Tag Archives: Stockholm

Two research positions at Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to work with SRC

Exciting job opportunities here in Stockholm at Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to work with Stockholm Resilience Centre:

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce two positions as Early Career Academy Researcher, one for a scholar with a documented background in economics and one for a scholar with a documented background in research on social-ecological interactions. The positions will be part of the Family Erling Persson’s Academy Program on The Ecological Economics of Global Change, lead by Prof. Carl Folke.

Human wellbeing and the Earth system on which it depends are in transition. In a globalised world the economy, society, technology and the environment interact in novel and even unexpected ways. A key challenge is to foster development that is favourable and sustainable for current and future generations, taking into account and respecting the capacity of the biosphere to support such development. Research will address the complex, multi-scale dynamics of social–ecological systems, economic development and critical ecosystem services in the new global context. The dynamics include nonlinear thresholds that can lead to large, persistent changes but also transformations of human actions toward stewardship of social–ecological systems for global sustainability. Part of the program will focus on marine issues in this context.

The Ecological Economics of Global Change program aims to address such challenges and is searching for key collaborators to achieve this. The positions are two plus three years, with potential for continuation. We envision a early career researchers at the level of post-doc or similar. Documented experience from interdisciplinary collaboration is a bonus. The two Early Career Academy Researcher positions will be part of a team with two Academy Researchers, a visiting professor and two other early career researchers, which will form the core of the program.

The program provides a forum for researchers in economics and social-ecological systems to interact and develop joint research, seeking a deeper understanding of the interplay of social-ecological systems and economic development from local to global levels. There will be opportunity for researchers of the program to closely collaborate with the Academy’s Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. A stimulating, trusting and friendly research environment in collaboration with diverse disciplines is provided, focusing on understanding the new global dynamics and the challenges towards sustainability.

The Academy is accepting applications from researchers with a PhD in economics and ecology or related disciplines. We are looking for open minded candidates with exceptional scholarly promise and a rigorous approach to problem solving. We value documented capacity to synthesize knowledge, analyze large data sets and build empirically grounded theory. The successful candidates must be team players who understand how their particular expertise fits within the greater global picture and can collaborate with other researchers in an open-minded and creative way. Salary will depend on the merits of the candidate. The program starts 1 January 2013 and the positions, which are full time, are to be filled as soon as possible for an initial period of two years.

Applicants should submit a single document containing a short letter of interest including a vision of research focus to further the understanding of social-ecological systems in the context of new global dynamics (1-2 page) and Curriculum Vitae including relevant publications (max 3 pages). In addition the applicants should ask a person of their choice to send a letter of recommendation.

Please submit the applications to Christina Leijonhufvud (chris@beijer.kva.se) by 20 February 2013.

Trade union representatives are Magnus Lundgren (SACO), 0046-8-673 95 25 and Peter Jacobsson (ST), 0046-8-673 97 92.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is an independent organisation whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society.

Nobel Symposium in Stockholm

I just argued the human role in the Anthropocene with Will Steffen at the 2011 Nobel Laureate Symposium in Stockholm.  In a mock court, in front of a jury of Nobelists, I successfully argued that:

1) Humanity has pushed the Earth out of the Holocene epoch, but 4) Humanity can prosper, in the Anthropocene

2) Humanity has substantial capacity to cope with tipping points, they do not represent “catastrophic change” (from the perspective of humanity).

3) Humanity needs learn how to cope with a novel, turbulent world requires change – based on learning, experimentation, diversity.

The rest of the symposium is is being broadcast on the web.

The symposium’s website provides a description of the meeting:

This third Nobel Laureate Symposium will focus on the need for integrated approaches that deal with the synergies, conflicts and trade-offs between the individual components of climate change.

Climate change, decreasing biodiversity, deteriorating ecosystems, poverty and a continuously growing population all contribute to reducing the planet’s resilience and may have catastrophic implications for humanity.

Each of these problems has attracted great attention from the international community, but they have invariably been considered in isolation, with little or no regard to the interactions between them.

It is time to change this approach.

The Symposium is organized by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm Resilience Centre at Stockholm University, Stockholm Environment Institute, Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics and Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research.

The Symposium, organised with the participation and support of HM King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, will provide an informal setting for productive discussions on how we can transform current governance into a more sustainable and adaptive management approach that operates within the boundaries of the planet.

