Sustainability Science

Sustainability Science

A Multidisciplinary Approach You do not have access to this content

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Author(s):
UN
23 Oct 2013
Pages:
498
ISBN:
9789210563260 (PDF)
http://dx.doi.org/10.18356/6ababf78-en

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Sustainability science is an academic discipline that emerged in response to threats to the sustainability of the global environment. Its purpose is to help build a sustainable society by developing solutions to climate change, the exhaustion of resources, ecological destruction and other environmental crises that threaten the future of humanity. Sustainability science seeks comprehensive, integrated solutions to complex problems and a restructuring of education and research that spans multiple disciplines. It demands the development of policies that protect the natural and cultural diversity of different regions and promotes the physical and economic health of their inhabitants. This volume offers approaches to the development of a transdisciplinary perspective that embraces natural, social and human sciences in the quest for a sustainable society. It also strives for a global perspective while incorporating the wisdom and experience of local societies.
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  • Preface
    This book forms part of a series on sustainability science. Sustainability science is a newly emerging academic field that seeks to understand the dynamic linkages between global, social and human systems, and to provide a holistic perspective on the concerns and issues between and within these systems. It is a problem-oriented discipline encompassing visions and methods for examining and repairing these systems and linkages.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Introduction

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    • Sustainability science: Building a new academic discipline
      In scientific and academic circles worldwide, the opportunity to develop the emerging discipline of sustainability science has never been greater. This new science has its origins in the concept of sustainable development proposed by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED), also known as the Brundtland Commission (WCED, 1987). Defining sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”, the WCED garnered global support for its argument that development must ensure the coexistence of the economy, society and the environment. Today, sustainability is recognized the world over as a key issue facing twenty-first-century society.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts The connections between existing sciences and sustainability science

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    • The structuring of knowledge
      The structuring of knowledge has become a challenging issue because of the segmentation and specialization of our intellectual base due to a flood of information. Currently, there are more than 3,000 papers about sustainability and sustainable development, a quantity beyond our capacity to read so as to grasp the overall structure of sustainability science. And the number of papers continues to grow exponentially. But such concerns are nothing new, and indeed they were articulated in the 1960s by De Solla Price (1963). The increase in the amount of knowledge itself is not problematic, because knowledge is the driver that advances our society and civilization. But it is also a fact that we feel overwhelmed and frustrated by the lack of a comprehensive view. It is no exaggeration to say that, these days, we are drowning in a sea of information as we look for knowledge.
    • The structuring of action
      Section 2-1 illustrated the multidisciplinary characteristics of sustainability science and cited the importance of developing an interdisciplinary intellectual base through the structuring of knowledge. Knowledge definitely plays a critical role in the advancement of sustainability science. But it must be noted that a sustainable society can be achieved only when knowledge is accompanied by action. Knowledge without action cannot change a situation, and action without knowledge leads to uncertain results.
    • The structuring of knowledge based on ontology engineering
      As one of the ultimate goals of research in any domain, knowledgestructuring has been carried out to date through the writing of papers and books as part of ordinary academic research activities. In this respect, what scholars are aiming at in the knowledge-structuring of sustainability science (hereafter referred to as SS) might seem to be nothing special. Nevertheless, SS researchers are particularly dedicated to the structuring of knowledge. There are two reasons for this
    • The application of ontology engineering to biofuel problems
      One of the most cited definitions of ontology is “an explicit and formal specification of a conceptualization” (Gruber, 1993: 199). Through conceptualization, relevant concepts are identified to explicitly describe a phenomenon in a formal machine-readable language. There are many applications of ontology engineering, such as building semantic web systems (Sabou et al., 2005), facilitating knowledge management (Brandt et al., 2008), supporting the integrated assessment of agricultural systems (Van Ittersum et al., 2008), structuring knowledge for sustainability science (Kumazawa et al., 2009) and developing a task-oriented mobile service navigation system (Sasajima et al., 2009).
    • Conclusion part 2
      As noted in Chapter 1 of this volume, sustainability science can overcome the conditions that contribute to the breakdown of global, social and human systems and the links among them only if it can mobilize all relevant fields of study in the effort to identify the phenomena and solve the problems that threaten the sustainability of these systems. To accomplish this crucial task, it is not enough simply to compile the fruits of research conducted under the old model of mutually isolated, compartmentalized academic disciplines seeking specific solutions to specific problems. A practical approach to integrating the sciences and the humanities must also be devised if such “integration” is not to remain an empty slogan.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Concepts of “sustainability” and “sustainability science”

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    • The evolution of the concept of sustainability science
      This section will examine the circumstances in which the study of sustainability science has been proposed and the basis for establishing the Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S) by reviewing the historical evolution of the concept of sustainability.
    • Exploring sustainability science: Knowledge, institutions and innovation
      Global sustainability concerns long-term constraints on resources, including, among others, food, water and energy. The challenge of sustainability is the reconciliation of society’s development goals with the planet’s environmental limits over the long term (Clark and Dickson, 2003). The new field of sustainability science now being developed aims at understanding the fundamental character of interactions among natural, human and social systems (Clark and Dickson, 2003; Kates et al., 2001; Komiyama and Takeuchi, 2006). Sustainability science concerns various domains, including nature (for example, climate, oceans, rivers, plants and other components of the natural environment), technology (for example, machinery, chemicals, biotechnology, materials and energy) and society (for example, economy, industry, finance, demography, culture, ethics and history). The academic landscape of sustainability science likewise consists of clusters of diverse disciplines (Kajikawa et al., 2007).
    • Multifaceted aspects of sustainability science
      Sustainability science deals with problems containing various aspects that are interlinked with each other. In many cases, such problems take a relatively long time to solve, which makes the nature of the mitigation complicated. Regarding the climate change issue, the projection of Earth’s temperature rise is a problem for physicists; however, estimates of the effects of temperature rise on water resources, crop production, sea-level rise, infectious disease, fisheries and forestry are carried out by scientists and engineers in various fields. In order to implement effective climate change mitigation programmes in society, suitable political systems and attractive business opportunities should be developed for an extended period of time. In addition, scientific findings and new technologies have to be accepted by society. In order to mitigate global warming effectively, various areas of academia, politics, business and society have to cooperate. None of them should be left out. Many problems today are of similar complexity and require communication and cooperation among different kinds of people. This can be expected to have a synergistic effect in promoting innovations and dramatically accelerating the solution rate.
    • Conclusion part 3
      This chapter has discussed the history, concept and characteristics of sustainability science. The development of sustainability science has occurred in many places in the world. The reason for this phenomenon is that the problems we face today are complex and a single academic discipline alone cannot solve them. As discussed in nearly every section of this chapter, such problems as climate change, biodiversity, urbanization and poverty require the participation of various stakeholders with differing areas of knowledge and specialization. The process of solving complex problems such as these usually takes a long time and the solution pathways need to be modified according to the state of the society or the natural environment.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Tools and methods for sustainability science

