Conference theme

The theme of the annual conference, ‘Earth System Governance in turbulent times’, had seldom seemed more apt – in 2020 we found ourselves in truly turbulent times. In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Bratislava Conference on Earth System Governance was postponed until September 2021.

The 2021 Bratislava Conference is organized around the five analytical lenses structuring the new earth system governance research agenda, as captured in the 2018 Earth System Governance Science and Implementation Plan; and a sixth stream focusing on specific issues and challenges concerning the current moment of crisis, contestation, and calls for action across the globe. An additional Call for Papers in 2021 allowed for a new round of abstract submissions to address topics related to recent societal turbulence (e.g. Covid19, geopolitical developments, among others), which could be submitted across all of the six conference streams:

Architecture and Agency. We invite papers that address institutional frameworks and actors implicated in earth system governance and how these institutions and actors resist or respond to change and evolve over time. Core questions include: How are environmental issues influenced by complex global networks across sectors, scales and decision-making arenas? What are the implications for earth system governance of growing diversities and power disparities among agents? What forms of architecture and agency are most effective in earth system governance across scales? Which changes and new developments of global governance architecture are needed to address the challenges posed by contemporary global environmental change?

Democracy and Power. We invite papers that address how old and new conceptions of democracy and power can make sense of, and craft responses to, trends in collective problem-solving in earth system governance in particular in respect to transition to new democracies in Europe and globally. Core questions include: What is the nature of the relationship between democracy and sustainability in earth system governance? Does the Anthropocene exacerbate existing power inequalities or create new opportunities for the legitimate exercise of power? How do power asymmetries in earth system governance affect management of natural resources? Can community regimes and collective actions such commons foster transformations towards sustainable and low carbon economy across scales?

Justice and Allocation. We invite papers that normatively or empirically address the justice and allocation of resources, rights and access in earth system governance. Core questions include: which new demands for justice and allocation are emerging in the context of profound transformations of the earth system? What types of steering have been effective towards implementing various conceptions of justice and allocation? Who bears the costs and benefits of transformations towards sustainability and how are rights and livelihoods affected?

Anticipation and Imagination. We invite papers that address how to govern proliferating anticipation processes that seek to imagine and govern future sustainability challenges, as well as how anticipation and imagination themselves become sites of politics. Core questions include: How do processes of anticipation and imagination interact with each other in shaping efforts to steer societies towards more sustainable futures? What kinds of institutions and practices underpin processes of anticipation and imagination? To what extent are ongoing processes of anticipation legitimate and inclusive, and what are their geopolitical implications? Which are the most relevant differences in the processes/capacities of anticipation and imagination among different actors and groups?

Adaptiveness and Reflexivity. We invite papers that address how societies can navigate change towards global sustainability in adaptive and reflexive ways, such as supporting the sustainable provision of ecosystem services and adapting to climate change over both the short and long-term. Core questions include: How can adaptiveness and reflexivity as qualities of earth system governance be assessed and compared? What kind of governance attributes (e.g. polycentricity or centralization, market or hybrid, flexibility or stability) are best suited to cultivating adaptiveness and reflexivity? Which factors enhance or hinder adaptiveness and reflexivity in diverse cultural and economic contexts? Do socio-environmental conflicts and social movements favor or halt adaptiveness and reflexivity?

Governance intervention and social actions for behavioral change to sustainability. We invite papers that address how governance intervention and purposeful change in societal behavior may be realized in order to navigate towards improved global sustainability. This is especially timely in light of multiple colliding ecological, social, health and political crises, and growing calls for transformative change in many spheres of human activity. Core questions include: What types of governance intervention and societal action are needed to trigger behavioral change across multiple levels (local to global), and what are the opportunities, barriers, and trade-offs involved? Through which mechanisms and pathways, and under which conditions, are such interventions and actions realized? What are the consequences of different forms of governance and policy intervention and social action (e.g. for society, politics, and the environment), and what, therefore, are the implications for enhancing global sustainability in diverse cultural and economic contexts?