MDH researcher is driving force in new sustainability platform in collaboration with UNESCO

Jun 10, 2019 | Research/Cooperation Global

Steven Hartman, Comparative Literature scholar, Professor of English, and a driving force in the growing field of the Environmental Humanities, is one of several central figures in the establishment of a new international organisation for sustainability collaboration, BRIDGES.

The natural sciences are combining forces in earnest at a global level with the social sciences and the humanities in addressing the climate crisis. During 2019 a new international coalition is being formed in partnership between UNESCO and several international organisations, among others MDH. This nascent organisation goes under the working name of BRIDGES, which stands for Building Resilience In Defense of Global Environments and Societies. On 11-12 June around 35 representatives of these organisations will meet at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris to take the planning to the next level.

“The sustainability challenges facing the world today are not, by and large, 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 frontman in the Environmental Humanities.

Requires broader knowledge base

This week when UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation) bring together a number of prominent experts within the sustainability field at the organization’s international headquarters in Paris, Steven Hartman of MDH will be there to co-lead the second of three workshops through which the new Sustainability Science Coalition is being established.

The BRIDGES Global Coalition is being established on the foundational insight that a far broader knowledge base than that of classic environmental science (earth and biological sciences) is required if the international community hopes to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of Agenda 2030, which was approved by 193 countries of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015. The purpose of the Coalition is to create a more effective collaboration among all academic knowledge domains, as well as between academic and non-academic actors, within the broader sustainability field.

“For a while now both the IPCC (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and the international community more generally have realised the need to balance expertise from the natural sciences with insights from the humanities, the social sciences, the arts and even from non-academic communities, so that we can better come to terms with the human dimensions of the climate crisis and so we can also find our way forward to achieving genuinely sustainable solutions,” says Steven Hartman. “We need to create room for engagement and action that also give people a sense of agency and hope, a belief that individuals and communities can come together and change how they engage with the world, both in the local environments where they live and work and in the global earth system that we all depend upon for our very existence.”

New model for research collaboration

The BRIDGES 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 play equally important roles, along with non-academic actors in society, in integrated efforts to meet the UN’s 2030 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, it soon became clear that 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 behaviour and action is thus crucial to how we must go about addressing these problems, and this means that all human sciences are indispensable — it’s all hands on deck.

The first establishment workshop in the creation of BRIDGES was held in Mação, Portugal. The second meeting is taking place 11-12 June at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris and the third one will be held in Sigtuna 5-7 October 2019. In all these meetings Steven Hartman has a central role as one of the coordinating actors. At the forthcoming meeting in Paris, Yvonne Eriksson, Professor of Information Design at MDH, will also be taking part.

Read More

Toward the establishment of BRIDGES

Guidelines on sustainability science