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    • Introduction
      Sustainability science is a discipline that points the way towards a sustainable society (Chapter 1). Sustainability science is more than just the collection of specific solutions to specific sustainability issues in specific contexts. But it has to incorporate methods to identify problems and solutions relating to sustainability in specific contexts and to manage the process of transitions to the solutions. In addition, it has to incorporate tools to implement solutions through influencing the behaviour of actors in society. This chapter introduces tools and methods to identify problems relating to sustainability issues, to find solutions, to manage the process of transition to solutions, and to implement solutions through influencing the behaviour of actors.
    • Problem-structuring methods based on a cognitive mapping approach
      During the past decade, the definition of environmental problems has evolved to include problems associated with energy consumption, air quality, equity, safety, land-use impact, noise and the more efficient utilization of fiscal resources in urban and/or rural areas. However, not everyone shares the recognition of these problems as being “environmental”. They may be recognized by different actors in different ways. Recent studies suggest that individuals” decisions often depend on the decisionmaking context, which is sometimes referred to as a framing effect (Tversky and Kahneman, 1981, 1986). The framing effect can also be observed in sustainability science, particularly in the problem identification process. In order to identify sustainability-related problems, public-policymakers need as accurate as possible an understanding of the many participants’ problem identification perceptions with regard to the social/natural system. Additionally, they should analyse this problem structure from a multidisciplinary viewpoint. When more actors are involved in the system, their perceptions of problem identification become more difficult to comprehend. Inaccurate speculation and misunderstanding about a participant’s problem perceptions may lead to a deadlock in building consensus. A well-designed and sophisticated method for understanding participant problem perceptions and providing feedback to stakeholders may contribute significantly to better planning and management of sustainable systems.
    • Technology governance
      The development and diffusion of innovative technologies is indispensable for sustainable development. However, the development of technology is also accompanied by various risks and social problems, as well as benefits. And, as the scope of those issues has grown wider, the range of interested actors has increased accordingly (Shiroyama, 2007b).
    • Policy instruments
      The concept of sustainability may lead to the need for constraints or targets (for example, safe minimum standards) to make the use of environmental resources more sustainable. However, setting such targets does not per se guarantee the attainment of sustainability. What is needed is change in the behaviour of economic actors so that targets consistent with the concept of sustainability are met. In order to alter the actors’ behaviour, incentive mechanisms that lead them to modify their decisions on environmental resource use must be established within the framework of economic and social institutions. Such mechanisms may not be provided without policy intervention. Environmental policies – public policies for environmental quality improvement or sustainable use of environmental resources – must be employed to provide economic actors with incentives to make decisions with consideration for the environmental impacts their actions may have. Environmental economics has a major role to play in the design of such policies, and the choice of environmental policy instruments is crucial in designing environmental policies.
    • Consensus-building processes
      The term “consensus-building” has been used to describe a wide range of activities that seek agreement by multiple stakeholders and the general public. The ambiguity of its definition, however, has made this term popular among scholars and policymakers who are interested in decisionmaking processes in the public arena. In fact, even congressional lobbying is sometimes considered part of a consensus-building effort.
    • Public deliberation for sustainability governance: GMO debates in Hokkaido
      Building a sustainable society requires public deliberation and participatory decision-making on environmental problems by citizens. Because top-down decision-making can lead to environmental discrimination, a democratic decision-making process is also indispensable in order to achieve environmental justice. Environmental discrimination is caused by the immaturity of democratic governance systems as well as by social discrimination. Debate on environmental problems inevitably involves conflicts over differing values, but solutions to such problems often require some kind of local knowledge. Citizens have the right to participate in decision-making concerning environmental policies and, as laypeople, may also be able to contribute to the solution of local environmental problems through their local knowledge.
    • Science and technology communication
      The promotion of science and technology (S&T) communication is one of the top priorities on the current agendas of science, technology and innovation policy in industrial countries. On the one hand, S&T communication is expected to enhance public understanding of the science and technology that sustain our societies, drive our economies and affect our lives. The products and processes of science and technology are so prevalent in our societies that we cannot live without an appropriate understanding of their concepts, logics, mechanisms and effects. On the other hand, S&T communication is also expected to promote experts’ and policymakers’ understanding of public needs and concerns regarding the development and uses of science and technology. In contemporary democratic societies, policymakers cannot obtain legitimacy for their decisions on scientific and technological development without public consent.
    • Global governance
      The last several decades have witnessed serious challenges to global sustainability, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, fishery depletion, food insecurity and increasing poverty. These issues are complex in terms of policy areas and actors. Climate change is a good example of this complexity. The environmental effects of climate change can have a huge impact on socioeconomic systems. For example, extreme weather can reduce crop yields, which in turn can affect food security. Global warming may increase the spread of infectious diseases, which can have serious impacts on human health. A rise in sea level can put coastal communities in danger. Dealing with the effects of climate change requires actions across many policy areas by various relevant actors. And, despite the fact that global sustainability is recognized as a “common” challenge, the actors involved have different stakes and motivations. In addition, actions that either cause or mitigate global sustainability problems produce effects across territorial borders. Consequently these challenges cannot be solved by unilateral actions confined within national borders. A mechanism that guides concerted action at the global level is required.
    • Conclusion part 4
      Sustainability science is “mode 2 science” that demonstrates its relevance through providing specific solutions to specific contexts, as discussed in Section 3-3. But sustainability science is more than just the collection of specific solutions to specific contexts. The knowledge used to provide specific solutions to specific contexts is sometimes called “tacit knowledge” or “prudence”, which is not transparent. But sustainability science should provide the means to visualize ways of providing specific solutions through transparent tools and methods as analysed in this chapter.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts The redefinition of existing sciences in light of sustainability science

