The Pathways Forum convenes an international and diverse community of researchers for discussions and mutual learning on a variety of sustainability science concepts, methods, and concrete cases.

Upcoming Forums

Pathways Forum #12  

Resource-hungry societies and a future in flux: Insights from social metabolism

Economic growth, through the increase of goods and services, has long been narrated as resulting in better efficiency and comfort for consumers. However, the resource extraction and infrastructures needed to support economic growth also results in growing inequalities and systematic environmental degradation.

At a time where socio-environmental sustainability is paramount, is a decrease in resource use and their associated emissions compatible with sustained economic growth? How to identify and address the material structures and social processes that entrench unsustainable socio-economic systems? What transformations are needed in order to start envisioning alternative societies for a sustainable and just future?

This webinar explores how the social metabolic analysis framework provides powerful insights into the interrelations between society, environment, and economy. The session will cover the key concepts of social metabolism, and how it can be applied to sustainability issues. As a framework seeking to bridge the social and natural sciences, we will also discuss how a variety of disciplinary approaches can contribute to socio-metabolic research.

Speakers:

Helmut Haberl, Institute of Social Ecology Vienna

Eric Pineault, Université du Québec

Anke Schaffartzik, Central European University

Discussion facilitator:
Benjamin Fleischmann, Ph.D student at the Institute of Social Ecology, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna.

This event is organized in collaboration with the Global Land Programme

Past Forums

Pathways Forum #11 – From Grassroots to Courtrooms: Litigation as a Vector for Transformations

High profile and successful cases, such as Milieudefensie v. Royal Dutch Shell, and Sustaining The Wild Coast v. Minister of Mineral Resources, illustrate the role that litigation can play as a way for citizen groups and communities to challenge structures of power, such as governments and fossil fuel corporations, to hold them accountable for unsustainable governance and practices. But what are the limitations and risks of litigation, especially with regard to citizen groups initiating these actions?

Co-organised with the UNESCO-MOST BRIDGES Coalition, this session convenes Joana Setzer (Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment), Melanie Murcott (University of Cape Town), and Kelly Matheson (Our Children’s Trust) for a critical reflection on the transformative potential of climate litigation.

[Reading List]

Pathways Forum #10 – Whose Sustainability? – Unpacking decolonization in sustainability science

This Pathways Forum explores the topic of decolonizing research, focusing on Sustainability Science. Decolonizing research in practice is a nuanced and multifaceted endeavour that involves reexamining and restructuring research practices to challenge and undo the complex and ongoing impacts of colonization. In this webinar, Farhana Sultana (Syracuse University) has taken a global perspective on addressing the unspoken coloniality of global sustainability, underscoring the urgency of decolonizing colonial-capitalist ideologies and practices. Following, Lyla Mehta (Institute of Development Studies)  has uncovered the colonial roots and enduring western biases of sustainability sciences, by drawing on examples from the TAPESTRY project. To conclude, Bagele Chilisa (University of Botswana) has reflected over the need to have research paradigms driven by indigenous worldviews, the African philosophy of Ubuntu and the inherent relational nature of research. In the words of Bagele Chilisa, we need indigenous and western knowledge to « get to the dance floor »: let’s have western science standards adopt indigenous methodologies and invite them to dance.

[Reading List]

Pathways Forum #9 – Communicating ‘messy’ science: Capturing the transformative potential of communication & outreach in transdisciplinary work

