Between precarity and possibility: Implications of disruption for Earth System Governance

The 2020 Virtual Forum on Earth System Governance will explore challenging questions about the current and ongoing nature of disruption in multiple domains of sustainability governance. This encompasses not only the impacts of the global COVID19 crisis, but also the ongoing climate and biodiversity crises, as well as broader issues of political polarization, economic downturn, and technological change, among others. The implications of this unprecedented confluence of forces for sustainability and justice are largely unknown, and deeply puzzling.

Both precarity and possibility are confronted by societies and governance across all scales. While increased precarity confronts those who live in wealthier countries, it is already a reality for many across the globe in less wealthy societies. At the same time, new possibilities arise for rethinking social norms and values, and reimagining and transforming governance. Yet, this does not happen on a blank slate, as existing patterns of power and inequality inescapably shape politics and governance.

Guided by the five analytical lenses structuring the Earth System Governance Science and Implementation Plan, the 2020 Virtual Forum will interrogate the interplay of precarity and possibility that arises at this historical moment. What are the limits of existing governance architectures for dealing with disruption, and what potential exist for transforming these architectures? How do existing patterns of power influence opportunities for radical shifts in society and governance? What are the implications of overlapping crises for resource allocations across local to global scales, and are there new possibilities for enhancing justice? How are experiences of precarity reflected in imaginations about the future, and what possible narratives may open up? To what extent can societies adapt to precarity, and how can reflexivity create new possibilities in governance?