It will take place at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in Stockholm between 16-19 May and will include a mix of plenary presentations, panel discussions and working group sessions. The Symposium will be concluded with a Royal dinner hosted by HM Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Undermine Nature/Culture dichotomy – Bruno Latour visits Stockholm

As you might know, some of us at the Stockholm Resilience Centre are quite inspired by actor-network theory (ANT), an “infralanguage” to help us undermine the Nature/Culture (or Social/Ecological) dichotomy; a dichotomy that has divided academia for a long time, but which interdisciplinary institutes like SRC is trying to overcome. One of the key developers of ANT is coming to Stockholm, Bruno Latour, to give a lecture at the Nobel Museum entitled: “May Nature Be Recomposed? A Few Questions of Cosmopolitics” (The Neale Wheeler Watson lecture, Tuesday, 16-18).

Bruno Latour<br />

In many ways, ANT is ‘a way of writing’ academic (ethnographic) accounts so as to treat humans and non-humans (including species, water currents, machines, documents etc.) in similar ways. A classic study is that of Callon (1986), in which a bunch of marine biologists strive to save the population of scallops by introducing controlled scallop production mobilizing both fishers, scallops, technology, and water currents (but they ultimately fails…).

In my own study of how a large green area of Stockholm got protected (and thus influenced the urban ecology of Stockholm), ANT inspired me to acknowledge that it was not only civil society activists that played a great role in managing to protect this green area, but also maps, buildings and species that got ‘enrolled’ into a protective story (Ernstson and Sörlin 2009). Others have used this in similar ways (e.g. Eden et al 1999). I believe more can certainly be done as we engage with this “infralanguage” (for instance how to understand the “politics of scale” in transformative change towards ecosystem management).

In his lecture, Bruno Latour will talk about “cosmopolitics”. Most people would associate this term with that of being an internationalist, somebody with backgrounds in a lot places and nations, and with an open attitude to different cultures and the formation of new collectives. However, I suspect the talk will be about other types of collectives, those that stretch over the Nature/Culture divide, and that even prove that this divide is nothing more than an illusion (although a powerful illusion indeed).

An intrerpretation of what Latour and others (especially Isabelle Stengers, Cosmopolitiques, vol. 1) understand as cosmopolitics is a “politics of the cosmos” that leads to the recognition of new “collectives”, a recognition that humans and non-humans are entangled and that we (the collective) need to respect this entanglement in order to live our lives. In our field of reserach, this idea has partly been captured in the concept “ecosystem services” (although in a more economistic fashion, see argument of a “social production of ecosystem services”; Ernstson, H., 2008, In Rhizomia. PhD Dissertation.Stockholm University, Stockholm.). Funny enough, and inspired by British geographers (Hinchcliffe, Whatmore et al 2005), I held series of lectures and a workshop with art and design students at the Stockholm School of Art and Design (Konstfack) on “Cosmopolitical Experiments“, i.e. how can designs evoke a sense of recognizing our entanglement with these other-than-human citizens that share our planet.

To SRC and the broader field of social-ecological studies, ANT and similar attempts to undermine long held dichotomies that constrains our thoughts, methods and theories, are exciting to explore and engage.

PS. The lecture at Nobel Museum will be broadcasted after the lecture on Tuesday, 16-18.

Resilience Q&A

People from the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Albaeco interviewed biodiversity, resilience and social-ecological researchers to provide brief answers to a set of Resilience questions. The videos are available on the Centre’s website:

Why is biodiversity important?
Gretchen Daily, professor of biological sciences at Stanford University (USA), answers this topical question.

What is ecological anthropology?
Professor Steve Lansing from the University of Arizona explains the meaning behind ecological anthropology.

What do you think will be the future ‘environmental surprises´?
Will Steffen, professor of the Fenner School of Environment & Society, The Australian National University, answers this question.

What is a regime shift?
Professor Terry Hughes from the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies explains what is the meaning behind the term ‘Regime shifts’.

What is a complex systems approach?
Professor Steve Lansing from the University of Arizona explains the meaning behind the complex systems approach.

What is the key limiting factor for human development?
Professor Paul Ehrlich from the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Sciences, explains the key factors that affect human development.

