Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1

Earth System Governance - Task Force Initiative on Sustainability Science

doi: 10.12924/cis2017.05010001 | Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1
Barry Ness 1, * and Ruben Zondervan 1, 2
1 Centre for Sustainability Studies, Lund University
2 Earth System Governance Project, Lund University
* Corresponding author
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Publication Date: 7 February 2017
Abstract: We are pleased to introduce the second special issue from Challenges in Sustainability, this time as a part of the Taskforce on Conceptual Foundations of Earth System Governance, an initiative by the Earth System Governance Project (ESG) (http://www.earthsystemgovernance.net/conceptual-foundations/). The ESG Project is a global research alliance. It is the largest social science research network in the field of governance and global environmental change. ESG is primarily a scientific effort but is also designed to assist policy responses to pressing problems of earth system transformation.

doi: 10.12924/cis2017.05010002 | Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1
Ellinor Isgren 1, 2 , Anne Jerneck 1, 2, * and David O'Byrne 1, 2
1 Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Lund, Sweden
2 Lund University Centre of Excellence for Integration of Social and Natural Dimensions of Sustainability, Lund, Sweden
* Corresponding author
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Publication Date: 13 February 2017
Abstract: Sustainability Science is an emerging, transdisciplinary academic field that aims to help build a sustainable global society by drawing on and integrating research from the humanities and the social, natural, medical and engineering sciences. Academic knowledge is combined with that from relevant actors from outside academia, such as policy-makers, businesses, social organizations and citizens. The field is focused on examining the interactions between human, environmental, and engineered systems to understand and contribute to solutions for complex challenges that threaten the future of humanity and the integrity of the life support systems of the planet, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution, and land and water degradation. Since its inception in around the year 2000, and as expressed by a range of proponents in the field, sustainability science has become an established international platform for interdisciplinary research on complex social problems [1]. This has been done by exploring ways to promote ‘greater integration and cooperation in fulfilling the sustainability science mandate’ [2]. Sustainability science has thereby become an extremely diverse academic field, yet one with an explicit normative mission. After nearly two decades of sustainability research, it is important to reflect on a major question: what critical knowledge can we gain from sustainability science research on persistent socio-ecological problems and new sustainability challenges?

doi: 10.12924/cis2017.05010007 | Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1
Meg Parsons 1 , Johanna Nalau 2, 3, * and Karen Fisher 1
1 School of Environment, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
2 Griffith Climate Change Response Program (GCCRP), Griffith University, Nathan, Australia
3 Griffith Institute for Tourism (GIFT), Griffith University, Nathan, Australia
* Corresponding author
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Publication Date: 22 February 2017
Abstract: Indigenous knowledge (IK) is now recognized as being critical to the development of effective, equitable and meaningful strategies to address socio-ecological crises. However efforts to integrate IK and Western science frequently encounter difficulties due to different systems of knowledge production and underlying worldviews. New approaches are needed so that sustainability can progress on the terms that matter the most for the people involved. In this paper we discuss a case study from Aotearoa New Zealand where an indigenous community is in the process of renegotiating and enacting new indigenous-led approaches to address coupled socio-ecological crises. We reflect on novel methodological approaches that highlight the ways in which projects/knowledge are co-produced by a multiplicity of human and non-human actors. To this end we draw on conceptualizations of environmental ethics offered by indigenous scholars and propose alternative bodies of thought, methods, and practices that can support the wider sustainability agenda.

doi: 10.12924/cis2017.05010015 | Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1
Cordula Ott
Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland
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Publication Date: 27 February 2017

World leaders at the 2015 United Nations Sustainable Development Summit in New York have re- confirmed the relevance of sustainability as the guiding paradigm in countering the development and climate crisis of the Anthropocene. Recent decades however, have been characterized by confusion, contestations, and arbitrariness in defining the nature and pathways of sustainable development. Humanity must urgently find ways to unlock the potential of the sustainability paradigm and organize a sustainability transforma- tion. An emerging sustainability science community has already established considerable consensus on essential features of transformative science and research. Sustainability scholars are providing growing evidence that an emancipatory and democratic construction of sustainable development and more equitable, deliberative, and democratized knowledge generation are pivotal in tackling sustainability challenges. These findings are further underpinned by experiences gained in the Eastern and Southern Africa Partnership Programme (1999–2015)—a rare case of a long-term, transnational, and transdisciplinary research en- deavour already completed. The programme fulfilled the dual role which is compulsory in transformative research: It generated contextualized knowledge and innovation at the science–society interface while simultaneously securing meaningful participation and Southern agency in a co-evolutionary process. This paper offers insight into the programme’s adaptive structure and implementation processes, which fostered deliberation, capacity development, and joint programme navigation benchmarked against local needs and broader sustainability demands. The ESAPP experience confirms that, if taken as the overarching frame of reference for all actors involved, the sustainability paradigm unfolds its integrative and transformative power. It enables sustainability-oriented actors from all scientific and practical fields to seek consilience between differing development and innovation paradigms and synchronize their development agendas and research frameworks on behalf of societal co-production of knowledge and innovation. Accordingly, the sustainability paradigm has the power to guide development and innovation policy, and practice out of the current confusion and ineffectiveness.

doi: 10.12924/cis2017.05010024 | Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1
Elina Andersson 1, * and Ann Åkerman 1
1 Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS), Lund, Sweden
* Corresponding author
Views 468
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Publication Date: 1 March 2017
Abstract: Advocacy for both critical analysis of social and environmental change and a more solutions-oriented agenda has been a central mission of sustainability science since its inception [1]. To this end, integration of knowledge across disciplinary divides and inclusion of non-academic actors into the research process have been widely promoted (e.g. [2–4]). Aspirations to link knowledge to action do not only bear on processes of knowledge generation, but also on strategies for research outreach.

