We live on an increasingly human-dominated planet. Our impact on the Earth has become so huge that researchers now suggest that it merits its own geological epoch – the ‘Anthropocene‘ – the age of humans. Combining theory development and case studies of ‘Anthropocene‘, emerging infectious diseases, financial markets and geoengineering, this groundbreaking book explores the ‘Anthropocene Gap‘ otherwise known as society’s current failure to address the most profound environmental challenges of our times. What are the political and institutional implications of this new epoch? And what are some novel ways to analyse the complicated interplay between institutions, Earth system complexity and technology? This book offers one of the first explorations of political and institutional dimensions of the Anthropocene concept by providing a novel combination of institutional analysis along with insights from Earth system sciences. It provides an exploration of the role of technology for global environmental governance and defines a new agenda for political science analysis in the Anthropocene. Offering the first summary of the planetary boundaries debate, this cutting edge book will be of great interest to researchers concerned in the interplay between politics, technology, and global environmental change, and those interested in the debate surrounding the Anthropocene and “planetary boundaries“.
The year 2015 has special importance for the transformation towards sustainable development. New Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are then supposed to replace the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The aim is to offer a new orientation for political action in the coming decades. The WBGU recommends orienting the new catalogue of goals towards the key message of the 1992 Earth Summit: that development and environmental protection must be considered together and do not contradict each other. The SDGs should not be reduced to poverty eradication, but must address all dimensions of sustainable development. In particular, global environmental change must be incorporated, otherwise even poverty eradication will become impossible. Up to now, too little attention has been paid to this link in the ongoing discourse on SDGs. Although many reports mention the concept of planetary guard rails or planetary boundaries, they do not back this up with specific targets. The WBGU presents recommendations on how planetary boundaries for global environmental problems should be incorporated in the SDG catalogue and operationalized by means of corresponding targets.
Scholars and policy makers are becoming increasingly interested in the processes that lead to transformations toward sustainability. We explored how resilience thinking, and a stronger focus on social-ecological systems, can contribute to existing studies of sustainability transformations. First, we responded to two major points of critique: the claim that resilience theory is not useful for addressing sustainability transformations, and that the role of “power” in transformation processes has been underplayed by resilience scholars. Second, we highlighted promising work that combines insights from different theoretical strands, a strategy that strengthens our understanding of sustainability transformations. We elaborated three research areas on which such combined perspectives could focus: innovation and social-ecological-technological systems interactions, patterns of transformation, and agency and transformation.
This paper surveys the current status quo of societal knowledge about transformation towards sustainability. Visions are central for policy processes and human development in general, since we cannot discuss terms such as “progress”, “growth” or “innovation” of society without considering our dreams and desires and how we want to achieve them. Basically, visions consist of an elaborated description of a desired condition or a world as we want to have it, including all characteristics such as: rational, irrational, utopian, realistic, dreamy, childish, naive, funny, charismatic, beautiful, participatory, vulnerable, etc. The character and interpretation- dependency of these elements highlight the need to share a vision with others, engaging with their vision as well as societal consensus processes in general.
This article examines whether some response strategies to climate variability and change have the potential to undermine long-term resilience of social–ecological systems. We define the parameters of a resilience approach, suggesting that resilience is characterized by the ability to absorb perturbations without changing overall system function, the ability to adapt within the resources of the system itself, and the ability to learn, innovate, and change. We evaluate nine current regional climate change policy responses and examine governance, sensitivity to feedbacks, and problem framing to evaluate impacts on characteristics of a resilient system. We find that some responses, such as the increase in harvest rates to deal with pine beetle infestations in Canada and expansion of biofuels globally, have the potential to undermine long-term resilience of resource systems. Other responses, such as decentralized water planning in Brazil and tropical storm disaster management in Caribbean islands, have the potential to increase long-term resilience. We argue that there are multiple sources of resilience in most systems and hence policy should identify such sources and strengthen capacities to adapt and learn.
Government officials and other decision makers increasingly encounter a daunting class of problems that involve systems composed of very large numbers of diverse interacting parts. These systems are prone to surprising, large-scale, seemingly uncontrollable, behaviours. These traits are the hallmarks of what scientists call complex systems. This report is devoted to the proposition that the insights and results achieved through scientific analysis can be used to design and implement better governmental policies, programmes, regulations, treaties, and infrastructures for dealing with complex systems. In a complex system, it is not uncommon for small changes to have big effects; big changes to have surprisingly small effects; and for effects to come from unanticipated causes. Given the accumulating scientific accomplishments of complexity scientists, the OECD Global Science Forum asked an essential question: How can the insights and methods of complexity science be applied to assist policymakers as they tackle difficult problems in policy areas such as health, environmental protection, economics, energy security, or public safety?
Adaptive governance is an emergent form of environmental governance that is increasingly called upon by scholars and practitioners to coordinate resource management regimes in the face of the complexity and uncertainty associated with rapid environmental change. Although the term “adaptive governance” is not exclusively applied to the governance of social-ecological systems, related research represents a significant outgrowth of literature on resilience, social-ecological systems, and environmental governance. We present a chronology of major scholarship on adaptive governance, synthesizing efforts to define the concept and identifying the array of governance concepts associated with transformation toward adaptive governance. Based on this synthesis, we define adaptive governance as a range of interactions between actors, networks, organizations, and institutions emerging in pursuit of a desired state for social-ecological systems. In addition, we identify and discuss ambiguities in adaptive governance scholarship such as the roles of adaptive management, crisis, and a desired state for governance of social-ecological systems. Finally, we outline a research agenda to examine whether an adaptive governance approach can become institutionalized under current legal frameworks and political contexts. We suggest a further investigation of the relationship between adaptive governance and the principles of good governance; the roles of power and politics in the emergence of adaptive governance; and potential interventions such as legal reform that may catalyze or enhance governance adaptations or transformation toward adaptive governance.
For a Complex Systems point of view. Towards sustainability, it is important to understand the dynamics of socio-ecological systems, as complex adaptive systems. An essential aspect of such complex systems is nonlinearity, leading to historical dependency and multiple possible outcomes of dynamics. Regime shifts, the reorganization of the structure and processes shaping a complex adaptive system, are large, abrupt with persistent changes. Regime shifts in socio-ecological systems have large impacts on ecosystem services, and therefore on human well-being, as they can substantially affect the flow of ecosystem services that societies rely upon, such as the provision of food, clean water or climate regulation. Resilience is the ability to absorb disturbances, to be changed and then to re-organise and still have the same identity (retain the same basic structure and ways of functioning). It includes the ability to learn from the disturbance. Resilience shifts attention from purely growth and efficiency to needed recovery and flexibility. Growth and efficiency alone can often lead ecological systems, businesses and societies into fragile rigidities, exposing them to turbulent transformations. The aim of resilience management and governance is to keep the complex system within a particular configuration of states (system ‘regime‘) that will continue to deliver desired ecosystem goods and services. The adaptive capacity in social systems, the existence of institutions and networks that learn and store knowledge and experience, create flexibility in problem solving and balance power among interest groups, play an important role. Complex systems with high adaptive capacity are able to re-configure themselves without significant declines in crucial functions. A consequence of a loss of resilience, and therefore of adaptive capacity, is loss of opportunity. Resilience is key to enhancing adaptive capacity: learning to live with change and uncertainty; nurturing diversity for resilience; combining different types of knowledge for learning; and creating opportunity for self-organization towards socio-ecological systems sustainability.
This Reading it is not a linear course list, rather for dialogical rhizomatic learning; will be followed by others on related topics. To access the paper, follow the link.