Communication is often undervalued and overlooked by researchers. Yet in transdisciplinary work, it can hold the power to contribute to transformative processes. Our ninth Pathways Forum was a chance to explore this potential through the experiences of our panelists, who included previous Pathways Communication Grant awardees. Kiah Smith (University of Queensland) and Daniel Cruz Lopez united grassroots food system actors to envision more just food systems in Australia as part of the Fair Food Futures project. They showed how podcasts and animated videos can amplify different voices, sharing stories and aspirations for change while fostering dialogue and collaboration among diverse societal actors and sparking collective action. In the “Fishing Transformations” project, Ignacio Gianelli (University of Santiago de Compostela) used a short documentary film to highlight several local initiatives and visions for transforming the small-scale fishing industry in Uruguay from boat to table, inspiring new narratives for change and emphasizing the importance of driving present actions towards an objective that benefits all stakeholders. Mélina Macouin (CNRS) demonstrated the power of art and storytelling in convening and engaging stakeholders in the co-design of nature and science-based solutions in local communities in Senegal, as part of the Inspire and Embark project. An innovative pop-up museum combined different media (e.g., podcasts, drawings, photographs, maps) to showcase the multiplicity of perspectives within the territory, empowering citizens and creating a space for co-reflection. In the ‘Antarctic Cities’ project, Juan Francisco Salazar (Western Sydney University) showed how technology can be used to connect with young people through a participative online and open source serious game that they co-developed. Using this game to explore interactive scenarios allowed them to play a role in fostering local-global exchanges and knowledge sharing as they tackle future challenges in Antarctica and the gateway cities in which they live. Indeed, the complexity of transdisciplinary work asks us to rethink current research practices, including communication. Beyond the dissemination of research, these examples illustrate how, through creative methods and practices, communication can be a powerful tool to navigate and mediate the ‘messiness’ of transdisciplinary work. At the same time, we must recognize our biases in selecting the stories we tell and how we tell them. As scientists, we must be transparent and accountable to the people and lives behind these stories as we seek to capture and enact the transformative power of communication.

Find out more about the Pathways Communication Grants HERE

Read about past awardees HERE

Pathways Forum #8 – Different ways to walk a pathway

Pathway has become a buzzword. It’s even the name of our initiative! But what exactly does it mean? This question was at the heart of our eighth Pathways Forum, where we explored four pathways approaches with concrete, place-based examples illustrating their respective advantages and limitations depending on the context. Andreas Mayer (BOKU) made the case for modelling as a useful tool for co-creating and collectively visualising scenarios with different stakeholders. Adrian Ely (University of Sussex) shared experiences from the STEPS (Social, Technological, and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability) Centre approach, which explicitly focuses on unmasking knowledge politics and power relations, whilst recognising alternative narratives from marginalised groups. Bruno Locatelli (CIRAD) and Sandra Lavorel (CNRS) discussed adaptation pathways, which opt for an incremental, action-oriented approach which allows for decisions to be made under high uncertainty. Finally, Niki Frantzeskaki (Utrecht University) illustrated how transition pathways can be effective strategic planning tools to guide short-, medium- and long-term actions. Indeed, there are many ways to walk a pathway, but the collective experiences of the speakers show that beyond these differences, exist many similarities and possibilities for complementarity. As a metaphor, pathways have the power to convene multiple actors with diverging views, values, knowledge, and objectives to collectively imagine new, alternative, and more desirable futures, and at the same time, encourage reflection on the actions and conditions needed to get there.

Pathways Forum #7 – Ecological imagination: building transformative pathways with insights from the humanities

Calls to break down disciplinary silos have grown louder in recent years. Yet, interdisciplinarity in practice remains challenging and some disciplines, such as the arts and humanities, are often still left out of the discussion. Our seventh Pathways Forum, co-organised with the UNESCO BRIDGES Coalition, was an open space to discuss how the arts environmental humanities can contribute to sustainability science and transformative research.

Joined by literary scholar Jorge Marcone (Rutgers University), writer, poet and literary scholar Kenneth Toah Nsah (University of Lille), and artist and self-proclaimed “bizarre geographer” Nathalie Blanc (CNRS), we explored the power of the arts and humanities to engage with and bring together different communities by building deep connections to beliefs, values, memories and emotions, pushing us to move beyond thinking in terms of a nature-culture binary and reposition ourselves as a part of a multispecies world. Using concrete examples of different methods and approaches, they led us on a creative journey to (re-)discover our capacity to (re-)imagine possible futures and reflect on current practices as a way of mobilising more transformative change.

