Per Olsson - Critical thresholds and transformations


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Presentation at the STEPS Conference 2010 - Pathways to Sustainability: Agendas for a new politics of environment, development and social justice

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Per Olsson - Critical thresholds and transformations

  1. 1. Welcome to Stockholm Resilience Centre – Research for Governance of Social-Ecological Systems Critical thresholds and transformations in social-ecological systems Per Olsson Stockholm Resilience Centre
  2. 2. Critical transitions or regime shifts
  3. 3. Valuable Ecosystem Services Loss of ecosystem services (Desirable) (Undesirable) 1 4 coral dominance state shift algal dominance 2 3 • overfishing, coastal • disease, eutrophication hurricane clear water turbid water • phosphorous accum- • flooding, warming, ulation in soil and mud overexploitation grassland of predators shrub-bushland • fire prevention • good rains, continu- ous heavy grazing
  4. 4. Regional-scale collapse - connectivity and spatial resilience
  5. 5. Number of reef patches t
  6. 6.
  7. 7. Thresholds of Potential Concern (TPC)
  8. 8. Humanity’s period of grace – the last 10000 years Migrations of Great European First migration of Aborigines Beginning civilisations: fully modern humans arrive in fully modern humans of agriculture from South Asia Greek, Roman out of Africa Australia to Europe Source: GRIP ice core data (Greenland) and S. Oppenheimer, ”Out of Eden”, 2004
  9. 9. Understanding transformations in social-ecological systems Window of opportunity Preparing Navigating the Stabilizing transition a) b) Olsson et al 2004, Olsson et al 2006
  10. 10. Key factors for SES transformations • Experimentation and innovation • Shadow networks • Opportunity context (i.e. the role of crisis) • Institutional entrepreneurs (the role of individuals) • Paradigms shifts
  11. 11. Combining social-ecological, socio-technological, socio-political perspectives Transitions, Resilience and Governance: Linking Technological, Ecological and Political Systems (Special issue in E&S with Andy Sterling and Adrian Smith)
  12. 12. Combining Transition, Social Innovation, and Resilience Theories To increase our understanding of transformations in Social-Ecological systems
  13. 13. The role of resilience thinking • add the ecological dimension of transformation – addressing only the social dimension will not be sufficient to guide society toward sustainable outcomes. – societies may undergo major transformations without improving their capacity to learn from, respond to, and manage environmental feedback from dynamic ecosystems • for example, a systemic shift to biofuels might slow climate change but lead to destructive land-use change and biodiversity loss – can lead to further ecological degradation, regime shifts and lock-in traps in social-ecological systems that are difficult to get out of
  14. 14. Ongoing and future activities • Agency and leadership strategies for innovation and transformation of social-ecological systems (manuscript in review) –Experiments, Innovation and Opportunity Context, Institutional Entrepreneurs • Tipping towards sustainability: emerging pathways of transformation (manuscript in progress) –Framing ongoing change
  15. 15. Ongoing and future activities • Innovation and transformation in Social- Ecological Systems (workshop series, PhD Course) – Links to planetary boundaries and missing institutions at global level • Crossing the chasm - crisis, opportunity, and transformation (panel at Resilience 2011, with John Thompson) – Crisis as triggers for large-scale transformations
  16. 16. Thank You!
  17. 17. Social-ecological innovation • New strategies, concepts, ideas and organizations that enhance the capacity of ecosystems to generate (bundles of) services • have the potential to build resilience in SES, increase human well-being, and reduce vulnerability to present and future challenges • can enhance the fit between ecosystems and governance systems and help can help break self-reinforcing feedbacks, unlock social-ecological systems’ lock-ins, escape traps and move to new trajectories of sustainability Olsson and Galaz in review
  18. 18. The Regime Shifts Database • To provide a high quality synthesis of different types of regime shifts documented in social-ecological systems • Focus: Regime shifts that have large impacts on ecosystem services – ie matter to people • Users: – Research projects on regime shifts – Resource for students and practitioners – Resilience assessments in particular areas
  19. 19. Outline Part I Understanding and identifying critical transitions Part II Detecting and monitoring thresholds Part III Transformations and purposefully steer away from thresholds and connect to the resource base
  20. 20. Combined perspectives and social- ecological system analysis • Initiatives for large-scale transformations - New Green Economy - Green revolution in Africa - Energy and Biofuels • Networks for change - Rework the World - World Ecological Forum - Baltic Sea Action Group • Navigating transformations - planetary stewardship, sustainability and human well-being