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From the 20th – 23rd August, Stockholm became the capital of Global Sustainability as it hosted more than 1000 experts from around the world at Resilience 2017, an international science conference on Resilience Frontiers for Global Sustainability. This was the fourth of the triennial conference series, organized in partnership with the Resilience Alliance since 2008, and the second such conference organized by the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Professor Katrina Brown, University of Exeter, and Professor Carl Folke, Stockholm Resilience Centre Science Director opened the week reflecting on the progress that has been made in Resilience Science and its new frontiers. Folke started by introducing the concept of Resilience thinking: “Resilience is about having the capacity to live the change. To continue to develop with ever-changing environments” , as well as having  “the capacity to deal with complexity through uncertainty”.

Katrina talked about the 6Ps approach to Social-Ecological Systems: “People, Poverty, Power, Place, Practice and Perspective taking – this means connecting people and the biosphere”. Brown added that “Empathy may provide a basis for overcoming the conventional dualism between humans and nature, and potentially encourage a sort of more independent mode of engagement with the environment”.

The conference was an opportunity for scholars to meet and engage with policies, business and practice. This edition was organized around 5 themes: Social-ecological transformations for sustainability; Connectivity and cross-scale dynamics in the Anthropocene; Multi-level governance and biosphere stewardship; Approaches and methods for understanding social-ecological system dynamics; and Cross-cutting perspectives on resilience.

The parallel panels presented an incredible diversity of approaches, as proposed by Brown: “To fully comprehend the issues of people’s attachment to place, their perception of change, their agency to take action and their motivation to change or to transform it is important that we use a very full range of disciplinary perspectives and innovative methods.”

Since we are talking about new methods, Resilience 2017 highlighted the collaboration between arts and science and how they could strengthen each other through common skills. An example of this message could be seen in the entrance hall to the main auditorium of the Stockholm WaterFront Conference Centre. On display was a sculpture by the Norwegian Tone Bjordam, inspired by Folke’s diagram on the dependence relation of the economy and society on nature (image 1).

In the sculpture, Tone represents the relationship between the economy and society on nature as two disks and a sphere linked by wires. The disk representing nature was holding the other two shapes that represented society and economy. “If you “cut the wires” that keeps the balance of nature, everything falls apart. The whole system collapses”, explains Tone (images 2 and 3).

Language and communication were mentioned several times throughout the conference as a key factor to achieve the goals, as well as approaching feminism, religion and culture (take a look at Sustainability through an ecolinguistic lens and  Theorizing Change – Mapping the Stakeholders’ Perspectives).

Two other significant presentations were Making a space for emotions and The drama of Resilience. In the first, Yiheyis Maru reflected on the role of feelings in scientific methods around transformation and the adaptation processes, “Change doesn’t flow from logic alone; emotions and relationships move people to change”.

In The drama of resilience: Learning from participatory theatre, Katrina Brown discussed “what community and participatory theatre can bring to resilience science and development.” Furthermore, the use of participatory drama and transformative theatre – including the Forum Theatre – to understand the sources of risk and resilience with coastal communities.

Closing the week, Stockholm Resilience Centre Director Johan Rockström concluded that the conference had taken a leap for the deep integration of social and natural sciences, and that we may now speak of a new discipline – World Earth Resilience – global sustainability science with a resilience framework that is truly about integrating the world and the earth.

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Global Sustainability by Peter Søgaard Jørgensen - 11M ago

Is my country sustainable? Many citizens may be asking themselves this question as the work to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals continues in 2017. The sad answer is that for many aspects of sustainability we are not able to come with an answer that is as robust as we would like; in particular when it comes to environmental sustainability and measuring the share of the planet’s environment that a country affects through its production and consumption.

Last week the UN hosted the first world data forum in Cape Town, South Africa. The forum brought together statistics and data experts to improve the data foundation for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, given the diversity of the 169 targets and without a systemic framework to prioritize efforts between them, it is unlikely the forum will bring momentum around gathering the relevant data on global environmental sustainability. Indeed, some may even question whether global environmental sustainability-thinking even belongs among the SDGs. This is not a trivial question. Global environmental limits are likely to fundamentally influence defensible choices of development pathways.

So, is there an argument to place global environmental limits more centrally among the SDGs? I believe the answer is clearly yes, but the lack of a systemic framework means it is easy to miss in the forest of targets. However, the biodiversity targets refers to the need to halt the loss of biodiversity, and the climate goals recognizes the Paris agreement and it’s 1.5-2 C goal. And perhaps most importantly, target 8.4 mentions the need to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation. Judging by one of the target’s approved indicators, the material footprint, a country’s decoupling should be measured by its global environmental impact.

Figure 1 A network of the SDG targets connected by shared keywords in their texts. Targets are highlighted that aim to achieve universal access to basic resources and services (purple) as well as targets that refer to global environmental limits (green).

Environmentally extended multi-regional input-output models (EE-MRIOs) provide some of the best estimates that we have of national pressures on the global environment. However, these estimates, produced by relating environmental pressures to economic data on trade and consumption rely on a great deal of data interpolation, in particular for non-OECD countries. Still they have helped highlight that we are much further from decoupling economic growth from environmental pressures than is sometimes claimed and demonstrated that links between biodiversity loss and global trade are likely substantial and in principle can be estimated at sub-national levels using spatially explicit methods.  An ongoing study by researchers at University of Geneva and UNEP GRID give a first estimate of where OECD countries and other major economies are in relation to their demographic share of the global environmental budget if we are to stay within planetary boundaries. The preliminary results indicate that all countries transgress one or more of their demographic shares and OECD countries sometimes with orders of magnitude.

Global environmental sustainability may have been largely overlooked at the first UN data forum, yet in 2030, better data to quantify countries’ global environmental footprints will be central to assess whether nations have been successful in reaching the core challenge of the SDGs. Without the support of governments and large private actors to fund better data, citizens may never get the accurate answer to their question that they deserve.

Peter Søgaard Jørgensen
Researcher, PhD
Global Economic Dynamics and the Biosphere
Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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Since the notion of Sustainable Development has become widespread with the publication of the UN Commission on Environment and Development in 1986, there has been the tension between the aspiration to develop on the one hand and to stay within ‘planetary boundaries’ on the other. Development often implies economic growth in order to satisfy basic needs of the poor – and less basic needs of the less poor. Sustainable meant that that which has been and is being developed can be sustained over time, at least across some generations. The two interfere in various ways, sometimes reinforcing and sometimes counteracting each other. For instance, new technology leads us into uncharted territory which by some people is almost without further reflection experienced as development (‘progress’) and by others seen as a threat for ecological, economic or social sustainability. Often, the reality is ambiguous.

What is the role of science, apart from providing the basic natural science for the new technology? Inspecting the lists of journals and books in a university library or – if still existent – bookshop, many traditional scientific disciplines have taken up the challenge and orient themselves towards ‘sustainable development’. Some researchers consider it a hype but join in response to shifting money flows – seismic modelling to understand earthquake risks or health effects from living near fast-food restaurants are relabeled and deal with sustainability. But the major part of the research is done with the genuine objective to produce new knowledge from their own and nearby disciplines in order to ‘solve’ a sustainable development problem. For instance, a large group of scientists has jumped upon the perceived ‘need’ to research and develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) techniques to contribute to the solution of the climate change problem. Most of this research is mono -or bidisciplinary and advancing along the well-established ways of the natural sciences.