doi: 10.12924/cis2017.05010026 | Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1
François Mancebo
International Research Center on Sustainability, Rheims University, Rheims, France
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Publication Date: 3 March 2017

The purpose of this article is to demonstrate that, as part of its mission, sustainability science can change the way planners engage with urban problems on three points: First, that effective standard planning is an illusion, and the crucial task for urban planners should be considering—on a place-based rationale—the long-term consequences of decisions, policies and, technology change. Second,how it is necessary to develop collaborative planning and co-production of knowledge. Third, to build effective actions on the basis of collaborative planning, it is crucial to take first into account how the population and the institutions respond to and resist change. Conversely, this paper shows that urban planning is also a breeding ground for consolidating the theoretical framework of sustainability science, considering that cities can be seen as paragons of both socio-ecological systems and complex adaptive systems—a position that is discussed throughout the article. Bringing sustainability science and urban planning in closer dialogue with each other, to exploit their potential synergies, has not been done sufficiently: It is an important gap in the academic literature that this article aims at filling.

doi: 10.12924/cis2017.05010035 | Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1
Henrik von Wehrden 1, 2, 3, 4, * , Christopher Luederitz 3, 5 , Julia Leventon 6 and Sally Russell 7
1 Centre of Methods, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany
2 FuturES Research Center, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany
3 Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany
4 Institute of Ecology, Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany
5 SPROUT Lab, Geography and Environmental Management, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
6 Institute of Ethics and Transdisciplinary Sustainability Research, Faculty of Sustainability, Leuphana University Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany
7 Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK
* Corresponding author
Views 479
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Publication Date: 20 March 2017
Abstract: Sustainability science encompasses a unique field that is defined through its purpose, the problem it addresses, and its solution-oriented agenda. However, this orientation creates significant methodological challenges. In this discussion paper, we conceptualize sustainability problems as wicked problems to tease out the key challenges that sustainability science is facing if scientists intend to deliver on its solution-oriented agenda. Building on the available literature, we discuss three aspects that demand increased attention for advancing sustainability science: 1) methods with higher diversity and complementarity are needed to increase the chance of deriving solutions to the unique aspects of wicked problems; for instance, mixed methods approaches are potentially better suited to allow for an approximation of solutions, since they cover wider arrays of knowledge; 2) methodologies capable of dealing with wicked problems demand strict procedural and ethical guidelines, in order to ensure their integration potential; for example, learning from solution implementation in different contexts requires increased comparability between research approaches while carefully addressing issues of legitimacy and credibility; and 3) approaches are needed that allow for longitudinal research, since wicked problems are continuous and solutions can only be diagnosed in retrospect; for example, complex dynamics of wicked problems play out across temporal patterns that are not necessarily aligned with the common timeframe of participatory sustainability research. Taken together, we call for plurality in methodologies, emphasizing procedural rigor and the necessity of continuous research to effectively addressing wicked problems as well as methodological challenges in sustainability science.

doi: 10.12924/cis2017.05010043 | Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1
Tim G. O'Higgins
Marine Governace Group, MaREI, Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland
Views 337
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Publication Date: 20 March 2017
Abstract: Policies of the European Union cover a range of social, environmental and economic aspirations and the current environmental directives and laws have evolved from a suite of norms which have changed over time. These may be characterised loosely according to 'Three Ps': Practical, those taking an anthropocentric approach; Pure, those taking an ecocentric approach and Popular, those appealing to the general public. In this paper I use these three perspectives as a tool to analyse the complexity and identify contradictions in European aquatic environmental legislation. Some trade-offs between development and conservation are identified and used to characterise the potential qualities of more successful agency to achieve environmental goals in the governance of European aquatic environments.

doi: 10.12924/cis2017.05010052 | Volume 5 (2017) | Issue 1
Ricardo Omar San Carlos Arce 1 , Yuki Yoshida 1, * and Shogo Kudo 1
1 Graduate Program in Sustainability Science-Global Leadership Initiative, Graduate School of Frontier Sciences, The University of Tokyo
* Corresponding author
Views 516
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Publication Date: 27 March 2017
Abstract: A growing number of educational programs in sustainability science has paralleled the rise of the field itself. The educational approach of these programs follows the problem-driven, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary nature of the field itself. However, its effectiveness has yet to be systematically evaluated. Similarly, while ad-hoc evaluation schemes have attempted to monitor the quality of the educational programs, there is no standard method that accounts for the particularities of sustainability science programs. This study thus addresses the need for an assessment of the problem-driven approach of educational programs in sustainability science. We have conducted student self-assessments of field courses in the Graduate Program in Sustainability Science (GPSS-GLI) at The University of Tokyo, which positions its field courses at the center of its curriculum. The self-assessments were based on five key competencies identified as particularly important for sustainability professionals. Workshops and questionnaires engaged students in a reflection of the six field courses and of their own personal development through the activities offered. Our questionnaire results indicate that the majority of participants were satisfied with how the courses furthered their personal development. While some participants expressed frustration at being unable to sufficiently address the respective field's sustainability challenges due to time constraints, students generally recognized the five key competencies as important for addressing sustainability issues after participating in the courses. Moreover, participants attributed much of their learning to their active engagement in planned field research activities, rather than to passive learning. Variations in results across different course units provide material for further analysis and development of the curriculum. This study is an initial attempt at assessment, with room for ongoing improvement and further research to address additional requirements for fostering the next generation of sustainability professionals.

ISSN: 2297-6477
2012 - 2017 Librello, Switzerland.