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Sustainability Science

A Multidisciplinary Approach

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Sustainability science is an academic discipline that emerged in response to threats to the sustainability of the global environment. Its purpose is to help build a sustainable society by developing solutions to climate change, the exhaustion of resources, ecological destruction and other environmental crises that threaten the future of humanity. Sustainability science seeks comprehensive, integrated solutions to complex problems and a restructuring of education and research that spans multiple disciplines. It demands the development of policies that protect the natural and cultural diversity of different regions and promotes the physical and economic health of their inhabitants. This volume offers approaches to the development of a transdisciplinary perspective that embraces natural, social and human sciences in the quest for a sustainable society. It also strives for a global perspective while incorporating the wisdom and experience of local societies.

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Building a global meta-network for sustainability science

Sustainability science has grown through the efforts, both individual and collective (via organizations such as the Alliance for Global Sustainability), of some of the top academic and research institutions in North America, Europe and Asia. The findings and proposals generated by these efforts often reflect the particular strengths of their institutions of origin. The Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science (IR3S), for example, tends to be stronger in the areas of engineering and the natural sciences, but less so in the humanities and the social sciences, an imbalance that has been frequently cited by the Organizational Evaluating Committee of the Program for Encouraging Development of Strategic Research Centers (Super COE) and that IR3S has sought to remedy. This committee, which consists of globally prominent experts in diverse fields who possess an objective viewpoint, ensures the transparency of evaluations and appraisals of the IR3S project. Despite its best efforts, however, even a research network such as IR3S, which brings together universities and other institutions throughout Japan, cannot by itself adequately address the multifarious problems associated with global sustainability.

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