Sustainability Science for Strong Sustainability

Sustainability Science for Strong Sustainability

Tom Dedeurwaerdere

The dynamism of science has been catalytic for human prosperity in recent history. Conventional perspectives of the ivory tower model of modern science are, however, rivalled by the failure of humanity to tackle global crises of an economic, environmental and social nature. Operational solutions to these pressures have grown and exposed pitfalls of modern science to date. Sustainability Science for Strong Sustainability investigates core concepts, tools and institutional strategies of transdisciplinary sustainability science. Prominent research programs within heterodox economics, the environmental sciences and transition theory are explored through diverse case studies, revealing challenges and advancements for transdisciplinary research. In this book, the reform of modern science is facilitated by the consideration of action points to overcome the institutional barriers of putting sustainability science into practice. Researchers, students and policy practitioners will benefit from up to date knowledge on the practice of transdisciplinary research for sustainability.

Chapter 2: Principles of sustainability science

Tom Dedeurwaerdere

Subjects: environment, ecological economics, politics and public policy, environmental governance and regulation

Extract

Over the past twenty years, an increasing number of researchers, practitioners and science policy officials have become engaged in sustainability science. This trend reflects the growing concerns amongst politicians, entrepreneurs and the public at large about the failure of science to provide operational solutions for addressing the sustainability challenges discussed above. More recently, the growing interest in sustainability science has been triggered by visible phenomena such as increasing oil and food prices, global warming and the continuing disappearance of species and biodiversity rich ecosystems. As many observers have mentioned, sustainability science is not, however, a scientific discipline by any usual definition (Rapport, 2007; Perrings, 2007). Rather it is a research field characterized by a new form of collaboration amongst disciplines and between disciplines and sustainability stakeholders. In a special issue of the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Science, Elinor Ostrom (2007) noted that, if sustainability science is to grow into a mature field of research, we must use the knowledge acquired in the separate disciplines of anthropology, biology, ecology, economics, environmental science, geography, history, law, political science, psychology and sociology to build and strengthen the diagnostic and analytical capabilities of the stakeholders who are directly confronted with practical sustainability problems (Ostrom et al., 2007). The primary focus of sustainability science is to achieve the policy goal of sustainability, which encompasses ecological, economic, social, cultural and governance dimensions (Patterson and Glavovic, 2013).