Foundations for Sustainability
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Topic description / abstract:
This presentation reviews key concepts in sustainability and asks deep questions about why there are so many symptoms of environmental crises present in the world today (climate disruption, mass species extinctions, nitrogen cycle disruption, ocean acidification, crises with food, energy, and water, and many more). These symptoms relate to the prevailing approach, in which we use reductionist mental models and treat living and environmental systems as if they are machines. However, contrary to machines, ecological systems show much resilience and capacity to self-organize, regenerate, and increase their organization and complexity over time. We believe that achieving a sustainable world will require a shift in the way we approach life and life sciences. The good news is that such a shift is possible now, without the need of waiting for new technologies, and is limited only by our willingness.
Brian D. Fath is a Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Towson University (Maryland, USA) teaching courses on Ecosystem Ecology, Environmental Science, and Human Ecology. He is also a Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Laxenburg, Austria) and since 2011 the Scientific Coordinator of IIASA’ s Young Scientists Summer Program. He has published over 200 research papers, reports, and book chapters on environmental systems modeling, specifically in the areas of network analysis, urban metabolism, and sustainability. He co-authored the books A New Ecology: Systems Perspective (2020), Foundations for Sustainability: A Coherent Framework of Life–Environment Relations (2019), and Flourishing within Limits to Growth: Following Nature’s Way (2015). Dr. Fath is also co-Editor-in-Chief for Current Research in Environmental Sustainability and past Editor in Chief of Ecological Modelling (2009 – 2020). He was the 2016 recipient of the Prigogine Medal for outstanding work in systems ecology and twice a Fulbright Distinguished Chair (Parthenope University, Naples, Italy, in 2012 and Masaryk University, Czech Republic, in 2019).