Global leadership for social design: theoretical and educational perspectives

The rapid change of technological, social, and cultural structures is challenging universities to offer new educational programs. The Global Leader Program for Social Design and Management (GSDM) of the University of Tokyo can be seen as a forerunner in this field. The paper provides definitions of social design as well as of global leadership and provides a proposal for the definition of the objective of the GSDM program, i.e., multi-level resilient human-environment system. These subjects are embedded in the framework of human-environment systems (HES). We identified the different types of knowledge integration that ‘global leaders for social design’ should master. The core of the sustainable social design is to (1) properly conceptualize and manage “resilient coupled human-environment systems” and to (2) integrate or relate different systems, epistemic, interests, cultures, and knowledge systems. The specific challenge in this context is to cope with conflicting cultural-religious systems or to understand how the vulnerability of different human systems with respect to digital environments. Social design is conceived as all rules, mechanisms, and preferences that govern the interaction of humans with material, biophysical, technological, and socio-cultural epistemic environments. The goal of education for global leadership for social design may have to progress from the T-shaped skills profile (i.e., being specialized in one discipline and having the capability to collaborate with other disciplines) to the π-profile. Students for leadership in global designs must be qualified in a social and an engineering/natural science and literate and capable to know, relate, and govern different disciplines, cultures, or systems which have to be included in the sustainable transitioning of cultural and socio-technological systems. The paper elaborates in what way transdisciplinarity is needed and why resilience management should be seen as a proper objective of GSDM. The challenges of the new educational program for the science system and institutions as well as for students and professors are discussed.


Posted in Global leadership, Human environment systems, Social design | Tagged , ,

Rules to goals: emergence of new governance strategies for sustainable development

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Paris Agreement on climate are the key international agreements to deliver a sustainable future. They are a compromise between the scientifically necessary and politically possible to achieve global sustainability. Agreed in 2015, they constitute a radical departure for the international policy with no precedents and are beginning to shape national policy, civil society, and business decisions. We argue that these new frameworks represent the most important institutional innovation to emerge in recent years. They mark a shift away from international rule-making towards a system based on goal setting. This reflects a theory of societal steering or what we commonly think of as governance that differs sharply from mainstream regulatory systems by Pauwelyn et al. (Eur J Int Law 24:733–763, 2014). Given that achieving the Paris Agreement and the SDGs will require the transformation of societies at all levels, it remains unclear how existing instruments, policies, and even institutions will adapt to this new global governance strategy. The key to success, we argue, will be “action coherence”, whereby actions initiated to fulfill individual SDGs are coherent across efforts to achieve the full set of SDGs over the long run.


Posted in Sustainable development | Tagged

Climate changes faster than animals adapt

Climate change can threaten species and extinctions can impact ecosystem health. It is therefore of vital importance to assess to which degree animals can respond to changing environmental conditions – for example by shifting the timing of breeding – and whether these shifts enable the persistence of populations in the long run. To answer these questions an international team of 64 researchers led by Viktoriia Radchuk, Alexandre Courtiol and Stephanie Kramer-Schadt from the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research (Leibniz-IZW) evaluated more than 10,000 published scientific studies. The results of their analysis are worrisome: Although animals do commonly respond to climate change, such responses are in general insufficient to cope with the rapid pace of rising temperatures and sometimes go in wrong directions. The results are published in the scientific journal “Nature Communications”.


Read also: Adaptive responses of animals to climate
change are most likely insufficient

Posted in Adaptive cycle, Animal, Climate change | Tagged , ,

Ecology and Architecture: the Design of the Environment for Human Survival

Ecological problems of civilization have not lost their relevance since the twentieth century. Methods of their solution is limited to a one-sided view of the situation, which does not allow changing it radically. Consideration of the system of knowledge in the context of the transformation and the transition to a new type of network society provides an opportunity to rethink the very way of human existence, which is directly reflected in the concept of a contemporary city. Modern society is moving towards a network-based, horizontal distribution of knowledge, which is both the cause of the actualization of the environmental problems of the city and the way to solve them.


Posted in Architecture, Ecology | Tagged ,

EcoPhilosophies: Shades of Green

Continuums allow us to map where we have been, where we are currently located and where we are heading. On the Shades of Green continuum, I locate anthropocentric and ecocentric philosophies in five clusters distinguished by the value placed on relationality with nature: Utilitarianism, Conservationism, Green Ecology, Organicism and Regeneration. Increasing depth of empathy, unity and connectedness to place characterize ecocentric philosophies. Philosophies about nature inform our environmental ethics, environmental adult education, eco-activism and our lifeways; therefore, they are highly relevant to our response to the crisis of climate change. Our response to climate change is symptomatic of deep failures in our way of thinking, being and living. The purpose of this study is to catalyze new ways of thinking about nature, about ourselves as nature and about planet earth as home.