In my view, this is not what sustainability science and this journal is about. The argument is well-known: development and sustainability of human populations on a finite planet have become so interwoven, complex, value-laden and uncertain that even problem-driven and interdisciplinary thinking are no longer enough. We have to construct methods, concepts, theories and reflections that thoroughly acknowledge the ’post-normal science’ features as coined by Funtowicz and Ravetz in 1990. More specifically, one can think of numerous ways to elicit the necessary reflection. These include: system dynamics as an inherently holistic method; evolving coupled social-ecological systems (SES) as the adequate unit of study to bridge scales; common pool resource and public good management as the proper governance framework; interactions between resource systems and their users as the essence of models for sustainability, in connection to simulation-games; and explicit consideration of worldviews, i.e. sets of values and beliefs. It will bridge the natural and the social science divide and the science-policy divide, not by putting people from different disciplinary backgrounds every now and then in the same room, but by a continuous and rigorous effort to develop genuinely integrating tools and theories in interaction with their real-world implementation. This, in brief, is my hope for the Global Sustainability journal.

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We are at a remarkable point in human development. Until now, the perception of sustainability has primarily focused on environmental protection, morality and efficiency. In 2015, there are strong signs the world may have crossed a social tipping point where the focus of sustainability as shifted towards innovation, prosperity and equity. With the adoption of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Climate Paris agreement, for the first time, political and business leaders and communities around the world have set a roadmap for a global sustainable transformation.

Science has provided the essential insights illuminating the necessity, possibilities and desirability of sustainable development. Decades of scientific observations, and advances in Earth system science, ecological economics and environmental engineering have given us the knowledge base to state Earth has entered a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene. Critically, world economic dynamics now interact with the Earth systems undermining future development: the risk of abrupt and irreversible Earth tipping points is rising as we exert more pressure on the Earth system.

Earth is on the cusp of leaving the Holocene basin of attraction, the interglacial state that has lasted 11,700 years and has provided a relatively stable climate and supported a rich diversity of life – and our global civilisation. Remaining within a Holocene envelope is the most profound challenge in science. A plethora of research shows political, social, technological and economic solutions abound. Indeed, we are also on the edge of a Fourth Industrial Revolution of innovation in bio-, digital-, and nano- technology. But, these solutions and innovations are poorly integrated, or worse, disconnected from the major Earth system challenges.

Sustainability science is growing rapidly. In 2009, the total research output was 56,390 papers. In 2013, it reached 75,602 – a growth rate of 7.6%, almost double the academic average. Furthermore, research output in sustainability science attracts 30% more citations than an average research paper. This is a dynamic field and in the last decade has seen the emergence of a more integrated world-Earth research approach: global sustainability science. Global sustainability science explores interactions between social and natural systems, from local to global scales, with a particular focus on development at any scale in the context of global environmental change and Earth resilience.

Given the urgent need for new insights to drive breakthroughs, global sustainability science needs an ambitious premium-quality scientific publication to support the research effort. This is why the new Cambridge University Press (CUP) journal Global Sustainability is not only necessary – to be on par with what the world needs and where science is heading – but also desirable to contribute to a global social tipping point towards sustainable development. The new journal will aim to sate the intellectual hunger for knowledge on humanity’s future on Earth in the Anthropocene.

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Cambridge University Press is pleased to announce a major new open-access journal, Global Sustainability, to publish significant research advances and policy-relevant reviews and commentaries addressing Earth-system resilience, sustainability and solutions in the context of rapid global change.

Cambridge University Press have appointed Professor Johan Rockström as Editor-in-Chief. Professor Rockström, Professor of global sustainability at Stockholm University and Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, is an internationally renowned scientist and thought leader on resilience, global sustainability and sustainable development. He also serves as an advisor to many international organizations and governments.

“In the face of profound change and uncertainty at a global scale we need to think differently, act differently and do science differently. Quite simply, in the Anthropocene the stability of the Earth system is no longer assured. We urgently need new types of research that will provide essential knowledge and solutions from local to global scale for a planet under pressure,” said Professor Rockström. “Global Sustainability will be the first journal dedicated to this vital new research. A journal like this would have been impossible a decade ago. But the Anthropocene changes everything,” he added.

