Resilience 2011 conference: notes from day 1 PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert   
Sunday, 20 March 2011 21:25

I've just returned from the second Resilience Science and Policy conference in Tempe, Arizona. It was a week of intense knowledge dissemination - some of it uplifting and some of it down-heartening. I'll be filling in with more posts related to issues discussed at the Res2011 conference during the coming week, but here's a quick summary of some of the sessions from the first day that were relevant to sustainable development in developing countries.


Before we get into that, a special mention has to be given to plenary talker Alan Atkinsson and his songs during his opening plenary talk! This is really killing the extinction message! Check these videos on him singing the same songs in other contexts.


So on the first day of the conference I spent most of the time in sessions discussing development pathways in tropical drylands and resilience issues on the global water challenge.


Johan Rockström highlighted the need for novel initiatives that could help us confront the water challenge in a turbulent world. Specifically a key challenge for the scientists dealing with these issues is to better determine where in the world we have hotspots where land use and climate change interact to cause water related regime shifts (e.g. Gordon et al, Box 3).


In the same session, Alain Vidal from the CGIAR Challenge program talked about the global food crisis as a poverty countdown: there are 3 billion poor in the world, 2 billion suffer from malnutrition and 1 billion suffer from hunger. Of those 1 billion, 75% are rural poor. So in essence, alleviating hunger means reducing rural poverty by increasing income and ensuring these people can better cope with short and long term change. Alain suggested that the resilience challenge of food production should be in providing communities and ecosystems the means to cope with local and global changes through water productivity (more food with less water), empowerment, equity, improved management of ecosystem services, better health and market access. His very interesting presentation can be found on slideshare -

Resilience 2011 conference PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Saturday, 12 March 2011 06:38

The second international Resilience science and policy conference is kicking off tomorrow in Tempe, Arizona. The aim of  the conference - "Resilience, Innovation and Sustainability: Navigating the Complexities of Global Change'' - is to advance understanding of the relationships among resilience, vulnerability, innovation and sustainability. It will do so by bringing together scientists to share their work on the dynamics of interconnected social-ecological systems. There's a broad range of people attending the conference including people from the government, business, NGOs and academic sectors concerned with resource governance, and economic and social development . A key outcome of conference discussions will be the development and refinement of new ideas for meeting the challenge of global change.

Stay tuned at this blog for some updates of major issues and findings discussed at the conference. Resilience science will also be blogging from the conference, and the twitter feed of the Stockholm Resilience Centre will be providing short, frequent snippets of commentary throughout the four days.



Hug a forest - it's the year of forests for people! PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fredrik Moberg   
Thursday, 03 February 2011 10:05

UN has launched a year-long celebration of the world's forests. It is about recognizing the wide range of ecosystem services that forests provide, everything from mitigating climate change to providing wood, medicines and livelihoods for people worldwide.


“Forests for People” is the main theme of the International Year of Forests, which was launched at a recent ceremony at UN Headquarters in New York attended by world leaders, Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai and other forest experts.

With this initiative UN seeks to raise awareness on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, on which at least 1.6 billion people depend for their daily livelihoods and subsistence needs. Forests are also home to over 60 million people, mainly members of indigenous and local communities, who reside in forests.

Watch video of Seminar "The 2010 Chile earthquake and tsunamis" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fredrik Moberg   
Monday, 24 January 2011 13:36


The Stockholm Seminar with Professor Juan Carlos Castilla from Friday 28 January, 2011 is now available on video at Stockholm Resilience Centre's website.

Full seminar title: "The 2010 Earthquake and Tsunamis in Chile: bio-physical and social impacts along the coast and on the small-scale artisan fisheries?"

Time and place: Friday 28 January, 2011, 14.00-15.00 Linné Hall, Beijer Hall, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Lilla Frescativägen 4, Stockholm


Killing the extinction message: part deux PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Albert Norström   
Thursday, 02 December 2010 09:28

This picks up from Fredriks latest post on "killing the extinction message" and creating more positive conservation messages. Edward Morris and Dmitri Siegel set up the Green Patriot Posters because they felt the sustainability movement needed better images and messages to connect to people. The site allows artists to upload their posters and provide commentary on the underlying thought behind them. Its a great place to get inspired, and its also led to the release of a Green Patriot Poster book.

We are the change - by marian16rox


Artists comments: We are all clamoring for solutions, but the biggest one out there - the game-changer - is ourselves. We can choose to consume less, recycle more. We can give fossil fuels the boot and rely on clean energy. We can live sustainably. We can dream up green innovations. We can be change that the planet needs.

