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Sustainability Science

A Multidisciplinary Approach

image of Sustainability Science
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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Problem-structuring methods based on a cognitive mapping approach

During the past decade, the definition of environmental problems has evolved to include problems associated with energy consumption, air quality, equity, safety, land-use impact, noise and the more efficient utilization of fiscal resources in urban and/or rural areas. However, not everyone shares the recognition of these problems as being “environmental”. They may be recognized by different actors in different ways. Recent studies suggest that individuals” decisions often depend on the decisionmaking context, which is sometimes referred to as a framing effect (Tversky and Kahneman, 1981, 1986). The framing effect can also be observed in sustainability science, particularly in the problem identification process. In order to identify sustainability-related problems, public-policymakers need as accurate as possible an understanding of the many participants’ problem identification perceptions with regard to the social/natural system. Additionally, they should analyse this problem structure from a multidisciplinary viewpoint. When more actors are involved in the system, their perceptions of problem identification become more difficult to comprehend. Inaccurate speculation and misunderstanding about a participant’s problem perceptions may lead to a deadlock in building consensus. A well-designed and sophisticated method for understanding participant problem perceptions and providing feedback to stakeholders may contribute significantly to better planning and management of sustainable systems.

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