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 3: Learning from transformative science approaches for sustainability

Tom Dedeurwaerdere

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

Extract

Over the last two decades sustainability science has gained acceptance as a new research field to address the fundamental challenges raised by the interactions between increasingly interconnected human and natural systems (Yarime et al., 2012; Van der Leeuw et al., 2012). Since its inception, sustainability science has evolved to become a solution-oriented interdisciplinary research field inspired by successful initiatives of participatory research practices between scientific and extra-scientific expertise. More recently, sustainability science emerged at the centre of a broad set of research and innovation activities relevant to society’s effort to support an effective transition towards strong sustainability (Clark and Dickson, 2003). However, sustainability science today faces important challenges in its attempt to overcome the inertia of existing disciplinary and value-neutral research frameworks. First, in spite of growing evidence of the need to develop major transformative research efforts for sustainability, many research efforts for sustainability are still based on mono-disciplinary thinking, equilibrium analysis and simplified mathematical models applied to complex problems. Second, scholars are faced with a lack of attention in sustainability research to pressing new issues that were initially considered at the margin of their concerns, but which now appear to put a damper on many sustainability efforts, such as the global financial crisis and socio-ecological catastrophes generated by the widespread use of high-risk technologies.