Earth system science for global sustainability PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Friday, 26 November 2010 11:40


Science has become increasingly effective in providing detailed knowledge on the broad effects of human impacts on the environment. The IPCC reports are a great example of how, through a global (well, almost) consensus-based process, such knowledge can fuel political and public policy and debate. However, the real challenge lies in tackling such global environmental risks, while simultaneously meeting the broad suite of socio-economic goals envisioned through the sustainable development agenda.


In a recent Policy Forum paper in the journal Science a prominent group of environmental and social scientists (including the Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom and Stockholm Resilience Centre director Johan Rockström) map out five "Grand Challenges" that will better align Earth system science toward sustainable development. The paper begins by asking:

"how can we advance science and technology, change human behavior, and influence political will to enable societies to meet targets for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to avoid dangerous climate change? At the same time, how can we meet needs for food, water, improved health and human security, and enhanced energy security? Can this be done while also meeting the United Nations Millennium Development Goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger and ensuring ecosystem integrity?"

It then maps out the five great challenges that will have to be confronted in order to reach these goals

1) Improve the usefulness of forecasts of future environmental conditions and their consequences for people.

In essence this requires a huge step-forward in our capacity to build integrated Earth system simulators complete with ocean, land and atmosphere components. All this is very complicated, and still a long way off. But, when coupled with research on how environmental changes affect livelihoods, health and food security, such tools could give us improved capacity to forecast human impacts on the Earth system and the reciprocal effects.

Time to kill the extinction message? PDF Print E-mail
In brief
Written by Fredrik Moberg   
Wednesday, 24 November 2010 14:29

“I have a dream” is much more effective than “I have a nightmare” when communicating sustainability issues.

One fifth of all vertebrates species are threatened with extinction and populations of mammal, bird, reptile, amphibian and fish species have declined on average by 30 % over 40 years. This was recently revealed in the most comprehensive inventory ever of the world’s vertebrates, “Evolution Lost”, produced by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

I first heard about the “Evolution Lost” via my Twitter feed and a link to a short movie (see below) on Youtube presenting the report’s findings. I found the short film and the report interesting, but in the comment area below someone had written: “Hey, Lady Gaga now has 45 MILLION followers on Facebook! That's the REAL story, not this boring old end of the world, global warming blah blah...... who cares?… stop bringing us DOWN!”

Being an ecologist and communicator myself I struggle every day with these kind of reactions. After all biodiversity is in deep crisis and my favourite ecosystems coral reefs, which I studied during my time as a PhD-student, are more threatened than ever. I do care. And I do worry! And of course I would like everybody to be as worried as I am. But as a communicator I have over the years slowly realised that our current biodiversity communication is not very effective. If it were we wouldn’t be losing so much of it, right?

In this context I was very happy when I came across the sobering report (booklet) “Branding Biodiversity” that challenges communicators to swap extinction and complex scientific concepts for a set of simple brand values that inspire the public to act on conservation:

“You will have to make a choice: will you try to change your audience into you, or will you change your message to inspire them? This booklet is for those who choose the second route.”

Worlds largest marine protected area in Chagos PDF Print E-mail
Written by Albert Norström   
Saturday, 06 November 2010 22:46


The worlds largest marine protected area has recently been enforced in the Chagos archipelago. Although a step forward in protecting the Earths marine ecosystems, it also underlies how much more is required in order to reach goals set by the international community on marine protection.


The worlds largest MPA came into force on November 1st in the British territorial waters of the Chagos Archipelago.  The Chagos reserve is substantial and covers an area of 544,000 square kilometres – twice the size of Britain. In general, ecologists and conservationists have welcomed this move since the Chagos waters are home to one of the world's largest coral reefs, a habitat for more than 1,200 species of coral and fish (actually, Chagos contains 49% of the 'Least Threatened' reefs in the Indian Ocean, all within one jurisdiction!) and many charismatic species such as the critically endangered hawksbill turtle. Its creation comes at a time when alarming reports highlight how the marine life in the waters of the Chagos Archipelago has been hit hard by overfishing. For example, the Zoological Society of London estimates that, over the past five years, around 60,000 sharks, an equivalent number of rays and many other species have been caught there as "by-catch" – as an accidental adjunct to commercial fishing for tuna, for example.


However this new sanctuary, serves to underline how catastrophically the international community has fallen short of goals set almost a decade ago to protect marine life. In 2002, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the World Summit on Sustainable Development made a commitment to protect 10 per cent of the world's oceans by 2012. Today, with only 15 months to go, it is estimated that just 1.17 per cent of the world's oceans are under some form of protection, and a mere 0.08 per cent classified as "no-take" zones. At the recent UN conference on biodiversity held in Nagoya, Japan, government officials put the 2012 deadline back to 2020. Marine experts warned that it is scandalous that the original deadline will not be met, and said the 10 per cent target falls far short of what is needed. A third of ocean waters need protection to give species a fighting chance of survival, they said.

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