An Introduction to the 2012 Linacre Lectures

Environmental Governance and Resilience
How do socio-ecological systems work and how are they best governed?

There is a general agreement that environmental change is threatening enough for action to be taken now. To mitigate the impact of climate change in the context of demographic growth and rising demand for food, water and energy in a world developing at differentiated rates requires a new kind of scientific innovation and political will, as well as novel transdisciplinary research. This is exactly what resilience theory, with its roots in ecology and complexity science, aspires to offer. Resilience theory started with a seminal paper by Holling (1973), who argued that the social and the ecological worlds do not divide along disciplinary lines, but form integrated, complex and adaptive systems “characterized by historical dependency, complex dynamics, inherent uncertainty, multiple scales, and multiple equilibria” (Holling 2001: 390). Carl Folke, Science Director of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, sees resilience as “the capacity of a system – be it an individual, a forest, city, or an economy – to deal with change and continue to develop” (Folke 2009: 40). If the best way to approach sustainability is from a ‘socio-ecological’ perspective, what does this actually entail in political, economic, social and cultural terms? What are the implications of such a perspective for the ways in which social and natural scientists work and produce knowledge?

Contributors to this series will engage resilience thinking by examining how social and biological elements combine and interact in different contexts. They will also present their most recent thoughts on how to advance the scientific understanding of linkages and transformations in human and natural systems.

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