Posted in EcoPhilosophies | Tagged

What biodiversity loss means for our health

Among the great lies, I learned in medical school was that a human being was the product of a sperm and an egg. Yes, these gametes are necessary, but they are hardly sufficient to create and sustain human life. Each one of us stays alive only with the help of trillions of other organisms – the human microbiome – that live on and in every surface of our body exposed to the outside world. Of all the cells that comprise a human body, only two-thirds derive from a sperm and an egg. We can see inklings of what a massive disruption to our relationship with the microorganisms that live within us means to health with the overuse of antibiotics. Antibiotic disruption can foster antimicrobial resistance, weight gain, autoimmune disease, and even perhaps mental health disorders.


Posted in Biodiversity, Health | Tagged ,

The Hidden Power Laws of Ecosystems

As nature scales, complexity gives way to universal law.

Here’s how to cause a ruckus: Ask a bunch of naturalists to simplify the world. We usually think in terms of a web of complicated interactions among animals, plants, microbes, earth, wind, and fire—what Darwin called “the entangled bank.” Reducing the bank’s complexity to broad generalizations can seem dishonest.

So when Tony Ives, a theoretical ecologist at the University of Wisconsin, prodded his colleagues at the 2013 meeting of the Ecological Society of America by calling for a vote on whether they ought to seek out general laws, it probably wasn’t surprising that two-thirds of the room voted no.


Posted in Ecosystem, Nature | Tagged ,

Children can foster climate change concern among their parents

The collective action that is required to mitigate and adapt to climate change is extremely difficult to achieve, largely due to socio-ideological biases that perpetuate polarization over climate change1,2. Because climate change perceptions in children seem less susceptible to the influence of worldview or political context3, it may be possible for them to inspire adults towards higher levels of climate concern, and in turn, collective action4. Child-to-parent intergenerational learning—that is, the transfer of knowledge, attitudes or behaviors from children to parents5—may be a promising pathway to overcoming socio-ideological barriers to climate concern5. Here we present an experimental evaluation of an educational intervention designed to build climate change concern among parents indirectly through their middle school-aged children in North Carolina, USA. Parents of children in the treatment group expressed higher levels of climate change concern than parents in the control group. The effects were strongest among male parents and conservative parents, who, consistent with the previous research1, displayed the lowest levels of climate concern before the intervention. Daughters appeared to be especially effective in influencing parents. Our results suggest that intergenerational learning may overcome barriers to building climate concern.


Posted in Children, Climate change | Tagged ,

Indigenous knowledge networks in the face of global change

Indigenous communities rely extensively on plants for food, shelter, and medicine. It is still unknown, however, to what degree their survival is jeopardized by the loss of either plant species or knowledge about their services. To fill this gap, here we introduce indigenous knowledge networks describing the wisdom of indigenous people on plant species and the services they provide. Our results across 57 Neotropical communities show that cultural heritage is as important as plants for preserving indigenous knowledge both locally and regionally. Indeed, knowledge networks collapse as fast when plant species are driven extinct as when cultural diffusion, either within or among communities, is lost. But it is the joint loss of plant species and knowledge that erodes these networks at a much higher rate. Our findings pave the road toward integrative policies that recognize more explicitly the inseparable links between cultural and biological heritage.


Posted in Climate change, Indigenous communities, Indigenous knowledge, Sustainability | Tagged , , ,

Untapped potential of collective intelligence in conservation and environmental decision making

Environmental decisions are often deferred to groups of experts, committees, or panels to develop climate policy, plan protected areas, or negotiate trade‐offs for biodiversity conservation. There is, however, surprisingly little empirical research on the performance of group decision making related to the environment. We examined examples from a range of different disciplines, demonstrating the emergence of collective intelligence (CI) in the elicitation of quantitative estimates, crowdsourcing applications, and small‐group problem-solving. We explored the extent to which similar tools are used in environmental decision making. This revealed important gaps (e.g., a lack of integration of fundamental research in decision‐making practice, absence of systematic evaluation frameworks) that obstruct mainstreaming of CI. By making judicious use of interdisciplinary learning opportunities, CI can be harnessed effectively to improve decision making in conservation and environmental management. To elicit reliable quantitative estimates an understanding of cognitive psychology and to optimize crowdsourcing artificial intelligence tools may need to be incorporated. The business literature offers insights into the importance of soft skills and diversity in team effectiveness. Environmental problems set a challenging and rich testing ground for collective‐intelligence tools and frameworks. We argue this creates an opportunity for significant advancement in decision‐making research and practice.


Posted in collective intelligence, Conservation, Environment | Tagged , ,