Category Archives: Process

Processes to move towards a sustainable society

How Science & Business Can Cooperate on Keeping our World Sustainable

World Café

Finding common ground & richness in diversity. Business and science working together — an important theme running throughout this conference. This is a conversation that could take us places.

What does science need to do & what does business need to do, to help keep our world a sustainable place to live & thrive in, for all? The results from this conversation go forward to New York in October.

What’s the common ground that lies between us — where can we work together to get a better outcome for all? What is the contribution of science and what is the contribution of business? What do you have to share that might help us go further together? Sixty people began to consider the Café question:
What are the respective roles of science and business in the sustainability agenda? What would facilitate a useful exchange?

Engage in your own conversations starting from where you are, enjoying this fine World Café’s harvest on how can we enhance & encourage each other’s contribution to the common goal of a better world for all? [PDF doc].

Gallery photos by Kim Davis – Courtesy of Planet Under Pressure 2012

Global Sustainability Goals

World Café

Transition to a sustainable future Earth.   An opportunity to have a look at the process of creating global sustainability goals — talking together in World Café, creating a graphic look at our priorities, coming together around how it might happen.

This session was attended by a liberal mix of scientists, policymakers, representatives from NGOs, government, media, academics and others.

The intention was to gather suggestions on the process of developing the Sustainable Development Goals framework.  So what it is that we can see together that none of us can see alone?

Engage in your own conversations starting from where you are, enjoying this fine World Café’s harvest on the means to a desired end: How might we get the best out of creating goals in order to co-create the future we collectively want? [PDF doc].

Gallery photos by Kim Davis – Courtesy of Planet Under Pressure 2012

Young Scientist/Youth Declaration

by a group of young delegates to the Planet Under Pressure 2012 Conference, reprinted with permission from 

Dear leaders of the world,
We are young delegates to the Planet Under Pressure conference, and we ask you for concrete action based on the scientific knowledge of global challenges outlined in the State of the Planet declaration from the conference.
Problems of environment, economics, equity and social justice are intrinsically linked. Any action addressing one affects them all.  Science (including social science) can help to identify solutions, but citizen engagement is vital for solutions to work.  Where solutions exist that improve all of them, we ask you to implement them. If they have already been implemented, we ask you to enforce them. Where solutions exist that address one at the expense of the others, we ask you to rethink them.
Where solutions for environmental, economic, and societal problems conflict, we commit to finding better solutions. To start, we propose the following:
·      Replace GDP with a metric that also incorporates environment and social equity
·      Remove barriers for developing countries to have more voice and decision-making power in international dialogues
·      Reform market mechanisms to allow participation in decision-making from stakeholders at all scales
·      Offer financial incentives to young eco-social entrepreneurs and social and environmental researchers, especially in developing countries
·      Regulate open access to knowledge in all arenas of business, policy, and science
·      Transition from short-term projects to long-term programs for education and sustainability-oriented decision-making
·      Make the sustainable development activities of business and government more accountable to citizens
We promise to:
·      Make science more accessible and translatable across sectors and interests so that it can be used for policy making and long term business decisions that will ultimately drive a sustainable society
·      Expand trans-discliplinary research and engage with user communities in efforts to develop integrative solutions for sustainability
These lists are incomplete, but they are a good place to start. You will have to take hard positions against vested interests standing in the way of such decisions. We, your constituents, support you in this. You the decision-makers and we the citizens must stand together to achieve a stable and sustainable future for our children and for future generations.
During the Planet Under Pressure conference (London, March 26-29 2012), young natural and social scientists from throughout the world drafted an address to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio de Janeiro, June 2012). This was the Final Draft, re-printed from the Youth/Young Scientist blog  Their blog chronicles that process. 


Green Economy: Roadmaps, Routes and Destinations

By guest blogger Adrian Ely, Head of Impact and Engagement, ESRC STEPS Centre

We need green economy roadmaps with “concrete goals and benchmarks of progress” and we need them fast, according to the zero draft of the outcome document from the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or Rio+20.  Between now and 2015 this ambitious plan aims to establish indicators to evaluate implementation, mechanisms for technology transfer, sharing of know-how and capacity building.

Technology and innovation can doubtless help shift the direction of development so that it contributes to sustainable development goals, or keeps the global system within the ‘safe operating space’ suggested by records from the pre-anthropocene.  In this sense, the overall direction of travel is clear.  However, the routes available are wide open, and the end destination will be determined not by any blueprint for what a green economy will look like, but by our endless creativity and collective values.

The metaphor of the roadmap can be seen as marking out routes for innovation that see input-output measures of current technologies (such as energy/carbon or resource intensity, pollution reduction or the creation of high quality employment) increasingly improving in their contribution to sustainable development.

But the roads ahead are determined by our current location.  Whilst roadmaps drawn up by industrial sectors might act as 20-lane highways down which firms race in competition for market share and technological dominance, there are many other stakeholders and communities who start from very different locations in their search for sustainability.

