, Heather chaired a discussion on storytelling through film, our connection to the earth, and the important role geoscience plays in our sustainable future with panellists: Arnaud Guérin, Photographer and filmmaker; Dr. Katia Jasbinschek Pinheiro, Director of EFF Finalist Film ‘Magnetic Mosaic’, geoscientist at the Brazilian Observatório Nacional and GFZ-Potsdam; Grazia Fiore, Head of Programmes, Eurisy, and Director of EFF Finalist Film ‘Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Rhodes’ and Julie Saito, Chief of the International Coordination Team of the UNESCO Associated Schools Network (ASPnet).

“We were also honoured to have video contributions from the Earth Futures Festival Patron, Prof. Iain Stewart also UNESCO Chair in Geoscience and Society, BBC TV Presenter, and El Hassan bin Talal Research Chair in Sustainability at the Royal Scientific Society, and Helga Chulepin, UNESCO Global Geoparks Member”. The audio recordings of all three festival panel discussions will be released as podcasts shortly.


Panel discussion (left to right) Dr Özlem Adiyaman Lopes, Assoc. Prof. Heather Handley, Arnaud Guérin, Dr. Katia Jasbinschek Pinheiro, Grazia Fiore and Julie Saito.

Launch of the UNESCO International Geodiversity Day Exhibition

During the Earth Futures Festival event, the ‘Diversity Sustains Life Exhibition’ was officially opened at UNESCO Headquarters for the new UNESCO International Geodiversity Day. “It was a fantastic exhibit that really captured how, from biodiversity, food and energy, human settlement to culture, geodiversity is at the heart of it all” remarked Lise-Lotte Smit-Westerhof.


The CDR’s Lise-Lotte Smit-Westerhof (centre) and Dr. Dinand Alkema (right) at the launch of the UNESCO International Diversity Day, Gallery, with filmmaker and photographer Arnaud Guérin (left).

Geological tour to the minister of Portugal and UK and Portuguese Ambasadors

Heather was invited by UNESCO to give a geological tour of the UNESCO Headquarters to H.E. João Gomes Cravinho, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Portugal, H.E. Ms Rosa Batoréu, the Portuguese Ambassador to UNESCO, and Laura Davies, the United Kingdom’s Ambassador to UNESCO.

“The UNESCO building and grounds were thoughtfully constructed to build peace through the considered use of stone. It was an absolute privilege and wonderful opportunity to share my knowledge and love of geoscience, and my first time to lead a geological ‘fieldtrip’ in a suit!” remarked Heather.

Heather gives a geological tour of the UNESCO building to the Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Portuguese and UK Ambassadors to UNESCO. 

More information

Visit the website of ITC’s Centre for Disaster Resilience to learn more about the ambitions of the CDR. Follow the Twitter page of the CDR to be informed about the further collaboration and engagement with the UNESCO International Geosciences Programme and other news related to CDR’s activities.