Moderator: Dirk Marx
Contributions: Germán Bersalli, Ian Douglas, Adam Douglas Henry, Dirk Marx
Contribution from Germán Bersalli: "Sustainability transitions and regional integration in South America: challenges for transdisciplinary approaches in higher education"
I address the international institutional dimension of current sustainability transitions in South America, emphasizing the need to develop transnational (regional) institutional and regulatory frameworks. By doing so, I reflect on the role of transdisciplinary approaches -such as Human Ecology- in the scientific and higher education system, integrating ecological, socio-economic, cultural, and political perspectives. First, I review critical challenges concerning the protection and sustainable use of natural ecosystems -like the Amazon Forest, the Guarani Aquifer- under several national and subnational jurisdictions. These shared resources and spaces create tension but also opportunities for collaboration among different actors beyond the national borders. Still, common institutions and regulatory frameworks are missing. Second, I briefly review the socio-economic dynamics of South American countries, emphasizing that increasing economic activity, job creation, and external trade remain critical objectives for governments. Simultaneously, unsustainable practices increase pressure on the natural ecosystems that are also affected by climate change. Again, most of these socio-economic challenges transcend national borders and require the development of regional policy strategies. Finally, taking the example of Argentina, I discuss how these social-ecological-economic dimensions are addressed in the country's higher education system and the role of transdisciplinarity.
Contribution from Ian Douglas: "Teaching Human Ecology by walking round an old gravel pit"
The study of human ecology cannot be disentangled from a process of becoming both ecological and sociological in the field. Bringing practical experience to the forefront of education in human ecology helps people to become aware of the need for sensitivity towards all other human beings and to all components of the ecosystems in which they live. In teaching about the urban environment and sustainable development in Manchester, beginning in 1979, I found field excursions and small field projects to be among the things that students recalled the most vividly decades later. In a complex city whose character has changed over 50 years or more, a walk lasting two hours can unravel many examples of environmental management, cultural change, ecological restoration, recreational demands on the landscape and the consequences of engineering works. A walk around a former gravel pit adjoining the River Mersey in South Manchester demonstrates flood management, sewage treatment; the impact of golf courses, the ecological restoration of landfills, eighteenth century canal building; the valley as a transport corridor for highways, powerlines and gas mains; nature conservations and regulation of the use of lake waters for recreation. Other walks show changes in use of buildings, including canal warehouses, but especially religious buildings that have changed uses, reflecting the cultural history of inner-city suburbs. I urge all engaged in human ecology education to explore the local environment with their students.
Contribution from Adam Douglas Henry: "Mapping University Research & Education Networks to Support Learning for Sustainability"
Universities are an important focal point for scientific innovation around grand challenges of sustainability (“learning”). As such, universities engaged in environmental research have repeatedly considered how to organize their research and education landscape through the creation of a “networked system” including centers, institutes, departments, as well as incentives for collaboration. In practice, these efforts have often faced a fundamental challenge of learning in networks: Learning is supported through networks that promote diversity and integration across disciplines, whereas real-world networks tend towards fragmentation and the creation of disciplinary silos. A persistent challenge for universities is thus to overcome disciplinary fragmentation so that research networks include a broad array of perspectives. It is believed that cross-disciplinary networks will promote the “convergence science” needed to adequately address grand research challenges. This presentation discusses the general problem of learning in networks and presents a network-analytic method for systematically mapping university landscapes. This approach may be used to evaluate university approaches to environmental research and education, and suggest new strategies for organizing universities efforts to promote learning for sustainability.
Contribution from Dirk Marx: "The Transdisciplinary Process: The Theoretical TransLAB"t""
In order to research and try out transdisciplinarity (TD) methodologically, it is necessary to construct border objects (i) thinking and acting, (ii) place, (iii) border, (iv) reinforcement in a processual way. Disciplinary sciences still shape the public space through a discourse conducted there. Research takes place in narrow assignments using the "currency" found there. TD is methodologically more important today than ever before. So far, in the course of transformative research that follows sustainability research, a debate is conducted theoretically but hardly practically and thus not as having a transformative effect. Such a view is insufficient in the light of the challenges of the 21st century. For this reason, a new way of looking at the typification of science must be sought and found. For it is no longer just about rapid and low-risk change that secures investments, but equitable change that clearly leads to transitions. Such suggestions also need communication that has yet to be found. Sustainability has become transformation and transformation has become transition. But as long as people do not clearly address common issues, actively shaped change will remain the exception.The TransLAB can make a significant contribution in two respects to creating, recognising and using conditions that have not existed before. The "walk-in" presentation makes it possible for the first time.