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    • Global change and the role of the natural sciences
      The basic purpose of the natural sciences is to understand the dynamism of nature by applying deduction based on physical and chemical laws and validating the results with observational and experimental data. Therefore, it is considered important to find the essential phenomenon by filtering the various noises that are included in the natural phenomena, and to analyse it. At the same time, quantitative expression is preferred to qualitative expression. Most discussion and deduction is based on countable quantities. Thus, the analytical method tends to become the dominant method because it applies logic to a target phenomenon and then explores its mechanism. Usually, mathematical expression is used to represent the logic. Of course, the analytical method is not the only method in the natural sciences. Other methods include observation and description, where the emphasis is on knowing nature itself and every detail is well documented. These primary data are organized on the basis of the topic’s characteristics and the scientist’s interest. Through this process, filtering is conducted.
    • Science and technology for society
      Sustainability science presents a dilemma to scholars, decision-makers and practitioners worldwide. On the one hand, there is increasing recognition of the need for a new way to address complex contemporary problems that threaten the sustainability of planet Earth. On the other, there is confusion in scientific communities as to how to organize research to meet these threats head-on with the urgency that they demand (Kauffman, 2009). In recent years, activity has increased in support of the development of sustainability science as an academically established field, including the creation of academic posts, the development of curriculums, opportunities for scholarly publication in peer-reviewed journals, and the establishment of degree programmes in sustainability science. A 2009 Special Feature edition of the journal Sustainability Science on “Education for Sustainable Development” illustrates the progress that is being made to prepare the next generation of scientists, engineers and decisionmakers with the tools they need to address twenty-first-century challenges (Takeuchi, 2009). The addition to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) of the United States of a section devoted specifically to sustainability science also points to this progress, as do efforts to build networks of scientists around the world to address sustainability issues. These issues are complex problems that lie at the intersection of global, social and human systems and thus transcend disciplinary and geographical boundaries.
    • Science for sustainable agriculture
      Modern agriculture, which underwent revolutionary progress to achieve its twentieth-century form, can be defined in a single phrase as “petroleumdependent agriculture”. Inexpensive fossil fuels are used to operate large machinery, which enables large-scale cultivation, mono-cropping, standardization and high-volume transport; and the synthesis of fertilizers and agricultural chemicals permits the improvement of soil fertility and simplified management of ecosystems. Until the nineteenth century, agriculturalists were basically forced to engage in stable sustainable agriculture that took maximum advantage of nature’s functions. But during the twentieth century, by taking full advantage of the energy sources provided by inexpensive fossil fuels, “using natural functions” gave way to “applying technology to transform nature”. This form of agriculture is referred to as the modern agricultural revolution because its basic technologies were established at the start of the twentieth century, permitting a great leap in production. The modern agricultural revolution is characterized by (1) the mechanization and increased scale of agriculture, with high-volume transport made possible by motorization using fossil fuels (petroleum) to power internal combustion engines; (2) the management of soil fertility and ecology using chemical fertilizers and agricultural chemicals; (3) the development of high-yield varieties; (4) advanced water management in some regions; and (5) remarkable increases in labour productivity as a result of the first four characteristics. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the basic technologies for motorization through the use of gasoline to power internal combustion engines were established. Also, Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch developed the technology to produce ammonia by fixing atmospheric nitrogen gas. The Haber–Bosch process is a method of producing ammonia using an iron oxide catalyst to trigger a reaction of nitrogen gas and hydrogen gas under supercritical conditions, 300–550°C and 15–25 MPa. Thanks to this process, it is now possible to manufacture the nitrogen fertilizers that play a crucial role in agriculture. In this way, the fundamental technologies for modern agriculture were almost entirely established in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. One more important factor in the development of petroleum-dependent agriculture was crop yield improvement technologies based on large-scale fertilization and the breeding of extremely highyielding varieties. These varieties included Norin 10 wheat and Yukara rice, which were bred by Japan in the 1950s and successfully contributed to heavier yields of tropical wheat and rice, an event called the Green Revolution.
