ENOUGH, FOR ALL, FOREVER
Our approach to Anthropocene research emphasizes Newcastle University’s definition of sustainability: ‘Enough, for all, forever’.
At Newcastle University we continually challenge ourselves, asking not just
“what are we good AT?”, but also
“what are we good FOR?”
Addressing global societal challenges, our Anthropocene work aims to transform dominant modes of thinking, not just within researcher communities, but also among the general public, policy-makers, non-governmental agencies, and industry and the media. This is known as ‘Global Systems Science’, where our approach is to integrate knowledge from the natural, engineering and social sciences and apply it to real-life situations. In this way we can begin to address major challenges that are beyond the remit of any one traditional discipline.
We aim to achieve this integration and application in a transformative way by concentrating on identifiable ‘nodes’ (Helbing 2013), where threat, risk and opportunity coincide, and thus where our most innovative solutions can be targeted for maximum effectiveness.
A RADICALLY-DIFFERENT WAY
‘Holocene’ thinking was about ‘experts’ and policymakers developing and holding information within a hierarchical relationship, exacerbating divisions between specialist fields of knowledge and raising barriers between the academic disciplines, especially between the sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities.
In privileging the ‘expert’ over the ‘non-expert’ and favouring an overly narrow approach (‘observe, react, observe’: Figure 1), traditional ways of dealing with environmental and societal issues were to design solutions FOR people without engaging WITH people.
We seek to co-create knowledge and make information and datasets as widely accessible and understandable to as wide a sector of society as possible.
‘More KNOWING More’ ‘More DOING More’
The Anthropocene Research Group has ambitions to work in a radically different way (Figure 2). Widening access of individuals and communities, agencies and governments to ‘big data’, (i.e. the datasets gathered over the latter half of the 20th and the first two decades of the 21st centuries) is the first step.
The next step is multi-stakeholder demonstration projects allied with education towards more synergetic understandings. The intended outcomes are more informed predictions (‘more KNOWING more’) and innovative practical solutions (‘more DOING more’).
“Only 22 percent of the earth’s surface is still wilderness and only 11 per cent of photosynthesis takes place in these wild areas... This new model of the biosphere moves us away from an outdated view of the world as ‘natural ecosystems with humans disturbing them’ and towards a vision of ‘human systems with natural ecosystems embedded within them’.”
Schwägerl 2014. The Anthropocene: the Human Era and How it Shapes our Planet. Santa Fe and London.