2021 Assemblage – Women in Science, Degrowth, Rewilding and more

Preface: This is the second in a series of posts based on emails that spurred discussion among the SERT google group, and is part of a new effort to share some of the highlights of those materials publicly. While we do not replicate here all the subsequent exchanges, we hope that the reader still finds the originary threads (re)generative. This particular post is unique insofar as it assembles a select series of pieces published elsewhere; we fully attribute credit (including a direct link) to each source. These items together constitute a series of highlights from 2021. Topics covered include women in science, degrowth, rewilding, the Convention on Biological Diversity and Finance, Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures, conflict prevention, systems change education programs, and upscaling resilience. New comments on this blog are welcome and encouraged.

1. Women in Science – Dr. Alice Hughes interviewed in Nature (March 2021)

I just saw that Dr. Alice Hughes, a SERT member, was featured in an extensive interview Nature, as shown and linked below. Congratulations Alice!

“British zoologist Alice Hughes has been working at the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden in Menglun, China, for nearly eight years. She discusses the challenges of working as a non-Chinese female scientist in a leadership role and what she has learnt about the country’s approach to ecological conservation. “The most positive thing for me is that science matters here,” she says. (Nature | 8 min read)”

2. Transformation through Degrowth (June 2021)

Given our increasing focus on system transformation, I thought the following news article summary of a new paper on transformation through degrowth, in contrast to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scenarios, might be of interest. I include here what I found to be a few notable paragraphs. The news story is linked to the picture below; you can also download for free the underlying research article here

Quoted paragraph 1: They then compared those models against the standard scenarios to avert dangerous warming used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and found that moderate degrowth in the economies of developed countries was a more feasible and sustainable option for reaching the Paris target than plans that called for massive carbon dioxide removal in the future.

Quoted paragraph 2: The study outlined a few examples of how a society might pursue such degrowth. Shortening work hours could reduce unemployment and increase productivity as well as reduce the economic drivers of climate change. Ensuring universal access, independent of income, to necessities like food, health care and transportation could improve the well-being of countries’ citizens overall, while also slowing growth. Limits on maximum income and the accumulation of wealth by individuals could help fund a universal basic income and reverse the trend of growing economic inequality.

Quoted paragraph 3: The idea of social tipping points was explored in a January study led by Ilona Otto, at the University of Graz, Austria, who researches complexity and systems transformation. Keyßer said that paper described some of the mechanisms that can trigger structural changes, including ending fossil fuel subsidies and divesting from assets linked to fossil fuels; building carbon-neutral cities; revealing the moral implications of continued fossil fuel burning; and strengthening climate education and engagement.

Quoted paragraph 4: “Current models and policy discussions assume an unprecedented technological transformation, but not a social transformation,” Keyßer said. “Why do we assume such a huge change in the tech sphere? Why aren’t we looking at social transformation?”

3. Rewilding and Resilience (July 2021)

I thought the following article might be of interest to those specializing in the linkages between rewilding and resilience, especially the role of urban areas in maintaining biodiversity. The article is free for downloading.

The Biological Deserts Fallacy: Cities in Their Landscapes Contribute More than We Think to Regional Biodiversity, Erica N Spotswood,Erin E Beller,Robin Grossinger,J Letitia Grenier,Nicole E Heller,Myla F J Aronson, BioScience, Volume 71, Issue 2, February 2021, Pages 148–160, https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biaa155

Abstract: Cities are both embedded within and ecologically linked to their surrounding landscapes. Although urbanization poses a substantial threat to biodiversity, cities also support many species, some of which have larger populations, faster growth rates, and higher productivity in cities than outside of them. Despite this fact, surprisingly little attention has been paid to the potentially beneficial links between cities and their surroundings. We identify five pathways by which cities can benefit regional ecosystems by releasing species from threats in the larger landscape, increasing regional habitat heterogeneity and genetic diversity, acting as migratory stopovers, preadapting species to climate change, and enhancing public engagement and environmental stewardship. Increasing recognition of these pathways could help cities identify effective strategies for supporting regional biodiversity conservation and could provide a science-based platform for incorporating biodiversity alongside other urban greening goals.