    • Defining the sustainable use of fishery resources
      Sustainable use of a fishery resource is an important goal for many management agencies worldwide. Sustainability in world capture fisheries can provide two major benefits to society, namely food and income security from both direct (harvesting) and indirect (for example, processing) industries associated with fishing activities. Through both wild capture fisheries and aquaculture, fish offer a major source of protein to much of the world’s population and can impart substantial economic returns, either in the short term, or in the long term if managed in a sustainable manner. The scientific evidence today, however, indicates failures in the sustainable use and management of fisheries resources, with researchers predicting a 90 per cent removal of predatory fish (Myers and Worm, 2003) and warning that shortfalls in the supply of fish could have devastating consequences for human populations. What we see today are many fisheries suffering from too many boats fishing too few fish (Pauly et al., 2002), resulting in fewer catches globally and even full stock collapses. Although a limited number of these collapses may have been caused or exacerbated by natural phenomena (for example, climate variability), human activities and overfishing – essentially non-sustainable management – are the primary culprits (Pauly et al., 2002).
    • The market economy and the environment
      It was in the 1980s that market fundamentalism – the faith in the market’s omnipotence – became extremely fashionable in Europe and the United States. In 1979, Margaret Thatcher took office as prime minister of the United Kingdom and, in 1981, Ronald Reagan became president of the United States. In Japan, Yasuhiro Nakasone became prime minister in 1982. Each of these three politicians was second to none in terms of their vitality and leadership, and they resolutely pushed free-market reforms forward in their respective countries. Based on their conviction that the best policy is to entrust all economic activity to the market, these three administrations loosened or rescinded legal regulations, privatized state-owned industries, liberalized financial markets and relaxed or abolished protectionism.
    • Social science and knowledge for sustainability
      What does social science have to offer to sustainability’ There are already working examples of the application of social scientific tools to sustainability-related problems, such as environmental cost/benefit analysis, emissions trading, conflict resolution techniques, institutional analysis of common property management and re-appreciation of indigenous knowledge. These contributions, ranging from economics to anthropology, are no doubt significant and often contain practical implications; however, they also force us to wonder whether contributions by the social sciences should be limited to providing practical tools and techniques alone.
    • The human dimension in sustainability science
      It was only about 20 years ago that people first developed an awareness of sustainability as a major issue. But times change rapidly, and people are now widely aware of this as the most pressing problem facing global society. In terms of sustainability-related phenomena, experts point to various global environmental problems such as global warming and contamination of water and soil, but many political and economic problems, such as regional conflicts and the North/South divide, are also involved in sustainability. To address such issues, the cutting-edge achievements of both the natural and the social sciences should naturally be mobilized. But the humanities also have a role to play in examining the thought, cultures and ways of seeing and thinking that underlie these problems, as well as in identifying problems still on the horizon, conceptualizing a desirable state of human existence and global society, and offering a direction towards solutions.
    • The integration of existing academic disciplines for sustainability science
      This chapter has examined how various academic disciplines might contribute to the formation of sustainability science: the physical sciences as represented by climate system science; agriculture-related science and technology; economics and the other social sciences; and the humanities, most notably philosophy. Here, in summation, how these diverse existing disciplines might be integrated into the framework of sustainability science will be considered.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Education

