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Social-Ecological Systems Insights for Navigating the Dynamics of the Anthropocene

Reyers, B., C. Folke, M-L. Moore, R. Biggs and V. Galaz. 2018. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 43:267-289.

Abstract:

Social-ecological systems (SES) research offers new theory and evidence to transform sustainable development to better contend with the challenges of the Anthropocene. Four insights from contemporary SES literature on (a) intertwined SES, (b) cross-scale dynamics, (c) systemic tipping points, and (d) transformational change are explored. Based on these insights, shifts in sustainable development practice are suggested to recognize and govern the complex and codeveloping social and ecological aspects of development challenges. The potential susceptibility of SES to nonlinear systemic reconfigurations is highlighted, as well as the opportunities, agency, and capacities required to foster reconfigurative transformations for sustainable development. SES research proposes the need for diverse values and beliefs that are more in tune with the deep, dynamic connections between social and ecological systems to transform development practice and to support capacities to deal with shocks and surprises. From these perspectives, SES research offers new outlooks, practices, and novel opportunity spaces from which to address the challenges of the Anthropocene.

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Keywords: resilience, sustainable development, complex adaptive systems, systemic risk, regime shifts, transformations

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