4. The Post-2020 Draft Global Biodiversity Framework and Finance (July 2021)

Earlier this week a few of us were discussing the importance of shifting economic paradigms including the use of Nature-based Solutions, the development of associated policy tools, and evaluating progress in this area.

Along those lines, the following short summary from the World Economic Forum of highlights from the first draft of the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework might be of interest. These include stopping harmful subsidies, recognizing dependency on nature, and a table on governance/strategy/risk/and performance measurement options (the latter from WEF’s 2020 Nature Risk Rising report).

Equally many questions come to mind, including concerns about greenwashing, capture, and an unwavering commitment to growth. Nonetheless, I thought the highlights were worth sharing in support of ongoing negotiations, dialogue, and pressure.

5. IUCN and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (August 2021)

Given our discussions of social-ecological systems, resilience and diversity, and equity, as well as benefits of organizational self-awareness, I thought the following Comment in Nature regarding the role of Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs) might be of interest. There are several mentions of IUCN’s work in this area, including some limiting and some positive contributions.

Biodiversity needs every tool in the box: use OECMs, Comment, 26 July, 2021

To conserve global biodiversity, countries must forge equitable alliances that support sustainability in traditional pastoral lands, fisheries-management areas, Indigenous territories and more. Georgina G. Gurney , Emily S. Darling , Gabby N. Ahmadia , Vera N. Agostini , Natalie C. Ban , Jessica Blythe , Joachim Claudet , Graham Epstein , Estradivari , Amber Himes-Cornell , Harry D. Jonas , Derek Armitage , Stuart J. Campbell , Courtney Cox , Whitney. R. Friedman , David Gill , Peni Lestari , Sangeeta Mangubhai , Elizabeth McLeod , Nyawira A. Muthiga , Josheena Naggea , Ravaka Ranaivoson , Amelia Wenger , Irfan Yulianto & Stacy D. Jupiter

6. Environmental Protection and Conflict Prevention (November 2021)

Given shared interests in violent environments, nature-based solutions, and conflict resolution, I’m linking below a short news clip about the recently released global Ecological Threat Register, which “assesses threats relating to food risk, water risk, rapid population growth, temperature anomalies and natural disasters. These assessments are then combined with national measures of socio-economic resilience to determine which countries have the most severe threats and lowest coping capabilities,” and hence are “most likely to suffer from increased levels of ecological-threat related conflict.” The clip is linked to the following image:

November 8, 2021 By Shruti Samala

“The world’s least resilient countries—when faced with ecological stress—are more likely to face civil unrest, political instability, social fragmentation, and economic collapse,” said Cynthia Brady, ECSP Global Fellow and Senior Advisor, at an event hosted by the Alliance for Peacebuilding. These “vulnerabilities are clearly mutually reinforcing, but some of the solutions are mutually reinforcing too,” said Brady. The critical challenge now is to bridge the gap between traditionally siloed communities of practice in conflict prevention and conservation. Continued in article.

7. Global Database of Systems Change Education Programs (November 2021)

Our colleagues at the Transformations Community (including some members cross-represented in SERT) just announced a terrific resource for anyone interested in learning more about systems change themselves, or helping other colleagues or students do the same. The description of their global database of systems change education programs follows below.

Also, if you are interested in the Transformations Community writ large, you can visit their website https://www.transformationscommunity.org/ , and there also subscribe to their newsletter.


