Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Future Earth: possibilities for SEA

On a sticky summer’s day, 200 or so individuals came together in the hallowed halls of the Royal Society to hear about Future Earth and to discuss challenges and opportunities for UK research and stakeholder communities. Jan Bebbington and I joined the meeting with a view to understanding the programme and considering how social science, and in particular the CSEAR communities may engage with Future Earth.

Future Earth is a new 10-year research programme on global sustainability launched in June 2012 at Rio +20.  The programme is organised around three research themes (i) dynamic planet; (ii) global development; and (iii) transformations towards sustainability and seeks to answer questions such as
  • ·       How can governance be adapted to promote global sustainability?
  • ·       How can societies adapt to the social and ecological consequences of a warming world, and what are the barriers, limits and opportunities to adaptation?
  • ·       What lifestyles, ethics and values are conducive to environmental stewardship and human welfare and how might these contribute to support a positive transition to global sustainability?

Informed by an idea of co-design and co-production of knowledge, the initiative seeks to integrate natural science, social science, engineering and the humanities research and to engage with various stakeholder communities including policy-makers and the business community. The global nature of the programme will lead to the development of a distributed knowledge network with regional centres. Research nodes aim to ‘be responsive to needs and priorities of decision-makers at regional and national level, encourage broader participation of users in the research, coordinate global environmental change research agendas and activities, and disseminate knowledge and capacity on science for sustainability across the globe’.

Despite the call for social science research, we noted the apparent absence of management and business researchers as well as limited presence of civil society NGOs. Members of the CSEAR network have a long tradition of engaging with various communities, including those within the public and private sector in relation to sustainability challenges. Recent work concerning accounting for climate, biodiversity and water evidences both theoretical and practical contributions to sustainability. CSEAR is an international network with activities underway around the globe. This creates a rich opportunity to perhaps engage with Future Earth activities.

As the initiative develops, how might social and environmental accounting research contribute or engage with these initiatives? More generally, what lessons have been learnt or gleaned from within the CSEAR community about interdisciplinary projects that seek to address sustainability challenges? How might we build further capacity and capabilities across the community to engage through praxis, as individuals and collectively, for transitions to sustainability?

If you are interested in finding out more about the programme, the Initial Design Report of Future Earth via the Future Earth webpages on the ICSU website.

For another view on the Future Earth meeting, check out Victor Anderson's post 'Does Future Earth get the big picture?' at the Green Economy Coalition. 

Jan Bebbington & Shona Russell (June 2013)