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CfP – Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance

Call for Papers

Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance: Crossing Boundaries and Building Bridges

Colorado State University, 17-20 May 2011

We invite you to the Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance to be held 17-20 May 2011 on the campus of Colorado State University in Fort Collins, Colorado, USA. This conference is part of a global series organized by the Earth System Governance Project, a ten-year research program under the auspices of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change (IHDP). The first Earth System Governance conference was held in Amsterdam in December 2009. The Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance is hosted jointly by the Environmental Governance Working Group and the School of Global Environmental Sustainability at Colorado State University along with the IHDP Earth System Governance Project.

Key Dates

– Deadline for paper abstracts: 15 September 2010 (extended deadline)
– Notification of acceptance: 15 November 2010
– Full papers due: 1 May 2011

Concept Note:
Establishing effective strategies for mediating the relationship between humans and the natural world represents one of the most daunting tasks in the quest for global environmental sustainability. Environmental problems, such as climate change, biodiversity loss, water quality and access problems, soil erosion and others, call into question the fundamental viability of how humans have organized the relationship between society and nature over the last two hundred years, creating an urgent need to identify and develop new strategies for steering societies towards a more sustainable relationship with the natural world.

The Earth System Governance Project of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change was launched in 2009 to address these problems of environmental governance. In this project “earth system governance” is defined as the interrelated and increasingly integrated system of formal and informal rules, rule-making systems, and actor-networks at all levels of human society (from local to global) that are set up to steer societies towards preventing, mitigating, and adapting to global and local environmental change and, in particular, earth system transformation, within the normative context of sustainable development. The Earth System Governance Project’s Science Plan (available at is organized around five analytical problems. Architecture relates to the emergence, design and effectiveness of governance arrangements. Agency addresses questions of who governs the earth system and how. Adaptiveness research explores the ability of governance systems to change in the face of new knowledge and challenges as well as to enhance adaptiveness of social-ecological systems in the face of major disturbances. Accountability refers to the democratic quality of environmental governance arrangements. Finally, allocation and access concerns justice, equity, and fairness. These analytical problems are united by the cross-cutting themes of power, knowledge, norms and scale.

Colorado Conference Themes:
One of the most significant challenges of earth system governance is the need to create new types of linkages, crossing boundaries and building bridges to connect research on social and ecological processes operating across different scales, between the social and natural sciences, and between scholars and practitioners working in the global North and South. The Colorado Conference will advance the Earth System Governance project’s research agenda by bringing together scholars from a wide range of disciplines as well as practitioners to address these linkage issues. The conference will be organized around four types of linkages that cut across the “5 As” at the core of the Earth System Governance Science Plan with the expectation that these discussions will open new and fruitful areas of research and collaboration on earth system governance. The four conference themes are:

1. LINKING ACROSS SCALE: Many problems related to earth system transformation involve social and ecological processes operating at different spatial, temporal, and social organizational scales. We invite papers that address these cross-scale and multilevel dimensions of earth system governance. For example, what theoretical concepts, frameworks, and methodologies can be used to analyze and understand how social and ecological processes interact across scale? In what ways do innovations or changes in governance arrangements across scales and levels of political jurisdiction produce more or less accountable, adaptive, accessible and equitable processes/outcomes? What obstacles to earth system governance are created by conflict rooted in the multiscalar dimension of social and ecological processes?

2. LINKING THE SOCIAL AND NATURAL SCIENCES: Earth system governance research must consider social as well as ecological systems. Collaboration between scholars in the social and natural sciences is essential but often difficult in large part because of differences in methodological traditions. We invite papers that explore ways of better integrating the social and natural sciences in the study of earth system governance. For example, what are the ecological impacts of different architectures of earth system governance? What methodological and conceptual tools can be used to integrate insights from research on governance and institutions into understandings of the earth as a complex coupled social-ecological system?

3. LINKING RESEARCH TO PRACTICE: Earth system governance research must engage diverse individuals who participate in the formal and informal rule-making processes and actor networks that comprise earth system governance. How may research on earth system governance inform policy making and practice? How might the knowledge and insights of practitioners be better communicated to researchers? What research and exchange strategies can be used to build relationships between scholars and practitioners? Is “action research” an effective strategy for linking research and practice?

4. LINKING THE “5 As”: Some of the most important questions of earth system governance lie at the intersection of the five analytical problems at the core of the Earth System Governance science plan. We invite papers that explore these linkages and interactions. For instance, how can equity and fairness concerns (Allocation and Access) be addressed in the design and implementation of environmental and development institutions (Architecture)? In what ways can private actors (Agency) be held accountable (Accountability) for the social and ecological effects of their decisions? What types of social conflicts are created (Allocation and Access) by different ways of structuring efforts (Architecture) to enhance the resilience of social-ecological systems (Adaptiveness)?

Abstract Submission:
We invite abstracts on one of these four conference themes from scholars in the social and natural sciences as well as practitioners from the global North and South. Abstracts must be submitted electronically through the conference website ( by 15 September 2010 (extended deadline) and may not exceed 250 words. All abstracts will be evaluated in a double-blind peer-review process by several members of the conference review panel. For additional information on the IHDP Earth System Governance Project, including its Science and Implementation Plan, go to For additional information on the Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance, e-mail us at

We look forward to welcoming you to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains! On behalf of all co-hosts,

Michele Betsill, Tony Cheng, and Pete Taylor

Co-Chairs, 2011 Colorado Conference on Earth System Governance
Co-leaders, Environmental Governance Working Group, Colorado State University

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