What is a social-ecological system?
Professor Stephen Carpenter from Zoology Department, University of Winsonsin, explains the meaning behind the term social-ecological system.

Radio Feature: Resilience, Adaptation and Transformation in Turbulent Times

Mark Sommer, host and executive producer of A World of Possibilities, interviewed scientists and researchers from around the world at the Resilience 2008 conference last month in Stockholm, Sweden.

The 55 minute long radio show can be heard online and includes interviews with Buzz Holling, Brian Walker, Carl Folke, Charles Redman, Will Steffan and Frances Westley.

Their combined wisdom provides insight into how societies can become resilient in the face of traumatic change and unprecedented transition.

World of Possibilities is an award-winning, nationally and internationally syndicated radio program, that is part of the Mainstream Media Project. The show’s website includes links to other guest interviews that were recorded at the conference.

Brian Walker’s Research Areas for Resilience Science

Brian Walker, the former director of the Resilience Alliance reflected on the future of resilience science in his introductory talk at Resilience 2008. In his talk Probing the boundaries of resilience science and practice, he identified seven important research areas for resilience science:

  1. Test, criticize and revise the propositions about resilience made in Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems and Ecology and Society special issue – Exploring Resilience In Social-Ecological Systems.
  2. Develop models of social-ecological systems that can produce the key aspects of the rich behaviour of the world. In particular these models should be able to produce:
    i) dynamics in which systems cross multiple thresholds,
    ii) produce “backloop” dynamics, and
    iii) incorporate models of adaptive governance that incorporate leadership, trust, ‘shadow’ networks, sleeper links, and poly-centric governance arrangements.
  3. Extend resilience theory from local or regional scales to the global to address questions such as:
    i) Do we need new propositions for global resilience issues?
    ii) Over what ranges of scale can we apply existing theory?, and
    iii) How important are scale-dependent processes?
  4. Resilience theory needs to better understand the consquences of multiple simultaneous shocks, because transformative change seems to be often triggered by two (or more) simultaneous shocks. For example an environmental shock and an economic (or political) shock occurring at the same time.
    Resilience theory needs to understand what coupled or sequential shocks are likely, and how could we go about assessing resilience to them. An example of this is the current food crisis that developed from the coupling of agriculture, energy, and climate issues.
  5. What are the differences between transformational change, adaptability and resilience? Transformability is the capacity to create a fundamentally new system when conditions make the existing system untenable. In much of the world the need is to transform, not to make the existing system regime more resilient. What are the design principles of transformations?
  6. How can we assess the costs and values of resilience? What is the difference between general (broad spectrum resilience to many things) vs. specified resilience (to a few specific things)? How can we conceptualize the danger in ‘optimizing’ for specified resilience? How much should we spend (or forego) to increase resilience?
  7. How can the value of different regimes be assessed? The desirablity of a regime usually depends upon the perspective it is viewed from, and different people have different perspectives. Coping with these perspectives is a challenge. But more fundamentally, this requires not just assessing the value of different ecosystem services, but also understanding the identity of a system, and its ability to maintain itself.
  8. Non-mathematical approaches to resilience. While mathematics is beautiful to some, it is difficult to communicate and in some situations is insufficient. We need to increase our ability to represent resilience in a variety of forms. This presents a challenge to the humanities and arts community. At Resilience 2008 we saw contributions towards this understanding, but there is much more to develop. Can science and the humanities work together to provide the impetus towards a richer, more resilient world?

Wiki launch of the practitioner’s guide to resilience assessment

resilience assessment logo
Last week at Resilience 2008 in Stockholm, I gave a presentation on the Practitioner’s workbook Assessing and Managing Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems. The workbook incorporates key principles underlying resilience thinking and provides a framework for assessing the resilience of social-ecological systems and considering options to set the system on a sustainable trajectory. The workbook builds on research by RA members and others and while it offers neither a recipe for effective management nor a panacea for resource problems, it does provide a foundation for integrated resource management that takes into account cross-scale interactions, alternate regimes, change, and uncertainty.

In the spirit of knowledge sharing, and collaboration, a wiki version of the workbook was launched last week. The workbook wiki is aimed at those who have experience applying resilience concepts to social-ecological systems and who want to contribute to the on-going development of the resilience assessment guide.

Feedback from those who have used the resilience assessment workbook (first made available last July), identified some of the strengths and weaknesses of the original version as well as a few gaps. The wiki editorial team will begin organizing the development of new content and a bunch of new material that will be linked to the workbook including: thematic versions of the workbook (e.g. urban resilience, coral reef resilience); modules on participatory research, adaptive co-management, assessing ecosystem service tradeoffs, etc.; research methods; translations (Spanish, Russian, Swedish); new examples and case studies.

Discussions among those who have used the workbook highlight the need for many more examples and case studies of completed assessments. People want to know how others are applying the assessment process in different settings, how they are adapting it, what problems have arisen, and how they were dealt with. A large network of people who have completed resilience assessments will be encouraged to contribute their examples and case studies to the wiki. These entries will include authorship and be reviewed by editors.

Novelty Needed for Sustainable Development – Resilience 2008

conclusions panel resilience 2008

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has released two press releases on the conclusion of Resilience 2008.

The first Novelty thinking key to sustainable development reports on the concluding panel of the conference in which Elinor Ostrom, Sverker Sörlin, Carole Crumley, Line Gordon and Buzz Holling reflected on the conference, lessons from the past and the answers for the future.

Buzz Holling, considered the father of resilience thinking, called for freedom and flexibility in order to generate multilevel change and novelty thinking. This is needed in a time when several crises are emerging, he said.

- This year a cluster of predicted crises have become aware to the public, such as the rise of food prices due to energy market changes and the collapse of the financial market. We see that small instabilities and risks spread to practically all developed countries in the world. However, globalisation also adds a great positive value because the individual or small groups can have an increasingly global effect, Holling said.

Resilience as an continuance of sustainability thinking
Sverker Sörlin and Carole Crumley both argued that we have moved beyond traditional discussions around sustainability and that resilience thinking is increasingly being embraced as an integrated part of sustainable development thinking.

- Resilience thinking will not replace the sustainability discourse, but we can use resilience to develop sustainability further, Sörlin said. He was followed up by Line Gordon who noted that the key approach with resilience thinking is that although we might have solutions for sustainable development, we will face challenges and we must be prepared for surprises.

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Melissa Leach reports from Resilience 2008

Melissa Leach, co-author of the well known book Misreading the African Landscape and director of the STEPS centre, provides her perspective on the Resilience 2008 conference, on STEP’s Centre’s Crossings blog.  She writes:

Despite the avowed interdisciplinarity of resilience studies, one such tension is still beteween those who come primarily from an ecological science or a social science perspective. Brian Walker’s introductory talk, and Steve Carpenter’s plenary today, both argued that the tendency for ecologists to ‘black-box’ social processes and social scientists to black-box ecological ones, badly needs to be overcome.But many talks here expose how far this is not happening – yet. Meanwhile, panels that Adrian has been contributing to indicate that technology-focused perspectives and work on socio-technical transitions provide a further view, and integrating this with studies of socio-ecological systems is not straightforward. …

Yesterday afternoon, a panel on development and adaptation involving Emily Boyd and Polly Eriksen from Oxford, along with Emma Tompkins, Henny Osbahr and Hallie Eakin, debated vulnerability-resilience ‘trade-offs’ head-on. The ways in which ‘resilience’ (like ‘development’) can be co-opted as a disempowering discourse were raised. But these more politicised discussions are fairly rare in a conference that for the most part sees systems as ‘out there’ and the problems facing society as shared, even if often difficult to deal with.

In addition to the chance to reflect on these dilemmas and meet up with those sharing them in the coffee breaks around the Aula Magna’s gallery (and last night, over drinks in the designer boutique hotel owened by Abba’s Benny Anderson) high points of these days for me have included a brilliant talk on urban system challenges and social movements; and an excellent panel on globalisation, tipping points and the new social contracts that may be required for governance in this context.

In a packed plenary, Steve Carpenter has just given us a system’s ecologist’s perspective on scenarios and imaginations for global futures. And Eric Lambin is about to fill another hall, I suspect, in a session on land use transitions. Rich stuff indeed. And lots of fuel for our thinking in the STEPS centre, both in our projects and in our own ‘Reframing Resilience’ symposium planned for September this year which will follow up on a number of the debates aired here.