The Earth system is changing rapidly as a result of human pressures with long-term consequences for all societies and species on Earth. The interdisciplinary research field of global sustainability science is expanding rapidly to understand the phenomenon and explore solutions for long-term stability. The journal will provide a forum for research in Earth system analysis, integration and modeling, incorporating economic and social dynamics from local to global scales.

Matthew Day, Head of Open and Data Publishing at Cambridge University Press, added, “We are excited to be working with Professor Rockström and the rest of the Editorial Board on this journal. Global sustainability is a hugely important new field of research, and this new journal is a key element in our major initiative to substantially develop our portfolio in critical subject areas.”

Global Sustainability joins MRS Energy and Sustainability as a second interdisciplinary sustainability-focused Cambridge journal, broadening our commitment to this field.

Publicity Contact: Katie Laker, Senior Marketing Executive – klaker@cambridge.org

About Cambridge Journals

Cambridge University Press publishes over 360 peer-reviewed academic journals across a wide spread of subject areas, in print and online. Many of these journals are leading academic publications in their fields and together form one of the most valuable and comprehensive bodies of research available today.

For further information about Cambridge Journals, visit journals.cambridge.org

About Cambridge University Press

Cambridge University Press is part of the University of Cambridge. It furthers the University’s mission by disseminating knowledge in the pursuit of education, learning, and research at the highest international levels of excellence. Its extensive peer-reviewed publishing lists comprise over 50,000 titles covering academic research, professional development, over 350 research journals, school-level education, English language teaching, and bible publishing. Playing a leading role in today’s international market place, Cambridge University Press has more than 50 offices around the globe, and it distributes its products to nearly every country in the world.

For further information about Cambridge University Press, visit cambridge.org

About Global Sustainability

Global Sustainability is a new Open Access journal that will publish interdisciplinary original research, reviews and commentaries addressing how human activities interact with Earth system dynamics.

Without profound societal transformations, humanity risks destabilising the Earth system. In the last decade, the research field of global sustainability science has expanded rapidly to explore human social and economic pressure on the whole Earth system. This journal will explore global sustainability, planetary and societal resilience and solutions for societal transformations.

For more information, go to www.gsus-journal.com

Submissions will be open from May 2016. We welcome pre-submission enquiries to GSUS@cambridge.org

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In the past decade or so, sustainability research has expanded rapidly to explore how societies interact with Earth systems. This research is of tremendous importance: without major societal changes, the planet will become a considerably more hostile place to live. How can we best make use of planetary resources, and what sort of environments will we be living in? The answers must be underpinned by a solid body of research.

This journal aims to be the first-choice home for insightful, important and reliable research into sustainability. Being Open Access, all the content will be freely accessible and re-usable. That’s important for maximizing the impact of new findings and thinking, particularly given the wide range of communities we want to reach. In due course we will introduce article processing charges (APCs) for authors of research articles, but we will be waiving these APCs for at least two years as the journal becomes established and its reputation grows.

We’re delighted that Johan Rockström has joined as Editor-in-Chief and Bert de Vries as one of the two Deputy Editors (the other we hope to announce shortly). Not just world-class researchers, they have an incredible record of promoting the cause of sustainability both in research communities and beyond. They bring great energy and creativity to the field, and they have well-honed skills in launching and establishing major initiatives.

A great Editorial Board is a prerequisite for making a success of a new journal, but Cambridge University Press must play its role too. This new journal is a major commitment for us. We want to ensure that authors, reviewers and readers have the best experiences possible at all times.

Our aims and scope cover a broad range of topics in the sciences and social sciences, making this a truly interdisciplinary journal. What that means in practice is that appropriate Editorial Board members will consider each disciplinary component of an article for soundness, and jointly consider whether the components come together to create a significant new finding or insight.

We’ll be formally starting our submission systems in May. But even before then we welcome enquiries through gsus@cambridge.org, for example about your research findings, thoughts for a review or commentary, or your interest in becoming a reviewer. We look forward to hearing from you.

Matthew Day
Head of Open and Data Publishing at Cambridge University Press

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