The STEPS Centre argues that equal attention must be paid to the multitude of bicycle lanes, bush-paths and mountain trails that draw on the knowledge and creativity held within these groups to collectively carry them in the direction of a more environmentally-sustainable, just and prosperous future.

How can we ensure due attention is paid to these groups and their pathways to sustainability?  The first step is to recognise that the direction of change – not the kinds of technologies we currently favour – should provide the basis for setting goals.  At the international level, therefore, rather than aiming for a specific number of people to be connected to a national electricity grid, or a specific number of square meters of thin film solar PV to be installed, by 2030, we should focus on the provision of energy services, without specifying what technologies are most appropriate in given contexts.  Different technological options can be explored through inclusive political processes and market mechanisms or other policy instruments can thereafter be formulated in a way that stimulates continuous innovation and enables human ingenuity to explore new pathways to sustainability.

The STEPS Centre’s session on Day 2 of Planet Under Pressure ‘Pathways to sustainability: opening up technological futures in the green economy’ will explore novel ways of contributing to this governance challenge – through technology assessment, participatory technology development, market mechanisms and social inclusion.

At the same time, there is also a need to recognise the intrinsic ability of some technologies (or socio-technical systems) to work to close down future possible pathways – through economic, political or ecological impacts.  Another session – ‘Governance of Emerging Technologies in the context of sustainable development’ – aims to explore how innovations can be fully and fairly assessed for their safety, ethics, societal or environmental impacts.  Emerging technological ‘superhighways’ have the potential to ‘steer’ our collective future pathways and deserve more co-ordinated attention from the international community.

Through highlighting directions of travel rather than routes or destinations, roadmaps can serve as useful guides to sustainable development.  The Planet Under Pressure conference offers a unique opportunity for the international community to explore diverse pathways towards a greener, fairer economy.

Adrian Ely works as head of impact and engagement for the STEPS Centre (Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability).  As part of these efforts, Adrian convened the project ‘Innovation, Sustainability, Development: A New Manifesto’, which recommended new ways of linking science and innovation for a more sustainable, equitable and resilient future.  Adrian is co-convening a session entitled ‘Pathways to sustainability: opening up technological futures in the green economy’ on Day 2 of the ‘Planet Under Pressure’ Conference – 27th March at 10.30am in Room 1 –

Where is the vision?

by guest blogger Dr Mike Edwards, Independent Environmental Educator and Musician, IndigeNouse  and Didjitalis

We face a stark choice: we can either carry on destroying the planet to the point of catastrophe, or we can change our habits to ensure a sustainable future, where humans can flourish in a clean and healthy environment.

This sounds like an easy decision, but even those affluent enough to have the time and space to think about the future appear to have difficulty envisioning what true sustainability will look like. Meanwhile, those living in the ‘here and now’ of poverty – where the next meal is of greater concern than the future of the planet – are already struggling to cope with the effects of environmental despoliation and possibly the impact of human-induced climate change.

Most solutions proffered by the affluent Western world don’t want to address the deep systemic problems with the ways of thinking and seeing the world that have led us to the situation we have today. True sustainability is not just ‘green capitalism’; it has to learn from diverse world views, including those of indigenous people in the global south.

What has become known as ‘sustainable development’ is a series of technocratic fixes that will never be enough to combat the serious threats to our environment. Even worse, they shift attention away from fundamental actions we need to take to reconnect with nature and shift towards a value system that doesn’t place material wealth first.

So how do we change?

How do we create the shared vision, the ‘new story’ that will allow us to make the radical changes that need to be made?

First and foremost, the vision needs to be appealing for it to become taken up by the collective consciousness. Fear of the future is not enough: we need to understand what stirs people’s hearts, what makes them tick, what makes them strive for a better world.  This is not the realm of science; this is the realm of the arts.

I’ll leave the last word here to Leo Tolstoy, who wrote that, art is: ‘…a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity’.

Is art the essential missing element in moving towards a sustainable world? Is the lack of emotion in science why we lack a coherent vision? How do we nurture a new and holistic narrative about the future?

Tell us what you think in the comments, and come along to our three sessions where we will be bringing together voices from science, the arts, business and the global south to challenge the dominant approach to how we relate to the environment.

Visioning a truly sustainable world I – 27 March, 12.30

Visioning a truly sustainable world II – 28 March, 12.30

Visioning a truly sustainable world III – 28 March, 17.20


The UK Collaborative on Development Sciences  (UKCDS), the Arts and Humanities Research Council  (AHRC), the Natural Environment Research Council  (NERC), the British Council, Comic Relief, CAFOD  and Sainsbury’s  are convening three sessions at Planet under Pressure. This blog is based on a presentation that Dr Mike Edwards will give in their final session: Making the Vision Reality – Creative, Connected Science.