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    • Overview of sustainability education
      The twentieth century was an era of rapid advancement in science and technology and of the expansion of regional economies into a worldwide network (in other words, a global economy). Production, transportation and consumption grew drastically throughout the world, and the global population rose from 1.7 billion at the beginning of the twentieth century to 6.0 billion in 2000. Yet, hidden behind this dramatic economic growth, various issues remain unsolved.
    • Core competencies
      The previous section discussed the historical background and various issues associated with sustainability science in the twenty-first century, and confirmed that new education programmes are needed to develop the human resources capable of building a sustainable society. Therefore, alongside Education for Sustainable Development (ESD), which has grown in popularity internationally in recent years (see, for example, UNESCO, 2005, 2007), there is a need for education that can provide a comprehensive understanding of the global, social and human systems and their interrelationships. It is also desirable that the search continue for other diverse teaching methods as well.
    • Pedagogies of sustainability education
      What sort of real-world situations are likely to be faced by students who have completed a course in sustainability science’ The answer to this question will show the direction to be taken in the pedagogy of sustainability education. Pedagogy can be described simply as a “strategy of instruction”. However, teaching, instruction and facilitation are sometimes discussed as distinct activities. In this section, the position is adopted that all three are necessary in sustainability education, and a broad view is taken of pedagogy as design that considers all the elements relevant to the praxis of teaching and learning. As far as space permits, not just the ideas and content of sustainability education will be examined but also its methodologies, learners, teachers/facilitators, basic attitudes towards science and nature and the learning environment, while considering situations that the student is likely to encounter after completing a course in sustainability science (see Box 6.3.1).
    • Key concepts for sustainability education
      Section 6-2 of this chapter discussed the nature of the competencies desirable for sustainability education, which include the ability to understand the diversity of sustainability-related factors and academic disciplines and the complexity of their interactions, the ability to view sustainability problems as a whole system, the ability to think in a transdisciplinary way (that is, thinking that transcends the boundaries of one’s own discipline and culture), the ability to communicate, interpret, present, facilitate and form consensus across different disciplines, cultures and languages, and, last but not least, various relevant social skills. Also discussed was why sustainability education should be approached in a problem-oriented, project-oriented, case-oriented manner addressing specific questions or topics that bear relevance to society. This section will review the questions “What is a sustainable society?” and “What is needed for building a sustainable society?” while introducing four key concepts for sustainability education: dilemmas, detachment, dynamics and diversity.
    • Economics, development and governance in sustainability education
      This section focuses on education and research involving the economics and governance of sustainable development and discusses unique features that contrast with environmental economics. It then considers what these unique features require of education in the economics of sustainable development and examines ways to address these requirements.
    • Practices and barriers in sustainability education: A case study of Osakas university
      Behind the recent recognition of sustainability as an educational theme are growing concerns about climate change and the increasing environmental impacts of human activities. Sustainability education is essential for building sustainable societies that can overcome global environmental problems in relation not just to the environment but also to existing social and economic systems. However, conventional education at universities has not yet fully addressed the implementation measures required for developing the human resources that can contribute to resolving these problems. Conventional specialized instruction in the modern natural sciences and social sciences is representative of Descartes’ reductionism in that its objective is to acquire the necessary skills from the knowledge systems developed through this education, but in doing so no fundamental attempt is made to answer questions beyond the scope of such systems. Hence something is needed that goes beyond the boundaries of conventional professional education in order to provide an education that offers comprehensive solutions and visions pertinent to the issues addressed by sustainability.
    • Field study in sustainability education: A case from Furano City, Hokkaido, Japan
      Understanding problems from a global perspective is essential to the examination of sustainability associated with such issues as global warming, deforestation, self-sufficiency in energy and food, and population problems such as an ageing population. However, sustainability is an extremely broad concept, and considering issues only from a global perspective does not necessarily lead to improvements in sustainability for specific local regions. Therefore, in the midst of accelerating globalization, it has become crucial to discuss how local regions, which are affected by globalization in no small way, should make efforts towards achieving sustainability.
    • Sustainability education by IR3S universities
      The Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S) defines sustainability science as “an academic discipline that seeks to understand the interactions between global, social and human systems, and proposes comprehensive solutions and ideas for sustainability” (Komiyama and Takeuchi, 2006: 3). Based on this definition, IR3S has been engaged in research, education and industry collaboration in its mission to build this new academic discipline. In the field of education, IR3S has also made efforts to develop a curriculum for graduate-level courses in sustainability science and to implement an education programme using that curriculum.
    • Conclusion part 6
      This chapter was co-authored by the education officers of the five universities participating in the IR3S Joint Educational Program and is based on their discussions about sustainability science in the course of the programme’s development. Thus far, the principles and background of sustainability science education have been explained, as well as its content, methods and objectives, and the educational initiatives of IR3S have also been introduced.
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  • Expand / Collapse Hide / Show all Abstracts Conclusion

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    • Building a global meta-network for sustainability science
      Sustainability science has grown through the efforts, both individual and collective (via organizations such as the Alliance for Global Sustainability), of some of the top academic and research institutions in North America, Europe and Asia. The findings and proposals generated by these efforts often reflect the particular strengths of their institutions of origin. The Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S), for example, tends to be stronger in the areas of engineering and the natural sciences, but less so in the humanities and the social sciences, an imbalance that has been frequently cited by the Organizational Evaluating Committee of the Program for Encouraging Development of Strategic Research Centers (Super COE) and that IR3S has sought to remedy. This committee, which consists of globally prominent experts in diverse fields who possess an objective viewpoint, ensures the transparency of evaluations and appraisals of the IR3S project. Despite its best efforts, however, even a research network such as IR3S, which brings together universities and other institutions throughout Japan, cannot by itself adequately address the multifarious problems associated with global sustainability.
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