We are thrilled to release the Transformations Community’s global directory of systems change education programs. This comprehensive searchable database showcases 100+ systems change education programs for prospective students and established practitioners.The interactive site allows viewers to learn the ins and outs of educational programs worldwide, learn more about the organizations that run the programs, suggest additional programs, and subscribe to stay in the loop. This tool will raise awareness about the field, make systems change educational opportunities more accessible, and reduce barriers to entry. 
Catalogue Page
The Systems Change Directory is part of a larger initiative by the Transformations Community to create a repository of literature, videos, and other resources about systems change education, as well as other topics that are crucial to transform to sustainability. Learn more here. This work was made possible thanks to the generous support from the Garfield Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

8. Upscaling Resilience Assessments through Comparative Analysis (December 2021)

The following paper might be of interest for those particularly interested in not only ecological but social-ecological resilience, including livelihoods, governance, and quantitative, stakeholder-based assessment. I’ve pasted the abstract below and a bit of the text, too. The full link follows, too; the PDF is freely available.

Upscaling the resilience assessment through comparative analysis. J. Rocha, C. Lanyon, and G. Peterson, Global Environmental Change 72 (2022) https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378021001989

Abstract: Resilience is the capacity of any system to maintain its function, structure and identity despite disturbances. Assessing resilience has been elusive due to high levels of abstraction that are difficult to empirically test, or the lack of high quality data required once appropriate proxies are identified. Most resilience assessments are limited to specific situation arenas, making comparison one of the unresolved challenges. Here we show how leveraging comparative analysis can provide insights on how Arctic communities (N = 40) can best deal with social and environmental change. We found that the capacity to self-organize, and nurturing diversity are sufficient conditions for Arctic communities whose livelihoods have been resilient, or for communities whose livelihoods have been transformed. Our study provides an alternative perspective on how to assess resilience by leveraging comparison across cases. It also identify governance pathways to support adaptations and transformations in the Arctic, a geography with some of the most dramatic social and natural challenges to come. 

Quoted paragraph 1: Many of the Arctic cases studied are showing symptoms of resilience loss and no sign of transformations or shifting to alternative livelihoods (N = 20). Communities that are coping today are expected to face more disruptive change in the near future. Therefore, the Arctic Council is interested in what management and governance interventions could help communities enhance their adaptive capacities. For example, nations could strengthen the ability of communities to manage their territories, having the autonomy to craft their own rules, and getting support for long term monitoring or a legal framework that promotes autonomy. Another example is nurturing networks of knowledge exchange where people can share success and failure stories for tackling similar issues, from climate change impacts, to herd management, or dealing with novel economic activities that can be in conflict with traditional use of their territories. Some such platforms already exist, such as the International Centre for Reindeer Husbandry and the Arctic Council itself, but there is a great need to enable such learning networks across the Arctic. 

Quoted paragraph 2: In summary, this paper presents three contributions. First, it proposes comparative analysis as a way to empirically assess the resilience of a diverse set of communities in the changing Arctic. Second, it further develops the adaptive capacity framework with a third tier of variables that enable us to capture nuances where the second tier or alternative frameworks failed. Third, the comparative approach allowed us to make some generalizations on common adaptive capacity features that characterize cases where livelihoods were resilient or transformed. These features highlight the importance of the capacity to self-organize and combine knowledge diversity. Future research can focus efforts in refining the third tier here proposed, exploring a weighted approach that takes into account variable importance, comparing cases in other geographies, or expanding our framework to time varying QCA. The latter would help explore how the adaptive capacity features change over time. 

When you think back on 2021, is there one resilience-related interview, commentary, set of principles, database, analysis, or other material that you found particularly useful or striking?

One thought on “2021 Assemblage – Women in Science, Degrowth, Rewilding and more

Add yours

  1. A good collection of information but a lot to swallow in one go.

    Two articles refer to the problems that arise from the economic growth paradigm. All my reading around this suggests that no government of an industrial nation is willing to deliberately introduce policies to support an economic contraction. They are locked in competition with other nations and don’t want to surrender their competitive advantage. National governments are also unlikely to survive the domestic political response to the hardships that are likely to arise during the reorganisation phase of national transformation to a no-growth economy. This is one of those situations where transformation can only occur after the collapse of the existing system. In the meantime, all the environmental problems associated with industrial-consumer capitalism continue to grow. This raises the question of how might forward-thinking people prepare for the collapse to come?

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: