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  • Comment |

    Pandemic responses can engender healthier and more sustainable societies only if we attend to urban equality.

    • Michele Acuto
    • , Shaun Larcom
    • , Roger Keil
    • , Mehrnaz Ghojeh
    • , Tom Lindsay
    • , Chiara Camponeschi
    •  & Susan Parnell
  • Comment |

    Hand hygiene is critical for reducing transmission of communicable diseases, as we are so acutely aware during the COVID-19 pandemic. UNICEF has identified behaviour change and knowledge promotion as top strategies for increasing handwashing during this crisis, while acknowledging that millions of people lack the water necessary for handwashing.

    • David M. Hannah
    • , Iseult Lynch
    • , Feng Mao
    • , Joshua D. Miller
    • , Sera L. Young
    •  & Stefan Krause
  • Comment |

    Biodiversity research is replete with scientific studies depicting future trajectories of decline that have failed to mobilize transformative change. Imagination and creativity can foster new ways to address longstanding problems to create better futures for people and the planet.

    • Carina Wyborn
    • , Federico Davila
    • , Laura Pereira
    • , Michelle Lim
    • , Isis Alvarez
    • , Gretchen Henderson
    • , Amy Luers
    • , Maria Jose Martinez Harms
    • , Kristal Maze
    • , Jasper Montana
    • , Melanie Ryan
    • , Chris Sandbrook
    • , Rebecca Shaw
    •  & Emma Woods
  • Comment |

    The current definition of desertification excludes hyper-arid zones given their lack of economic activity. However, the 101 million people living there, ongoing land degradation associated with the use of groundwater for intensive agriculture and climate-change-induced aridity call for a revision of this definition.

    • Jaime Martínez-Valderrama
    • , Emilio Guirado
    •  & Fernando T. Maestre
  • Comment |

    Governments are deciding on measures to help economies recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but, as in previous crises, a narrow focus on fighting the recession could have adverse effects on the environment and health. We suggest that health and sustainability should be at the heart of the economic response.

    • Carla Guerriero
    • , Andy Haines
    •  & Marco Pagano
  • Comment |

    The world is not on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 6 on clean water and sanitation by 2030. We urge a rapid change of the economics, engineering and management frameworks that guided water policy and investments in the past in order to address the water challenges of our time.

    • Claudia W. Sadoff
    • , Edoardo Borgomeo
    •  & Stefan Uhlenbrook
  • Comment |

    The global food system must become more sustainable. Digital agriculture — digital and geospatial technologies to monitor, assess and manage soil, climatic and genetic resources — illustrates how to meet this challenge so as to balance the economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainable food production.

    • Bruno Basso
    •  & John Antle
  • Comment |

    Energy fuels, and is central to, all physical and biological systems, including the human population and economy. Yet science has missed the significance of civilization’s growing energy consumption. The energetics of the global food system illustrate the counterintuitive aspects of present energy consumption circumstances.

    • John R. Schramski
    • , C. Brock Woodson
    •  & James H. Brown
  • Comment |

    The assessment of land degradation and restoration by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services shows that land degradation across the globe is a wide and severe issue and is showing no signs of slowing down. This trend must be halted and reversed.

    • Louise Willemen
    • , Nichole N. Barger
    • , Ben ten Brink
    • , Matthew Cantele
    • , Barend F. N. Erasmus
    • , Judith L. Fisher
    • , Toby Gardner
    • , Timothy G. Holland
    • , Florent Kohler
    • , Janne S. Kotiaho
    • , Graham P. von Maltitz
    • , Grace Nangendo
    • , Ram Pandit
    • , John A. Parrotta
    • , Matthew D. Potts
    • , Stephen D. Prince
    • , Mahesh Sankaran
    • , Anastasia Brainich
    • , Luca Montanarella
    •  & Robert Scholes
  • Comment |

    Disadvantaged communities are vulnerable to the impacts of lead exposure risking further worsening of their living standards, an outcome likely to weaken global efforts towards the Sustainable Development Goals. We urge policy makers to adopt protection systems aimed at safeguarding the most threatened populations.

    • David O’Connor
    • , Deyi Hou
    • , Yong Sik Ok
    •  & Bruce P. Lanphear
  • Comment |

    Changes in social and environmental conditions in the Western Highlands of Guatemala undermine food security and job opportunities. We describe how targeted assistance can build upon traditional agricultural systems to increase adaptive capacity, improve nutrition, provide jobs and thereby reduce pressures to migrate.

