What is sustainability science?
We introduced last week the fact that the report The Future is Now appeals for the development of a sustainability science. The authors don’t give a formal definition of this sustainability science, but rather a general description.
That is a new, more engaged academic field of studies that sheds light on complex, often contentious and value-laden, nature-society interactions, while generating usable scientific knowledge for sustainable development. That means dealing with risks, uncertainty, ethical issues and appropriate use of the precautionary principle. It involves working with affected groups to recognize problems and goals and identify key trade-offs.
Sustainability science has attracted tens of thousands of researchers, practitioners, knowledge users, teachers and students from diverse institutions and disciplines from across the world, notably Latin America, Africa and Asia. That diversity alone sets it apart from many other scientific fields. Typically, researchers use transdisciplinary approaches, bringing together scientific, lay, practical and indigenous knowledge, as well as fundamentally different world views.
A recent example concerns the phasing out of coal in Europe. There was found to be less resistance in the coal-mining regions where scientists, policymakers, and coal miners had come together to jointly identify alternatives for regional development and individual livelihoods.