The Southern African Program on Ecosystem Change and Society: An emergent community of practice

Sustainability-focused research networks and communities of practice have emerged as a key response and strategy to build capacity and knowledge to support transformation towards more sustainable, just and equitable futures. This paper synthesises insights from the development of a community of practice on social-ecological systems (SES) research in southern Africa over the past decade, linked to the international Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS)….

Social-ecological change: insights from the Southern African Program on Ecosystem Change and Society

Social-ecological systems (SES) research has emerged as an important area of sustainability science, informing and supporting pressing issues of transformation towards more sustainable, just and equitable futures. To date, much SES research has been done in or from the Global North, where the challenges and contexts for supporting sustainability transformations are substantially different from the Global South. This paper synthesises emerging insights on SES dynamics…

Navigating the dynamics of people-planet relationships: A social-ecological systems perspective

People-planet interactions and interdependencies connect sectors and scales in complex, changing ways; those changes can be incremental or abrupt, expected or surprising. Climate change, rising inequalities, biodiversity loss, food insecurity and other global problems involve interlinked cross-scale systems driven by feedbacks that connect far-flung localities to one another and link local to global, such that actions in one place often impact far distant places or…

Why care about theories? Innovative ways of theorizing in sustainability science

The complex nature of sustainability problems and the aim of sustainability science to support emergent processes of transformation require rethinking how we build and make use of theories. We highlight the diversity of ways in which theories, as assemblages of different elements that can serve a variety of purposes, can emerge within inter-disciplinary and trans-disciplinary processes. Such emerging theories are (i) contextualized, constantly changing, and build on…

The contributions of resilience to reshaping sustainable development

We review the past decade’s widespread application of resilience science in sustainable development practice and examine whether and how resilience is reshaping this practice to better engage in complex contexts. We analyse six shifts in practice: from capitals to capacities, from objects to relations, from outcomes to processes, from closed to open systems, from generic interventions to context sensitivity, and from linear to complex causality….

Reconciling well-being and resilience for sustainable development

Securing well-being and building resilience in response to shocks are often viewed as key goals of sustainable development. Here, we present an overview of the latest published evidence, as well as the consensus of a diverse group of scientists and practitioners drawn from a structured analytical review and deliberative workshop process. We argue that resilience and well-being are related in complex ways, but in their…

Post-2020 aspirations for biodiversity

A core aim of the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP-15) to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in October 2021 is to set out the post-2020 global biodiversity framework to halt biodiversity loss and its impacts on ecosystems, species, and human systems. With an estimated one million species threatened with extinction, the stakes are high, and the scale of the challenge is…

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