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Advancing the Conceptual Foundations of Earth System Governance

A new Taskforce of the Earth System Governance Research Alliance

The new Taskforce on Conceptual Foundations of Earth System Governance is focused on exploring key ideas that are coming to frame international discussion of the challenge of governance in times of global environmental change and earth system transformation. It is concerned with understanding, refining and critically interrogating concepts that increasingly provide the foundation for contemporary theory and practice in the environmental domain, including (but not limited to) notions such as: ‘planetary boundaries’, ‘environmental limits’, ‘the Anthropocene’, ‘resilience’, ‘the green economy’, ‘sustainable development’, ‘sustainability science’, ‘tipping points’, ‘sustainable consumption’, ‘low carbon transition’, and last but not least, ‘earth system governance’.

Major political and social change is typically accompanied by innovation in the thought categories we use to make sense of the world, frame arguments, organize collective action, and establish new institutional practices. Looking at things in new ways allows us to do things in new ways. So at a time when human societies are placing ever greater stress on global ecosystems, and are only beginning to come to terms with what it would mean to move onto a truly sustainable social development trajectory, we urgently need to devote critical efforts to examining and further refining novel governance ideas.

The new taskforce is open to all members of the community who are interested in pushing forward knowledge and understanding related to the key categories which scholars and practitioners are invoking as they seek to make sense of contemporary environmental problems and to build new governance institutions suited to promoting sustainability in the twenty-first century. Research Fellows of the earth system governance network are especially invited, as are stakeholders and practitioners interested in these debates.

The taskforce will be organised as an international network of senior and early career scholars with a series of working groups focused on particular ideas or idea clusters. The aim is to involve scholars from different regions, disciplines and career stages in a collaborative effort. In the first instance the taskforce will be focused on preparing working papers on critical ideas related to the conceptual foundations of earth system governance. The plan is for an early iteration of this work to be presented at the 2015 Canberra Conference on Earth System Governance: ‘Democracy and Resilience in the Anthropocene’. It is assumed that as the work develops taskforce members will meet at other international forums and workshops and, in time, the effort will lead to one or more collective publications.

Those interested in participating in this exciting project should contact the taskforce convenor, Earth System Governance Lead Faculty member James Meadowcroft.

James Meadowcroft
Professor and Canada Research Chair
School of Public Policy, Carleton University
Ottawa, K1S 5B6, Canada
email: jmeadowc [at]

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