In a new paper Evolution of natural and social science interactions in global change research programs in PNAS (doi:10.1073/pnas.1107484110), Harold A. Mooney, Anantha Duraiappah, & Anne Larigauderie look back on the history of the integration of Social and Natural Science in global change research and relate this history, the barriers overcome, and the lessons learned to the development of the new global research programme on sustainability science – Future Earth.
The paper places the Beijer Intitute of Ecological Economics efforts build communication between ecologists and economists as very import. They write:
Much of the mistrust between the ecologists and economists was minimized, because cooperation between these groups was increased through a series of workshops organized by the Beijer Institute of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences under the leadership of Karl-Göran Mäler in 1993 on the Swedish island of Askö. Many seminal papers on the interface between the environment and economics were crafted at these meetings.
The also value the role of the Resilience Alliance, which was also highly connected to the Beijer Institute:
A somewhat parallel approach to sustainability science to integrating social and natural sciences is embodied in the Resilience Alliance that was established in 1999 (http://www.resalliance. org/). This alliance is a network of scientists and institutions that uses a conceptual framework that was first articulated by C. S. Holling in 1986 (42) and updated in 2001 (43). This frame- work is built on the nature of hierarchies and cyclic properties of both ecosystems and social–ecological systems and their adaptive nature. Concrete examples of resilience approaches for sustaining ecosystems and societies in the face of change were clearly articulated in a book published in 2006 by Walker and Salt (44), and the basic principles were described in a textbook by Chapin et al. (45) in 2009. An important component of this framework is developing resilience in systems to avoid crossing over irreversible thresholds (regime shifts) that move systems into a less favorable state for society. Thus, the resilience approach is an important approach to sustainability and has the same goal as sustainability science, but it is built on an overarching theory that sustainability science per se lacks.
The also place a high importance of the contribution of Elinor Ostrom whom, they write:
What About Progress at the International Science Program Level Within Social Sciences?
One of the important contributions from the IHDP community over the past 10 y has been on environmental governance. The first thrust began with the work by Elinor Ostrom and col- leagues under the LUCC. The governance of the commons and the role of local communities in overseeing the use of local resources in contrast to government regulations and private market instruments were a central contribution by the IHDP community over these years. Following the governance of land resources, Oran Young and others began a 10-y study on global governance, bridging the local to global spectrum.
The paper also discusses the key role of geographers and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in the integration of social and natural sciences, and assesses the post-normal, transdisciplinary research terrain that Future Earth must navigate.
Now the sustainability science community needs build on this success, but also better connect with communities of engineers, architects, planners, and designers so we can all figure out how to actually build a “Good” Anthropocene – or a future that is a good place for us all to live.