Seeking Sustainability Part 2



CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY PRESS                  2007


Chapter 2: Complexity and Complex Systems

Chapter 3: New Science, New Tools, New Challenges

Chapter 4: The Complexity of Ecology

Chapter 5: The Generation of Complexity

Chapter 6: Micro-interactions and Macro-constraints

Chapter 7: A sense of Place

Chapter 8: Created Landscapes and Our Changing Sense of Place

Chapter 9: Catchment Form and Function

Chapter 10: Catchment Loads: ecosystem impacts

Chapter 11: Change Detection, Monitoring and Prediction

Chapter 12: Evidence, Uncertainty and Risk

Chapter 13: Modified Landscapes: Biodiversity

Chapter 14: Function in Fragmented Landscapes

Chapter  15: Environmental Flows

Chapter 16: Evidence For Global Change

Chapter 17: Values and Beliefs

Chapter 18: Managing Environmental, Social and Economic Systems

Chapter 19: Linking Multiple Capitals in a Changing World

Chapter 20: Community, Capacity, Collaboration and Innovation

  • An ethical, system-based approach that acknowledges many ways of knowing is a very new way to operate for many people. It is essential to examine and be open to the position of the other: other beliefs, cultures, values and ways of knowing. This is the only truly ethical position to take.
  • An ethical system framework places a strong emphasis on listening, on relationships and on learning and adapting at the levels of individuals, communities and institutions.
  • This is an age of unreason, of choice and flexibility, of the importance of little things and the effects of small decisions writ large.
  • This is also the age of inclusion and ethics, so even small decisions must be couched in the landscape of context, consultation, networks and relationships.
  • Consultative and facilitatory behaviour implies a willingness to surrender sovereignty and place your fate in the hands of others. This will not happen without a good deal of trust, something that takes time to develop because trust is only built up through continuous reinforcement by behaviour that is ethical.
  • There is a paradox here: in a world that is changing very rapidly, relationships and trust are only built up relatively slowly. Building trust and relationships therefore requires some priority and effort in a world where some act in haste out of conviction.
  • All our lives are journeys of growth and development. Because of the close linkages between work and the rest of our lives, the personal journey is the working journey.
  • In addition individuals are inevitably part of groups and their growth is to be seen in the context of institutions and communities.
  • People and institutions grow at different speeds and can easily fall out of step.

Innovation: generating new ideas

  • To be successful at finding out new things and solving problems is something that requires constant practice, long training, intense focus and dedication.
  • Successful careers in science are built around successful problem solving, and in deliberately picking the right problems at the right time.
  • Ethics demands that we focus on outcomes rather than on the shorter-term means to frequently ill-defined ends. There is a real communication challenge to be able to build trust between those working at different levels of work and complexity, and between institutions and the community.
  • Science, innovation and the search for sustainability have become part of a larger enterprise where we seek non-zero sum games and increasing returns spread throughout a network of relationships.
  • This requires improved coordination between entities and individual and organizational learning throughout the network. Right now there is still too much focus on short-term, tactical innovation.
  • Too much focus on today’s problems and on tomorrow’s returns ensures that we do not end up with a suitably adaptive strategy to meet future challenges, and that the mould of today’s imperatives is never broken.
  • This is what all communities require, those far-sighted and iconoclastic individuals who can see farter than most and who can break out of the tyranny of the present.
  • Robert Wright has written about the importance of the growth of non-zero sum games: games in which all are winners rather than the more usual pattern of winners and losers.
  • The development of non-zero solutions to the coming bottleneck is going to be critical.
  • Are we organizing ourselves to meet the challenge? In Australia there are Co-operative Research Centres (CRCs). There are Network Centres of Excellence in Canada, and the Vth and VIth Frameworks require extensive collaboration between individuals, research institutes and countries in the European Union.
  • We are also seeing the development of a number of major collaborative research and management programmes such as the Chesapeake Bay Programme and the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan programme in the USA, the RELU programme in the UK, and projects such as the Moreton Bay Waterways and Catchment Partnership in Australia.
  • Public-private partnerships (PPPs) are all the rage in many areas, such as the water industry, health and education.
  • Creative collaboration within and between networks seems to lead to better outcomes – and to the competitiveness of nations.
  • There is a focus on new models of excellence – models that directly link discovery to outcome in a network culture.
  • Higher-level leadership calls for the communication of hope for the future and the development of new sets of values.
  • A new model for science excellence is emerging: not just in science but also excellence in delivery, adoption, innovation and economic/environmental impact and in working with and through others to achieve these ends.


Integration and synthesis: achieving outcomes

  • Problem identification and solution increasingly requires synthetic analysis and decision making. Integration and synthesis within and between disciplines are major issues.
  • I have already mentioned programmes like the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme in the UK, set up as a response to the foot and mouth disease outbreak.
  • If this is to be successful then integration between agricultural and food science, ecology, hydrology, regulatory policy, sociology and market economics is going to be essential.
  • The challenge is to link disparate ‘communities of practice’ together into a single ‘community of interest’.
  • Reaching a common understanding of shared goals and objectives is difficult  because of ‘symmetries of ignorance’ caused by their respective cultures and their use of different knowledge systems We constantly underestimate the difficulty of this task.
  • Although many argue that excellence in scientific discovery is a matter for lone ‘boffins’, in fact the process of creativity and discovery is a team effort. Scientists commonly use informal global networks and meetings to share, develop and peer-review ideas.
  • Creativity requires both social interaction and periods of introspection. The key aspects of creativity are periods of quiet withdrawal, time to ‘daydream’ and ponder new ideas and the time to make linkages across disciplines.


Future communities

  • As we have begun to appreciate the complexity of the global situation – the interdependence of humans and the biosphere, the uncertainty of our knowledge and the need to develop and preserve all forms of capital – we have begun to build a growing literature around the topic of what future communities might look like.
  • First and foremost for a sustainable outcome there is a need for a new engagement between humans and nature. Humans must learn to collaborate with nature, not compete with it.
  • The sustainability of future communities seems to lie in the interaction of social, environmental and economic capitals with a focus at the local level because of the vagaries of climate, biogeography and resources.
  • Development and capacity building is not just an issue for the third world; it s an issue for us all.
  • The problem of global sustainability requires a lift in capacity on the part of all communities and in particular a re-engagement between rural and urban communities.
  • It is equally important for urban communities to link effectively with rural and regional communities around the world, sharing knowledge and financial resources.

Chapter 21: A New Environmental Paradigm

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