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Researching Environment - Society Relations. Professor Philip Lowe Newcastle University Director of UK Research Councils’ Rural Economy and Land Use Programme. Structure. Scientific Challenge of Sustainable Development Social Science and the Environment

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slide1

Researching Environment - Society Relations

Professor Philip Lowe

Newcastle University

Director of UK Research Councils’

Rural Economy and Land Use Programme

slide2

Structure

  • Scientific Challenge of Sustainable Development
  • Social Science and the Environment
  • The Importance of Interdisciplinary Research (e.g. Rural Economy and Land Use Programme)
  • Examples of Upcoming Programmes
slide3

Scientific Challenge of Sustainable Development

  • Sustainable development:
    • implies integration of economic, social and environmental objectives in public and private behaviour
  • Unsustainable development:
    • fostered by fragmented thinking and blinkered disciplinary perspectives
  • Sustainable development:
    • requires integrated solutions (socio-technical and socio-ecological adaptations)

Demands a key role for the social sciences alongside the environmental sciences and technology

social sciences and the environment
Social Sciences and the Environment
  • UK has long track record of bringing social sciences – the human dimension - to the heart of debates on the environment
  • ESRC Global Environmental Change Programme 1990s

- Attitudes and behaviour

- Business and environment

- Policy and institutions

- Sustainability and resource management

  • Particular advances from research included:

- Fiscal policies and development of environmental taxes

- Scientific approaches to environmental valuation

- Insights into public understandings and responses to risk and uncertainty

- Sources of social vulnerability to climate change

uk principles of sustainable development
UK Principles of Sustainable Development

Living Within Environmental Limits

Ensuring a Strong, Healthy and Just Society

Achieving a Sustainable Economy

Using Sound Science Responsibly

Promoting Good Governance

the environment and international development
The Environment and International Development

Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability (STEPS Centre)

http://www.steps-centre.org/

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Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility

  • Overarching themes:
    • The socio-environmental impacts of business
    • Sustainable consumption and production
    • Responsible management
  • Examples of research:
    • Developing local and regional Sustainability Indicators
    • Ecological footprinting of major events
    • New decision tools for improving the sustainability of

business activity

http://www.brass.cf.ac.uk/

Business Relationships, Accountability, Sustainability and Society (BRASS)

slide8

Importance of Interdisciplinary Research

  • Social science increasingly called upon to address solutions to environmental challenges

Calls for:

  • Interdisciplinarity across social and natural sciences
  • More socially accountable science
slide9

Interdisciplinary Research

  • Rural Economy and Land Use Programme (RELU)

Key public challenges include:

  • Restoring trust in food chains
  • Promoting robust rural economies
  • Sustaining agriculture in a liberalised economy
  • Tackling animal disease in a socially acceptable manner
  • Mitigating threats from climate change and invasive species
  • Reducing stress on water catchments

http://www.relu.ac.uk/

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Interdisciplinary Research (RELU)

Socio-Technical Innovation

  • Barriers to alternative pest management strategies
  • Political science, entomology, microbiology, economics

Reframing Science

  • Management of animal and plant diseases
  • Economics, microbiology, veterinary medicine, epidemiology, plant pathology, science studies

Spatiality of Changing Land Use

  • The effects of scale in organic agriculture
  • Human geography, sociology, economics, development studies, environmental informatics and modelling, hydrology, civil/water engineering
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Upcoming Programmes (LWEC)

  • Living with Environmental Change
  • Predicting what will happen and where impacts will be
  • Examining the provision of ‘ecosystem services’
  • Finding ways to use limited resources sustainably

http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/programmes/lwec/

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Living With Environmental Change (LWEC)

Over the next ten years the programme will:

  • connect natural, engineering, social, medical and cultural researchers with policy makers, business, the public and other key stakeholders
  • focus on the regional and local impacts of environmental change from seasons to decades
  • provide decision-makers with best information to manage environmental change and protect vital ecosystem services
slide13

Upcoming Programmes (ESPA)

Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation

  • Improve ecosystem management policies
  • Loss of services from ecosystems reduces wellbeing
  • International focus

http://www.nerc.ac.uk/research/programmes/espa/

slide14

Anglo-Chinese Collaborations

Examples:

  • Sino-European Dragon Programme
  • Ecosystems Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA): China Regional Analysis and Research Strategy
  • Living With Environmental Change (LWEC): seeking a partnership with China
slide15

Conclusions

  • Sustainable development calls for new ways of doing science
  • Understanding complex environment-society relations demands interdisciplinary research combining social and natural sciences
  • Such interdisciplinarity promises more integrated, more socially accountable and more applicable solutions
  • Global environmental change demands effective scientific collaboration not just across disciplines but across nations too
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