Jennifer Wells Jennifer Wells

Transformative Studies
Transformative Inquiry Department
School of Consciousness and Transformation

PhD, University of California, Berkeley

PhD, Sorbonne Paris IV

Jennifer Wells is a professor, writer, consultant and activist. Her work has focused on how the cutting edge of new sciences, humanities, and complexity, shed light on the challenges of the 21st century. She works particularly on the Anthropocene, justice-based transition, utopistics or ‘real utopias,' cultural diversity, environmental humanities and social imaginaries.

Jennifer grew up in and near New York City, has lived and worked in Central America, Mexico, France, Tanzania, and Indonesia, and a global and systemic outlook infuses her work. For over five years she did workshops in NYC maximum security prisons. During the Guatemalan war, she worked in the capitol in journalism and as a bodyguard to protect human rights leader Carlos Toledo and Mayan orphans from state assassinations. For systems change in the 21st Century, she says, we must seek the best ideas, especially from the most marginalized peoples and the Global South, or ‘majority world.'

Jennifer graduated from Yale University, the University of California at Berkeley, and the Sorbonne Paris IV, with an MA in green design and environmental humanities, and a PhD in transdisciplinary societal issues driving global crises, including four foci: justice and ethics, complexity in the natural sciences and humanities, transition and the Anthropocene, and philosophy of science and technology studies. She taught green design and sustainable business in the Notre Dame de Namur MBA Program. She held several academic roles in Paris, including a year-long Yale Fox Fellowship at Sciences Politiques University, and a residence at Ecole Normale Superieur.

Jennifer's publications include two books, articles in top journals, and about 100 previous essays and articles for magazines and newspapers. Most recently, she has a long article in literary analysis for the Anthropocene, forthcoming 2018 in Elementa Journal. This year, February 2018, she published, "Mind the Gap: Bridging the Two Cultures with Complex Thought," a philosophy of science article, in the science Journal Complexity.

Her last book Complexity and Sustainability, Routledge 2014 sold widely and she was invited to speak about it in China, Cuba, and France. The previous book Biotechnology, the Life Science Industry, and the Environment (Jennifer wrote the first half of the book, co-authored with Dustin Mulvaney), was written with a grant from the Ford Foundation, under the purview of the geographer Michael Watts. She is working on a new book, on social imaginaries for the 21st Century. Jennifer has edited and worked for many journals and academic organizations. She speaks regularly at leading conferences on global crisis and transition, including: Association of Literature and the Environment, Association for Environmental Sciences and Studies, and the Society for Utopian Studies. She has consulted on green design for Goldman Sachs and others.

Since the 1990s, she has developed thinking to respond to global crises like climate disruption, in terms of environmental justice and ‘utopistics,' or the best possible theory and praxis of systemic solutions. She has visited over 100 eco villages and sustainability case study sites across four continents. From 1994-96 she also helped found, organize and build many aspects of an ongoing writers' eco-village and permaculture farm in Connecticut.

In 2000 she took a class on the climate crisis at Yale University, and then did a dissertation on complexity and climate change. In 2015, Jennifer spent two months in Paris, to lead up meetings, talks and workshops before during and after the Paris COP 21. She speaks regularly about systemic, creative, solutions thinking to the challenges of the 21st Century, especially on systems solutions to the climate crisis. She is a member of the San Francisco Bay Area Public Speakers Bureau.

During her twenties Jennifer was Program Director at the Sustainability Education Center in New York City overseeing a staff of four. She gave teacher trainings on complex systems thinking, sustainability and transition concepts to high school and college teachers across the city, funded community projects, and consulted with subject matter experts like Herman Daly in creating integrative textbooks for higher education.

Jennifer's college work was International Relations, with a focus on African and Latin American Studies, for which she learned French and Spanish. She was a staff writer at an international feminist magazine, a writer for the international magazine of the United Nations Association, and a higher education liaison for African graduate students, during their stays at US graduate schools.

In her quest for systems changes to the Anthropocene crisis, she draws from a wide range of intellectuals, scholars and artists, including: Project Drawdown's 100 most effective solutions for social justice and environmental stability, Edgar Morin's complex thought, Bucky Fuller's trim-tabs, climate justice leaders like Julianne Malveaux and Tina Johnson, and Paul Baer and Sivan Kartha's "Zero Carbon, Zero Poverty," economic thinkers like Joel Kovel, Elinor Ostrom and Omar Freilla, farmers like Esther Ngumbi, Tewolde Berhan, Pierre Rhabi, Masanobu Fukuoka, and Perrine and Charles Herve-Gruyer.

Jennifer asks, ‘What does a feasible, flourishing world for all people look like, and what ideas, science, theory, praxis, and arts are doing the most to bring about that change?'

J Wells. 2017. Mind the Gap: Bridging the Two Cultures with Complex Thought, Ecological Complexity Journal, Elsevier Press.

“Complexity as a Catalyst for Environmental Ethics: Advancing major ethical theories,” book chapter, L’Ethique Environnementale : Hommage a Catherine Larrere, Ed. Raphael Larrere, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris (in press), 2013.

Complexity and Sustainability, Routledge Press, 2013 (first published in August 2012).

“Classes that Change the World: Synergistic Solutions and Multiplier Effects for Students, Campuses and Communities,” in World Trends on Education for Sustainable Development, ed. Walter Leal, University of Hamburg Press, 2011.

"Melting Ice: Climate Change and the Humanities." Jennifer Wells and Carolyn Merchant, Confluence, XIV, no. 2 (Spring 2009): 13-27.

Complexity and Climate Change : An epistemological study of transdisciplinary complexity theories and their contribution to socio-ecological phenomena, dissertation, UC Berkeley, the Sorbonne, Paris IV, 2009.

Biotechnologies: An Overview, 140 p. book – Ford Foundation publication, co-authored with Dustin Mulvaney (equal authorship), under the direction of Michael Watts, Geography Dept, UC Berkeley, 2005.


Wells, Jennifer. Climate Tech Solutions talk, ManyLabs Event, San Francisco, September 29, 2017.

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