Sustainability Science is Puzzling.

Sustainability science can be fun, too.

Ideas for Sustainability

First a warning: If you like your blog entries, insightful, well-structured and written with concision and clarity, you may wish to stop reading at this point (there are many other entries by Joern and others on this blog that can satisfy those peculiar cravings). If on the other hand you enjoy a somewhat rambling blog entry, that uses tenuous analogies, stretched to breaking point, then read on dear reader, read on.


When I say sustainability science is puzzling, I don’t mean that it is literally bewildering, bamboozling or baffling, although it certainly can be, rather, I mean it is figuratively like the act of ‘puzzling’, more specifically jigsaw puzzling (apologies for using puzzle as a verb, but when in Germany do as the Germans do).

Our world (bless its little cotton socks) is a complex, confusing and often chaotic place. To make sense of that complexity we have developed science…

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A Question of Balance

“It’s a question of balance.” I guess, this might be the most often-used phrase on this blog. Today, again, I would like to write about an important balancing act that is not easy to achieve. Particularly so, as we have to achieve it (almost) everyday. It is the balance between being satisfied, on the one hand, and not being satisfied, on the other. Continue reading

Some key areas of “group think” among scientists

Another insightful post by Jörn Fischer. In my work I encounter most of the “group think” phenomena mentioned here, and I can only confirm that they do exist and that they constitute serious problems in the area of sustainability research.

Ideas for Sustainability

By Joern Fischer

Researchers operate within networks, and people within those networks tend to share certain worldviews. None of us are free of this — different researchers see the world through different analytical lenses, which one might also call “paradigms”. My sense is that we’d get a lot further in terms of insight if relatively less research energy was put into developing sophistication within paradigms, instead focusing on the differences between paradigms and ways to learn from multiple paradigms. One might also call this “epistemological pluralism“, or less technically, it would be nice if scientists were a little more open-minded.

This phenomenon of “group think” amongst different sets of research groups is something I have found fascinating for a long time, and I think it exists in various topic areas. I list some of those areas here where “group think” appears quite strong, and potentially this causes some problems. These topic…

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Shooting at the Earth

Last year, it was the 27th of September. This year’s Earth Overshoot Day, however, is the 22nd of August. Even though the methodology of the Global Footprint Network and similar projects is not completely unproblematic, the main message is clear: we are (ab)using the Earth’s resources in a way that is extremely unsustainable.

Today, August 22, is Earth Overshoot Day, marking the date when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year. We are now operating in overdraft. For the rest of the year, we will maintain our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

In last years, there were reasons to hope: Copenhagen, Durban, Rio +20, the election of Barack Obama for president of the United States, China’s seeming calming down in Cancún, progress in the EU… Still, the overall progress was terribly disappointing. We are still massively burning (and even subsidizing) fossil fuels, consumption levels still aren’t dropping in the developed world (while they are steeply rising in its developing parts), our agricultural systems remain, in spite of some progress toward agro-ecology, unsustainable (possibly because of most environmentalists’ sticking to the dogma of “bad biotechnology“)… Shortly, we, i.e. humanity as a whole, still apparently don’t care about our own and our children’s future. We prefer short-sightedness and short-term pleasure over reason and long-term survival. We prefer keeping our eyes closed and denying on what appears inconvenient to us, instead of facing the truth that we have to change. Indeed, the way we live will have to change anyway, as a result of the pressures we put over the Earth system. Wouldn’t it be easier to stop shooting at the Earth on our own, instead of waiting until lifestyle changes will become inevitable?