Communicating and doing science with photography PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Wijnand Boonstra   
Thursday, 22 March 2012 21:27


This week the famous photographer Mattias Klum visited the Resilience Centre for a seminar and workshop on the use of photography and science. The question that was central in his presentation was how scientists can communicate their science in an intelligent and passionate way.

How scientists usually (99 times out of 100) communicate their science

Graphs, tables, charts (for the natural scientists), pen portraits, case description, interview excerpts (for the social scientists) - this is how we, as scientists, often communicate science. For most of our audiences this works fine. But what do you do when you want to get your message across to a broader audience; an audience beyond the scientific communities of your discipline? Take, for example, our own ongoing research on Swedish “fishing styles” in the Baltic Sea. In this project, we are using a combination of statistics and interviews with fishers to analyze the diverse ways in which Swedish fishers fish in the Baltic Sea, but how can we make our scientific findings intelligible for a general audience? In the case of our research on “fishing styles” what we want to do is to provide an empirically rich and general understanding of fishers – their work, motivations and perspectives, but also the social and ecological environments in which they live their lives. Photography can be a powerful tool for such a goal.

Building resilience through customary sustainable use of biodiversity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Friday, 16 March 2012 09:44


It’s been almost 20 yrs since the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) entered into force on 29 December 1993. The CBD was inspired by the world community's growing commitment to sustainable development and represented a significant step forward in the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the use of genetic resources. It was also a result of the growing recognition that biological diversity is a threatened global asset of tremendous value to present and future generation. 192 countries, plus the EU, are now Parties to that convention. In April 2002, the Parties to the Convention committed to significantly reduce the loss of biodiversity loss by 2010.

So, has the CBD been successful? Perhaps predictably the 2010 targets were not met, as summarized by the Global Biodiversity Outlook 3 report. Despite numerous successful conservation measures supporting biodiversity, none of the specific targets were met, and biodiversity losses continue.

Legendary political scientist Oran Young in Stockholm PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fredrik Moberg   
Friday, 09 March 2012 09:23

The world leading political scientist and authority on global environmental governance, Professor Oran Young, recently gave a talk in the Stockholm Seminars. This Sunday March 11th he will be interviewed in the Think Globally radio show heard every Sunday evening at 19:00 on THS Radio 95.3 MHz in Stockholm, and on K103.1 in Gothenburg at 16:00. It is also available through an extensive archive of past programs at:

Just as Professor Young's talk in the Stockholm Seminars  the interview will circle around the institutions and international regimes for governing environmental issues, which are crucial for sustainability, but vary widely in their effectiveness. Professor Young shares his insights from decades of research on the factors that influence whether international regimes, from ozone depletion to climate change and many others, ultimately succeed or fail in their mission to protect the environment.

Professor Young is the author of more than 20 books. His most recent book is "Institutional Dynamics: Emergent Patterns in International Environmental Governance".

The video of the seminar he gave in Stockholm March 7 will soon be available at the Stockholm Resilience Centre's webpage.

Transformative change required, NOW! PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Thursday, 08 March 2012 10:43

Joern Fischer, a colleague from Leuphana University, has a thought-provoking post over at Ideas4Sustainability

"I am tired of people highlighting that “we have come a long way”. No we haven’t. We have absolutely failed to address the fundamentally important challenges that underpin our societies: our addiction to ever more material growth and limitless comfort at all times. How, based on such values, will we ever reach sustainability, including global social justice? We are failing, not doing well."

Joern joins the growing ranks of scientists that call for transformative change across ALL levels of society. Science can't solve the challenges we are facing alone.

"Unless we manage to get organised, we’ll count for nothing. Fragmentation within academia is one of our biggest (self-created) enemies. So many “sustainability experts” now truly believe that we must go beyond the pragmatic, and beyond the low-hanging fruit, and question fundamentally how we can best achieve ‘transformative change’. Our challenge must be to communicate this to (and discuss it with) the rest of society — those of us who believe that real change is needed must find ways to bring this about."

Beyond GDP - are we close to metrics that matter? PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Monday, 27 February 2012 11:30

A few weeks ago Moody's rating agency "warned" that the UK was on a "negative outlook". In other words, it stood a 30% chance of losing its AAA credit rating. Credit Rating Agencies (CRA's) provide a simple and readily understandable system that allows any investor to invest in international securities with which they are not directly familiar. Where corporate and government bonds are concerned, this system has proved reliable and enabled investors to diversify their portfolios. However, the metrics used are simply based on the judgement of the agencies themselves in determining what public and private information should be considered in giving a rating. Much criticism has been aimed at these powerful global players, especially the Big Three - S&P, Moody's and Fitch. The critics say, not only did the agencies fail to spot 2008's financial crisis, they put some fuel under it by awarding AAA ratings to the very packages of toxic mortgages that took the roof off the world economy. Not just that. They still had Lehman Brothers, AIG and Washington Mutual on investment grade ratings until September 15 2008. All that from organisations which also failed to spot Enron.

