Approaches theme plenary I: Frontiers of Social-Ecological-Systems research - Theories and Methods
C1/C2 (250)
10:15 - 11:00

Marten Scheffer, Professor at the Department of Environmental Sciences, Wageningen University, Netherlands
Title: What are the key questions and how can we address them?
Abstract: What are the key questions we need to address to understand how social-ecological systems can cope with variability and change? What are the most important methodological areas that the research community needs to press on very hard, right now, in order to address these questions? Rather than pretending to have the answers up front, I look forward to seeing some interesting contours emerge from our meeting. Certainly, the world has entered turbulent times of change. Most people live far from nature in cities. Meanwhile, reefs and rainforests are threatened, the dry parts of the world are getting drier and sub saharan populations are growing fast. To release pressures, migration may well rise further and societies may look at options for climate engineering.
How may we be most useful as scientists in the midst of change? We are facing changing views at the role and credibility of science, democratization of information on the web and the availability of massive data waiting to be mined in novel ways. Those are exciting times to look ahead. How could we monitor and communicate the state of our natural resources in appealing ways? How can we understand the mechanisms that drive shifts of social perceptions, attitudes, behavior and world views? Do we need smarter algorithms, stronger computers? Cooperation with artists? Different academic education?

Simon Levin, James S. McDonnell Distinguished University Professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University
Title: Challenges in managing social-environmental systems
Abstract: Systems thinking is increasing in influence, extending from environmental systems to
financial systems, international relations and beyond. Of special interest are complex
adaptive systems, in which individual agents interact with emergent consequences
at higher levels that feed back to influence individual behaviors. This lecture will highlight the challenges that are posed, including characterization of robustness and resilience, critical transitions, scaling and problems of the Commons.

Claudia Pahl-Wostl, Professor, Institute for Environmental Systems Research at the University of Osnabrück, Germany
Title: The many facets of human-environmental interactions
Abstract: Transformative changes are needed in human-environmental interactions to master the challenges of the Anthropocene. Human-environmental interactions embrace many facets from quantitative resource flows to symbolic meaning. Understanding these diverse facets and their interplay is essential to understand and facilitate transformative change and processes of social and societal learning from the local to the global. The paper will elaborate on conceptual and methodological challenges and argue in favor of a methodological portfolio approach making fruitful use of a wide range of quantitative and qualitative methods.

Discussant: Marty Anderies, Professor, Arizona State University