Messages from the IHDP

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One of the key events in the sustainability world is the Open Meeting of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP), just completed in Bonn, Germany. One of the thematic statements from the meeting website sets the context that, although more knowledge is always welcome, the importance of action on what we already know is growing.

The increased understanding of the challenges we are currently facing has shifted the focus in yet another way, from understanding the dynamics of global environmental change to using that understanding to devise ways to meet the challenges that we see emerge. This has pushed the scientific community to pay more attention to the relationship between science and policy, to include more use-inspired and policy-relevant research, and to improve communication with government, business, NGO’s and the civil society at large.

Beatrice Crona, writing on the Resilience Science blog, summarizes a few key outputs of the conference. The sense of urgency has deepened with one prominent scientist, Roger Kasperson, suggesting that the horizon for effective action to forestall major social and natural upsets is of the order of 20 years. That's the bad news.

The good news is that this community of researchers working inside of their traditional disciplinary silos recognizes the need to break out and engage in interdisciplinary conversations about what to do. They signal that understanding of the world as a complex system, not reducible to separate pieces nor amenable to analysis, part by part, is slowly becoming acceptable. To create the institutions, common language, and concerns necessary for engagement adds to the burden, but effective solutions to cope with growing global unsustainability cannot be found without taking these steps.

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