Pathways Forum #6 – Engaging in meaningful co-productive practices for sustainability

Our sixth Pathways Forum capped off a great year of reflection with a lively discussion on how to engage in meaningful co-productive practices for sustainability with Josie Chambers (Utrecht University), Tobias Haller (University of Bern), and Marja Spierenburg (Leiden University). Sharing their experience through several case studies, they offer practical guidance on fostering co-productive agility in different contexts to transform conflict and tension that are inherent in co-productive processes into spaces for critical reflection to push beyond the status quo and open up opportunities for collective action.

Pathways Forum #5 – Navigating pathways towards more sustainable and just ocean governance, from the structural to the local context

Our fifth Pathways Forum, organised in collaboration with the Ocean Knowledge-Action-Network  (KAN), focused on the development of pathways, from structural and community-based perspectives, towards sustainable ocean governance. Alexandre Ganachaud (IRD) opened the discussion with a presentation of his work with the Pacific Community (SPC) on the vulnerability of Oceania’s fisheries to climate change and PACPATH, a transdisciplinary pathways-oriented research project aiming to contribute to ocean sustainability. This was followed by Leopoldo Gerhardinger (ICTA – Autonomous University of Barcelona), who shared his research on using a networked knowledge-to-action approach focused on pathways towards structural changes in marine governance systems in Brazil. Finally, Victor Brun (CRIOBE) gave insights from a local perspective through his work on participatory processes engaging local communities to create community-managed marine protected areas in the Philippines with a local NGO.

Pathways Forum #4 – Bending the curve of biodiversity loss with winding pathways to sustainability

Our fourth Pathways Forum was organised in collaboration with BioDISCOVERY, The Global Mountain Biodiversity Assessment (GMBA), and the Programme for Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS) on the topic of biodiversity pathways. Valuable insights from speakers David Obura (CORDIO East Africa) and David Leclère (IIASA) set the stage for discussion on how pathways can ‘bend the curve’ of biodiversity loss towards a more sustainable direction and highlighted the need for transformative change through integrated and ambitious action across all targets of the global biodiversity framework.

Pathways Forum #3 – Knowledge Co-production on the Ground

Our third Pathways Forum, which took place on January 24, 2022, was a collaboration with researchers from the LIRA 2030 Africa Programme, a research programme that focuses on the co-production of solutions-oriented, contextualized knowledge on sustainable urban development. It was a fascinating opportunity to explore through concrete cases, methodological, epistemological, and practical implications of conducting transdisciplinary research.

Temilade Sesan (University of Ibadan) and Alice McClure (University of Cape Town) from the LIRA programme shared their experiences and key learnings from working on projects designed around the co-production of solutions-oriented, contextualized knowledge on sustainable development in specific urban contexts in Africa.

Pathways Forum #2 – Transdisciplinary integration: giving weight to two buzzwords

Held on 23 November 2021, this Forum focused on transdisciplinary knowledge integration. On this occasion, Sabine Hoffmann (Eawag) spoke on the methods and processes of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary integration and on the importance of the role of integration experts. Following the presentation, participants enriched the discussion with insightful thoughts and comments based on their own experience from inter- or transdisciplinary projects.

Pathways Forum #1 – Pathways to Sustainability: Nice words, but what do they mean?

The first Pathways Forum was held on September 23, 2021 and saw more than 70 participants joining from Africa, Latin and North America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Featuring Oonsie Biggs (Stellenbosch University), Adrian Ely (University of Sussex) and Flurina Schneider (ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research) as speakers, this first explored how pathways approaches can contribute to bridging the gap between global challenges and local initiatives, on how engaging in collaborative research in multicultural and multidisciplinary contexts, and on the way the normative underpinnings of sustainability research influence the way research is conducted and how it is valued.