Sustainable Development: Philosophy, Complexity, Integrative Strategy
Rossitsa Yalamova (Financial Economics)
Saurya Das (Physics)
Kent Peacock (Philosophy)
Dan Kazakoff (Management)
John Usher (Policy and Strategy)
Linda Janz (Research Coordinator)
Corporate social responsibility, ethics and environmental concerns, are all issues of importance to sustainability but they are too often approached separately in research and in practice. This ‘lifeboat’ approach does not capture the interconnectedness of these issues and does not offer a complete understanding of sustainability. Our mission is to support research collaborations between the social, economic and natural sciences, to develop integrative strategies to approach sustainability problems.
The global socio-economic system in its determination for growth is challenged by problems arising from negative externalities and unintended consequences of human activities in every sphere of their existence interwoven in a complex dynamical system. It is evident that growth not only entails social and political costs but may lead to catastrophic consequences as we approach not only physical, but also ecological, biological, cultural limits. But even as we try through technology to improve the carrying capacity of the planet we must be aware that complexity and self-organization in the system means that tiny initiating events can lead to
avalanches of unintended consequences that could precipitate collapse of the system. In this sense addressing the issue of growth requires understanding of the topology and dynamics of the whole complex system.
As Peccei foretold in the 1970s, management of change, management of interdependence and management of complexity are all crucial for maintaining sustainable growth at a dynamic equilibrium “to survive and to acquire a better quality of life in the age of man’s empire.” Making progress toward sustainable development demands that we get international decision-making right; the contentious state of climate change thinking as it strives to gain urgent priority status is an example of how such processes require more than a massing of facts. Sustainable development requires focusing on the underlying economic, demographic, political and environmental factors that currently limit adaptive capacity and increase vulnerability to climate change.