International coalition with MDH and UNESCO meet the climate crisis

Oct 04, 2019 | Research/Cooperation

To meet the climate crisis at global level, the natural sciences are joining forces with the social sciences and the humanities. Therefore a new international association, BRIDGES, is being formed during 2019, which includes UNESCO, several other international scientific organisations and leading institutions of higher educaiton, among them Mälardalen University, MDH. Its concluding workshop is now being held in Sigtuna, where the action programme is being drawn up.


The first workshop in the creation of BRIDGES was held in Mação, the second meeting was held in Paris in June at UNESCO headquarters, and the third and final workshop is to be held on 5-7 October at Sigtunastiftelsen in Sigtuna. A concluding symposium open to the general public will be held on 7 October, the final day of the workshop.

The goal of the workshop is to lay the foundation for BRIDGES as an international coalition and to formulate the action plan for 2020 and onwards, where various pilot activities and educational efforts are to be included.

“The sustainability challenges facing the world today are not the kinds of problems that can be addressed effectively through individual disciplines or subjects; different academic domains contribute a wide variety of knowledge and experience, all of which are needed if we hope to understand and find sustainable solutions to the climate crisis,” says Steven Hartman, MDH’s leading figure in the Environmental Humanities and one of the coordinators of the BRIDGES Sustainability Science intitiative.

BRIDGES stands for Building Resilience In Defense of Global Environments and Societies. The initiative takes its starting point from a new set of “Guidelines for Sustainability Science in Research and Education” that were developed during a two-year UNESCO project funded by the Japanese Government, in which Steven Hartman also took part. This project resulted in an interdisciplinary model in which the humanities, the social sciences and natural sciences are expected to play equally important roles, together with non-academic partners, in societal efforts to meet the goals of the UN’s sustainability agenda.

“When that preceding project (called Broadening the Application of the Sustainability Science Approach) began, the researchers involved were mostly from the domain of the natural sciences, since that was the predominant model of the Sustainability Science field after its establishment in 2001,” says Steven Hartman. “However, there was a significant appreciation among the participants in the project concerning how all our global challenges — the climate, biodiversity, pollution, the seas — also have significant, even driving, human dimensions. Understanding human behavior and action is therefore crucial to how we must go about addressing these problems, and this means that all human sciences, including literature, art, history and philosophy, are indispensable to effective Sustainability Science.”

The initiative to establish BRIDGES has proceeded from these basic premises, with major international partners such as UNESCO’s Management of Human Transformations programme and the UNESCO Chairs program, the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences, Future Earth, and the International Science Council, among others partner organizations from all over the world. The Sigtuna workshop will now take this establishment process to its conclusion and set the stage for the launch of the BRIDGES Coalition in 2020.

Read more about the symposium that will cap off the BRIDGES workshop in Sigtuna in7 October: