Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Science and the experience of nature

Abstract

How should human societies act to enhance ecological integrity and improve human well-being in tandem, now and in the future? In this Perspective, we suggest that this question is not simply a matter of defining the appropriate science and policy, or in achieving improvements in the quality of science communication. Instead, science and policy must draw from deeper waters. We discuss a deeper transdisciplinary approach that gives attention to the meanings that societal groups find in their environments, as well as the ways in which these meanings are embedded in landscapes and other aspects of material culture and inform the individual and collective sense of self. A humanistic environmental science, in short, examines human experience of a dynamic, yet changeable nature.

This is a preview of subscription content

Access options

Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

$32.00

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. IPCC Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability (eds Parry, M. L. et al.) (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2007).

  2. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment Ecosystems and Human Well-Being: Our Human Planet: Summary for Decision Makers (Earthscan, 2005).

  3. IPCC Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report (eds Core Writing Team, Pachauri, R. K. & Meyer L. A.) (IPCC, 2015).

  4. Rockström, J. et al. A safe operating space for humanity. Nature 461, 472–475 (2009).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. GDP (current US$) World Bank https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD (accessed 9 May 2018).

  6. Robbins, P. Political Ecology (Blackwell, Malden, 2004).

  7. Fine, B. The World of Consumption: The Material and Cultural Revisited (Routledge, London, 2002).

  8. Daly, H. E. Beyond Growth: The Economics of Sustainable Development (Beacon Press, Boston, 1996).

  9. Jackson, T. Prosperity Without Growth: Economics for a Finite Planet (Earthscan, London, 2009).

  10. Stern, N. The Economics of Climate Change: The Stern Review (Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2007).

  11. World Commission on Environment and Development Our Common Future (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 1987).

  12. Norton, B. C. Sustainability: A Philosophy of Adaptive Ecosystem Management (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 2005).

  13. Foster, J. The Sustainability Mirage: Illusion and Reality in the Coming War on Climate Change (Earthscan, London, 2008).

  14. Niles, D. Moving beyond the orthodoxies in ‘sustainable agriculture’. Senri Ethnolog. Rep. 33, 421–452 (2009).

    Google Scholar 

  15. United Nations Environment Program Towards a Green Economy: Pathways to Sustainable Development and Poverty Eradication (2011).

  16. Krueger, R. & Gibbs, D. in The Sustainable Development Paradox: Urban Political Economy in the US and Europe (eds Krueger, R. & Gibbs, D.) 1–11 (Guilford Press, New York, 2007).

  17. Swyngedoux, E. in The Sustainable Development Paradox: Urban Political Economy in the US and Europe (eds Krueger, R. & Gibbs, D.) 13–40 (Guilford Press, New York, 2007).

  18. Tachimoto, N. (ed.) Global Humanics of the Environment (RIHN, Kyoto, 2008).

  19. Acselrad, H. in The Crisis of Global Environmental Governance: Towards a New Political Economy of Sustainability (eds Park, J., Conca, K. & Finger, M.) 96–109 (Routledge, London, 2008).

  20. Park, J., Conca, K. & Finger, M. The Crisis of Global Environmental Governance: Towards a New Political Economy of Sustainability (Routledge, London, 2008).

  21. Kates, R. W. & National Research Council Board on Sustainable Development Our Common Journey: A Transition Toward Sustainability (National Academy Press, Washington DC, 1999).

  22. Speth, J. G. The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability (Yale Univ. Press, New Haven, 2008).

  23. Raskin, P. et al. Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead (Stockholm Environment Institute, 2002).

  24. Handmer, J. & Dovers, S. A Typology Of Resilience, The Earthscan Reader on Adaptation to Climate Change (eds Schipper, E. L. F. & Burton, I.) 187–210 (Earthscan, London, 2009).

  25. Brondizio, E. S., Ostrom, E. & Young, O. R. Connectivity and the governance of multilevel social-ecological systems: The role of social capital. Annu. Rev. Env. Res. 34, 253–78 (2009).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Earth System Science for Global Sustainability: The Grand Challenges (International Council for Science, 2010).

  27. The Belmont Challenge: A Global, Environmental Research Mission for Sustainability (International Group of Funding Agencies for Global Change Research, 2011); https://www.belmontforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/belmont-challenge-white-paper.pdf

  28. Larigauderie, A. & Mooney, H. A. The intergovernmental science-policy platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services: moving a step closer to an IPCC-like mechanism for biodiversity. Curr. Opin. Env. Sustain. 2, 9–14 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Perrings, C., Duraiappah, A., Larigauderie, A. & Mooney, H. The biodiversity and ecosystem services science-policy interface. Science 331, 1139–1140 (2011).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Weichselgartner, J. & Kasperson, R. Barriers in the science-policy-practice interface: toward a knowledge-action-system in global environmental change research. Glob. Env. Change 20, 266–277 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Norton, B. C. Sustainability: A Philosophy of Adaptive Ecosystem Management 49 (Univ. Chicago Press, Chicago, 2005).

  32. Hulme, M. Geographical work at the boundaries of climate change. Trans. Inst. Brit. Geogr. 33, 5–11 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Hulme, M. Problems with making and governing global kinds of knowledge. Glob. Env. Change 20, 558–564 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Sterman, J. D. Risk communication on climate: mental models and mass balance. Science 322, 532–533 (2008).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Vogel, C., Moser, S. C., Kasperson, R. E. & Dabelko, G. D. Linking vulnerability, adaptation, and resilience science to practice: pathways, players, and partnerships. Glob. Env. Change 17, 349–364 (2007).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Hirsch Hadorn, G., Bradley, D., Pohl, C., Rist, S. & Wiesmann, U. Implication of transdisciplinarity for sustainability research. Ecol. Econ. 60, 119–128 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Jasanoff, S. A new climate for society. Theor. Cult. Soc. 27, 233–253 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Nicolescu, B. Manifesto of Transdisciplinarity (State Univ. New York Press, Albany, 2002).

  39. Hulme, M. Learning to live with recreated climates. Nat. Cult. 5, 117–122 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Max-Neef, M. A. Foundations of transdisciplinarity. Ecol. Econ. 53, 5–16 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. Nicolescu, B. Transdisciplinarity: Theory and Practice (Hampton, Cresskill, 2008).

  42. Pohl, C. & Hirsch Hadorn, G. Principles for Designing Transdisciplinary Research (Oekom, München, 2007).

  43. Hirsch Hadorn, G., Bradley, D., Pohl, C., Rist, S. & Wiesmann, U. Implication of transdisciplinarity for sustainability research. Ecol. Econ. 60, 119–128 (2006).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  44. Hirsch Hadorn, G. et al. in Handbook of Transdisciplinary Research (eds Hirsch Hadorn, G. et al.) 19–39 (Springer, 2008).

  45. Latour, B. Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences into Democracy (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, 2004).

  46. Geertz, C. The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays (Basic Books, New York, 1973).

  47. Descola, P. Prof. Philippe Descola: winner of the 2012 CNRS Golden Medal. College de France Newsletter (July, 2015).

  48. Tuan, Y.-F. Space and Place: The Perspective of Experience (Univ. Minnesota Press, Minneapolis, 2001).

  49. Niles, D. The charcoal forest: ecology, aesthetics and the Anthropocene. Pre-print at SocArXiv https://doi.org/10.31235/osf.io/hk5g8 (2018).

  50. Lemonnier, P. Mundane Objects: Materiality and Non-Verbal Communication (Routledge, London, 2016).

    Book  Google Scholar 

  51. Basso, K. H. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language Among the Western Apache (Univ. New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1996).

  52. Kohn, E. How Forests Think: Toward and Anthropology Beyond the Human (Univ. California Press, Berkeley, 2013).

  53. Renn, J. & Laubichler, M. in Integrated History and Philosophy of Science (ed. Stadler, F.) 109–125 (Vienna Circle Institute Yearbook Vol. 20, Springer, 2017).

  54. Bonneuil, C. & Fressoz, J.-B. The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History, and Us (Verso, London, 2015).

  55. Niles, D. in Oxford Handbook of Heritage Studies (eds. Labrador, A. & Silberman, N.) Ch. 4.5 (Oxford Univ. Press, Oxford, 2018).

  56. Renn, J. From the history of science to the history of knowledge—and back. Centaurus 75, 37–53 (2015).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  57. Tachimoto, N. in Global Humanics of the Environment (ed. Tachimoto, N.) RIHN Working Paper No. 1; 5–10 (RIHN, Kyoto, 2008).

Download references

Acknowledgements

Narifumi Tachimoto is Professor Emeritus and was Director General (2007–2013) at the Research Institute for Humanity and Nature and was President of the National Institutes for the Humanities (2014–2018).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Contributions

N.T. and D.N. contributed equally to the conceptualization of this Perspective and D.N. wrote the bulk of the text.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Daniel Niles.

Additional information

Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Niles, D., Tachimoto, N. Science and the experience of nature. Nat Sustain 1, 540–543 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0124-y

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0124-y

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing