Published on Mar 12, 2010
The Berlin Conference Steering Committee and its partners invite papers for this year’s ‘Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change’. The 2010 conference will be the tenth event in the series of annual European Conferences. This year’s discussions will address the theme ‘Social dimensions of environmental change and governance’. The conference will be held in Berlin, 8-9 October 2010. Paper proposals are expected by April 6, 2010.
For decades, the economic costs and, more recently, the potential economic benefits of environmental change and governance have been at the centre of national and international public policy and academic debates. Yet, the socio-economic causes and impacts of global environmental change and the inadequacy of policies addressing them have remained at the margins of academic research and in related global policy arenas. While their relevance has been emphasized and reaffirmed in the Brundtland Report, Agenda 21, the Millennium Development Goals, and the Johannesburg Declaration on Sustainable Development, they remained but fringe issues in a predominantly growth-oriented and market-liberal global discourse. Pertinent policies neither delivered real changes nor did they redirect the thrust of academic debates. Therefore, much remains to be done to bridge the gap between ongoing efforts to conceptualize, analyze and measure the social dimensions of environmental change, policies and governance structures, on the one hand, and the corresponding efforts in mainstream economic analysis. Yet, the social dimensions must no longer be ignored as societies both in industrialized countries and in developing countries face potentially dramatic environmental changes and will have to undergo fundamental transformations to achieve sustainable development.
The society–environment linkage is threefold: First, shifts in societal structures and interactions as contained in prevailing business-as-usual development pathways are a major driver of environmental change. Population growth, increasing wealth within path-dependent technological trajectories and urbanization are among the most important factors that determine the use of natural resources and environmental services. They are often deeply rooted in dominant economic structures and cultural patterns which represent persistent drivers of individual and group behaviour. Redirecting these shifts towards a more sustainable path requires considerable governance efforts and structural reforms.
Second, environmental change, whether it occurs incrementally or abruptly, is likely to create new societal conflicts and challenges at local, national and international levels. Conflicts within and across societies over the access to and distribution of environmental resources and ecosystem services, environment-related poverty, deteriorating living conditions and environments, diseases, the loss of livelihood, or environmental displacement within and across national borders are only a few of potential social consequences that may follow from environmental change. Moreover, the costs and benefits of environmental change are often unevenly and unjustly distributed within and across societies as well as generations. These unfair distribution patterns may provoke disputes over equity and fairness at all levels of governance. Failures to effectively govern these challenges can increase the probability of local, national, and international insecurity and instability.
Third, environmental governance alters societal structures and interactions either because it either directly addresses the social causes of environmental change or because it affects societal practices and choices through its indirect effects. Both mitigation of and adaptation to environmental change might thus require fundamental transformations of societies. These would affect a wide array of sectors and policies, including changes in production, consumption and mobility patterns, the management of natural resources including land-use planning, population and settlement policies, tourism, and societal organization at all governance levels. Such fundamental transformations necessitate the modification of or even the departure from long-established and deeply rooted patterns of behaviour and lifestyles, cultural traditions, social norms and principles, or models of political and economic organization and development at local, national and international levels.
On the one hand, the social impacts of environmental governance can be a significant barrier to implementing effective policies and mitigating environmental change across sectors and at all levels of governance because they may provoke new or exacerbate existing conflicts within and across societies. The reallocation of resources and responsibilities, the costs and the benefits involved in overcoming environmentally harmful societal practices as well as changes in living conditions and livelihoods often divide societies into winners and losers. Transformations may thus reinforce prevalent social cleavages within and across societies or create new cleavages by transferring privileges and opportunities from some societal groups or societies to others. The transformation may collide with widely accepted social, cultural, and behavioural norms and principles.
This social-environmental interface, namely the risks, potentials, challenges and opportunities associated with environmental change and governance within and across societies will be the focus of the 2010 Berlin Conference on the Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change. In particular, we invite papers that address the following issues:
Proposals for papers must be submitted electronically on the Conference Homepage by April 6, 2010 and not exceed 300 words. All paper and poster submissions will be reviewed by an international review panel before being accepted. Details on abstract submission and more information can be found here
Notification of the decision will be sent by e-mail no later than June 30, 2010. Full papers are expected by September 20, 2010.