An interesting piece over at the Green Economy Coalition, however, asks what would happen if the metrics used by market organizations such as the Big Three CRA's were designed to capture a company or nations progress towards achieving equity and human wellbeing, while not exceeding the boundaries of the natural capital that provide wellbeing.

"Metrics and ratings are powerful tools. They drive behaviour and they describe our understanding of success. So, what if credit rating agencies such as Moody’s were guided by bigger global goals that underpin economic resilience – namely, our planet’s ecological limits and the need to provide a better quality of life for all?  What if they started to grade the creditworthiness of companies and national economies by environmental and societal indicators rather than just financial metrics? And, what if those national ratings were informed by the progress that businesses, and indeed consumers, were making towards those same environmental and societal goals? What if all of our metrics of 'success', from local to global, were geared to measure our progress towards achieving a better quality of life for all within the ecological limits of the planet?"

Road to Rio +20: two new reports on future stewardship and challenges PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Saturday, 25 February 2012 21:45

We're in the final stretch before the Rio +20 conference. With 116 days left, every week is seeing the release of important summary reports to be used as background material and "negotiation muscle" by different organizations and fora during the conference in Brazil. A month ago saw the UN Secretary-General's High-level Panel on Global Sustainability publish its final report 'Resilient People, Resilient Planet: A Future Worth Choosing'. The report is highly influenced by the talks during the 3rd Nobel Laureate Symposium on Global Sustainability and the scientific work behind it.

The report is proof of how high resilience theory has permeated the ranks of policy-makers. It contains an entire section on "building resilience" and urges governments to develop and implement policies to “manage the economic and social impacts of transition and enhance resilience — in particular through targeted social protection programmes and policies and by scaling up humanitarian capacities to deal with increasing environmental stress and potential shocks". It repeatedly refers to the Stockholm symposium and research on planetary boundaries, and calls for better interchange between scientists and policymakers.

"We must define, through science, what scientists refer to as 'planetary boundaries', 'environmental thresholds' and 'tipping points'" the report said

This week also saw the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) hold its 12th special session in Nairobi, Kenya. One of the outputs was the report 'Environment and Development Challenges: The Imperative to Act', prepared by laureates of the Blue Planet Prize, known unofficially as the Nobel prize for the environment.

One of the key messages of the report was a call to replace gross domestic product (GDP) as a sole measure of a nation's economic wealth with more inclusive indicators that would consider the impact of economic growth on human wellbeing and environmental condition.

"Governments should recognise the serious limitations of GDP as a measure of economic growth and complement it with measures of the five forms of capital, built (produced); natural; human; social; and institutional/financial capital. One challenge facing many countries is how to manage natural resources in order to contribute to poverty alleviation while maintaining the ecological life support system." the report said.

Marine science for a sustainable future PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Monday, 20 February 2012 16:15 has a great new Spotlight feature on "Ocean science for sustainable development". The reasons for protecting the worlds oceans are numerous, and have been highlighted in past posts here at sdupdate.Our track record of protecting these ecosystems has been dismal, although glimmers of hope make us (very carefully) optimistic for the future

For poor, developing nations with large human communities relying on healthy oceans for their survival, creating the conditions for succesful science-based management is critical. This means having reliable data (that is well balanced between science and traditional local knowledge) on which to base sound policy decisions. Challenges include building the capacity to both generate and interpret such data.

The SciDev Spotlight feature presents a number of articles highlighting the challenges faced in generating the robust scientific data that form the bedrock to effective management of marine resources, with a particular emphasis on the Pacific region.


"Ecosystems worth at least $1 trillion USD per year to the poor" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fredrik Moberg   
Thursday, 09 February 2012 16:17

New global estimation of biodiversity benefits and ecosystem services finds flows valued at $1 trillion USD per year to poor communities.

Many of Nature's services are literally priceless – we cannot live without them and they have no known substitutes. But pricing these services can focus attention on the importance of healthy ecosystems for sustained development and poverty alleviation.

Now a study published recently in the journal BioScience shows that protecting the land of highest priority for biodiversity conservation also delivers significant, ecosystem services and income to the world's most impoverished people.

The scientists assessed a broad range of ecosystem services, from local benefits including crop pollination, foods, medicines, and clean, fresh water, to global benefits such as climate regulation.

The focus of the new study was whether the world's top conservation priorities (less than a quarter of Earth's land surface) directly support the world's poorest people, who generally struggle to survive on less than one dollar a day.

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