    • Keith L. Kline
    • , Luis F. Ramirez
    • , Carlos Sum
    • , Santiago Lopez-Ridaura
    •  & Virginia H. Dale
  • Comment |

    An international expert panel probes how engineers, architects and behavioural scientists can work together to learn about design behaviour for sustainability — and what all interested scholars and practitioners might learn from it.

    • Leidy Klotz
    • , John Pickering
    • , Ruth Schmidt
    •  & Elke U. Weber
  • Comment |

    In light of pressing societal and environmental problems, sustainability science must advance faster than before. In order to contribute to a cumulative body of knowledge, such research needs shared infrastructure, database development and changes in research culture.

    • Stefan Pauliuk
  • Comment |

    Soil-based initiatives to mitigate climate change and restore soil fertility both rely on rebuilding soil organic carbon. Controversy about the role soils might play in climate change mitigation is, consequently, undermining actions to restore soils for improved agricultural and environmental outcomes.

    • Mark A. Bradford
    • , Chelsea J. Carey
    • , Lesley Atwood
    • , Deborah Bossio
    • , Eli P. Fenichel
    • , Sasha Gennet
    • , Joseph Fargione
    • , Jonathan R. B. Fisher
    • , Emma Fuller
    • , Daniel A. Kane
    • , Johannes Lehmann
    • , Emily E. Oldfield
    • , Elsa M. Ordway
    • , Joseph Rudek
    • , Jonathan Sanderman
    •  & Stephen A. Wood
  • Comment |

    A freight carbon offset presents an opportunity for transport operators and their customers to invest carbon offset capital within the freight transport sector itself, accelerating the transition to a more sustainable global transport network.

    • Suzanne Greene
    •  & Cristiano Façanha
  • Comment |

    The global rush to develop the ‘blue economy’ risks harming both the marine environment and human wellbeing. Bold policies and actions are urgently needed. We identify five priorities to chart a course towards an environmentally sustainable and socially equitable blue economy.

    • Nathan J. Bennett
    • , Andrés M. Cisneros-Montemayor
    • , Jessica Blythe
    • , Jennifer J. Silver
    • , Gerald Singh
    • , Nathan Andrews
    • , Antonio Calò
    • , Patrick Christie
    • , Antonio Di Franco
    • , Elena M. Finkbeiner
    • , Stefan Gelcich
    • , Paolo Guidetti
    • , Sarah Harper
    • , Ngaio Hotte
    • , John N. Kittinger
    • , Philippe Le Billon
    • , Jane Lister
    • , Rocío López de la Lama
    • , Emma McKinley
    • , Joeri Scholtens
    • , Ann-Magnhild Solås
    • , Merle Sowman
    • , Nicolás Talloni-Álvarez
    • , Lydia C. L. Teh
    • , Michelle Voyer
    •  & U. Rashid Sumaila
  • Comment |

    The terms sustainability, resilience and others group under the heading of ‘stability’. Their ubiquity speaks to a vital need to characterize changes in complex social and environmental systems. In a bewildering array of terms, practical measurements are essential to permit comparisons and so untangle underlying relationships.

    • Stuart L. Pimm
    • , Ian Donohue
    • , José M. Montoya
    •  & Michel Loreau
  • Comment |

    Resilience scholarship continues to inspire opaque discourse and competing frameworks often inconsistent with the complexity inherent in social–ecological systems. We contend that competing conceptualizations of resilience are reconcilable, and that the core theory is useful for navigating sustainability challenges.

    • Craig R. Allen
    • , David G. Angeler
    • , Brian C. Chaffin
    • , Dirac Twidwell
    •  & Ahjond Garmestani
  • Comment |

    Dominant research modes are not enough to guide the societal transformations necessary to achieve the 2030 Agenda. Researchers, practitioners, decision makers, funders and civil society should work together to achieve universally accessible and mutually beneficial sustainability science.

    • Peter Messerli
    • , Eun Mee Kim
    • , Wolfgang Lutz
    • , Jean-Paul Moatti
    • , Katherine Richardson
    • , Muhammad Saidam
    • , David Smith
    • , Parfait Eloundou-Enyegue
    • , Ernest Foli
    • , Amanda Glassman
    • , Gonzalo Hernandez Licona
    • , Endah Murniningtyas
    • , Jurgis Kazimieras Staniškis
    • , Jean-Pascal van Ypersele
    •  & Eeva Furman
  • Comment |

    Precision farming enabled by big data and gene-editing technologies are accelerating progress toward increasing nitrogen-use efficiency. However, farmer engagement, public–private partnerships and sound public policies are critical to harness the potential of such technologies to reduce hypoxia in the Gulf of Mexico.

    • Madhu Khanna
    • , Benjamin M. Gramig
    • , Evan H. DeLucia
    • , Ximing Cai
    •  & Praveen Kumar
  • Comment |

    Transnational environmental crime has become the largest financial driver of social conflict, with severe implications for peace and security. Sustainable-development frameworks need to overtly recognize and mitigate the risks posed by transnational environmental crime to environmental security.

    • Meredith L. Gore
    • , Patrick Braszak
    • , James Brown
    • , Phillip Cassey
    • , Rosaleen Duffy
    • , Judith Fisher
    • , Jessica Graham
    • , Ronit Justo-Hanani
    • , Andrea E. Kirkwood
    • , Elizabeth Lunstrum
    • , Catherine Machalaba
    • , Francis Massé
    • , Maria Manguiat
    • , Delon Omrow
    • , Peter Stoett
    • , Tanya Wyatt
    •  & Rob White
  • Comment |

    Leaders of sustainability research organizations need to provide an environment where interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary science flourish. Developing the necessary leadership skills and attributes requires new, targeted training programmes.

    • I. J. Gordon
    • , K. Bawa
    • , G. Bammer
    • , C. Boone
    • , J. Dunne
    • , D. Hart
    • , J. Hellmann
    • , A. Miller
    • , M. New
    • , J. Ometto
    • , S. Pickett
    • , G. Wendorf
    • , A. Agrawal
    • , P. Bertsch
    • , C. D. Campbell
    • , P. Dodd
    • , A. Janetos
    • , H. Mallee
    •  & K. Taylor
  • Comment |

    Car bans could contribute to both climate change and air-quality goals. However, most car bans announced to date lack enforcement mechanisms and are therefore not bans at all. Here, we provide recommendations to design car bans as a more-effective policy tool for sustainability.

    • Patrick Plötz
    • , Jonn Axsen
    • , Simon A. Funke
    •  & Till Gnann
  • Comment |

    Zeolites and other technologies should be evaluated and pursued for reducing methane concentrations in the atmosphere from 1,860 ppb to preindustrial levels of ~750 ppb. Such a goal of atmospheric restoration provides a positive framework for change at a time when climate action is desperately needed.

    • R. B. Jackson
    • , E. I. Solomon
    • , J. G. Canadell
    • , M. Cargnello
    •  & C. B. Field
  • Comment |

    Madagascar’s recently elected president ran on a platform of improving the economy and raising people out of poverty. We suggest that addressing the precipitous decline of biodiversity will help to deliver this commitment, and we lay out ways in which President Rajoelina could firmly put the country on a trajectory towards sustainable growth.

    • Julia P. G. Jones
    • , Jonah Ratsimbazafy
    • , Anitry N. Ratsifandrihamanana
    • , James E. M. Watson
    • , Herizo T. Andrianandrasana
    • , Mar Cabeza
    • , Joshua E. Cinner
    • , Steven M. Goodman
    • , Frank Hawkins
    • , Russell A. Mittermeier
    • , Ando L. Rabearisoa
    • , O. Sarobidy Rakotonarivo
    • , Julie H. Razafimanahaka
    • , Andriamandimbisoa R. Razafimpahanana
    • , Lucienne Wilmé
    •  & Patricia C. Wright
  • Comment |

    Advances in synthetic biology have the potential to develop new products, materials and services that could contribute to the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Support for synthetic biology initiatives in developing countries is needed to ensure that these benefits are open to all.

    • K. E. French
  • Comment |

    Agricultural practices need to change to meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. How to achieve the SDGs is heavily contested. Here we propose a policy framework that triggers the required transition. Organic agriculture, although not a silver bullet, is a useful component in such strategy.

    • Frank Eyhorn
    • , Adrian Muller
    • , John P. Reganold
    • , Emile Frison
    • , Hans R. Herren
    • , Louise Luttikholt
    • , Alexander Mueller
    • , Jürn Sanders
    • , Nadia El-Hage Scialabba
    • , Verena Seufert
    •  & Pete Smith
  • Comment |

    The development of sewer systems hasn’t caught up with the urbanization speed in developing countries, with serious consequences for urban river water quality. The experience of urban river restoration in China can offer useful lessons to other countries in the Global South.

    • Zuxin Xu
    • , Jin Xu
    • , Hailong Yin
    • , Wei Jin
    • , Huaizheng Li
    •  & Zhen He
  • Comment |

    Garrett Hardin’s Tragedy of the Commons put forward underdeveloped arguments that continue to be reflected in simplistic debates about the drivers and implications of demographic dynamics. It’s time to embrace the complexity that Hardin lacked in order to develop better-informed policy.

    • Lori M. Hunter
    •  & Aseem Prakash
  • Comment |

    In order to address sustainability challenges, we posit that knowledge generation needs to move rapidly from a disciplinary linear ‘tree’ model to an interdisciplinary ‘web’ model. We show how such a shift is useful by looking at case studies in the context of water management.

    • Junguo Liu
    • , Kamaljit S. Bawa
    • , Thomas P. Seager
    • , Ganquan Mao
    • , Ding Ding
    • , Janice Ser Huay Lee
    •  & Janet K. Swim
  • Comment |

    Policymakers and investors have perceived securing soil organic carbon as too difficult, with uncertain returns. But new technical, policy and financial opportunities offer hope for rapid progress.

    • Sonja Vermeulen
    • , Deborah Bossio
    • , Johannes Lehmann
    • , Paul Luu
    • , Keith Paustian
    • , Christopher Webb
    • , Flore Augé
    • , Imelda Bacudo
    • , Tobias Baedeker
    • , Tanja Havemann
    • , Ceris Jones
    • , Richard King
    • , Matthew Reddy
    • , Ishmael Sunga
    • , Moritz Von Unger
    •  & Matthew Warnken
  • Comment |

    Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals requires examining the impacts of health interventions across multiple sectors and identifying regions where health–development–environment conflicts are most likely. Doing this is important for ending the epidemic of malaria by 2030 alongside achieving other SDGs.

    • Christopher H. Trisos
    • , Steven M. Alexander
    • , Jessica A. Gephart
    • , Rajina Gurung
    • , Peter B. McIntyre
    •  & Rebecca E. Short
  • Comment |

    Urban biodiversity is an unplanned species assemblage. Although promoting native biodiversity should be the primary goal, the built environment often contains optimal habitat for non-natives. With planning and research, we could use cities as semi-natural assurance colonies for endangered species.

    • H. Bradley Shaffer
  • Comment |

    Researchers, stakeholders and funding organizations have embraced co-production of knowledge to solve sustainability problems. Research focusing on the practice of co-production can help us understand what works in what contexts and how to avoid potentially undesirable outcomes.

    • Maria Carmen Lemos
    • , James C. Arnott
    • , Nicole M. Ardoin
    • , Kristin Baja
    • , Angela T. Bednarek
    • , Art Dewulf
    • , Clare Fieseler
    • , Kristen A. Goodrich
    • , Kripa Jagannathan
    • , Nicole Klenk
    • , Katharine J. Mach
    • , Alison M. Meadow
    • , Ryan Meyer
    • , Richard Moss
    • , Leah Nichols
    • , K. Dana Sjostrom
    • , Missy Stults
    • , Esther Turnhout
    • , Catherine Vaughan
    • , Gabrielle Wong-Parodi
    •  & Carina Wyborn
  • Comment |

    The conservation movement has lost its critical edge by befriending agribusiness. With deforestation on the rise and a continuous roll-back of environmental protection, it is time to rethink this strategy.

    • Britaldo Soares-Filho
    •  & Raoni Rajão
  • Comment |

    Evidence-based approaches to sustainability challenges must draw on knowledge from the environment, development and health communities. To be practicable, this requires an approach to evidence that is broader and less hierarchical than the standards often applied within disciplines.

    • Edward T. Game
    • , Heather Tallis
    • , Lydia Olander
    • , Steven M. Alexander
    • , Jonah Busch
    • , Nancy Cartwright
    • , Elizabeth L. Kalies
    • , Yuta J. Masuda
    • , Anne-Christine Mupepele
    • , Jiangxiao Qiu
    • , Andrew Rooney
    • , Erin Sills
    •  & William J. Sutherland
  • Comment |

    The development of the post-2020 strategic plan for the Convention on Biological Diversity provides a vital window of opportunity to set out an ambitious plan of action to restore global biodiversity. The components of such a plan, including its goal, targets and some metrics, already exist and provide a roadmap to 2050.

    • Georgina M. Mace
    • , Mike Barrett
    • , Neil D. Burgess
    • , Sarah E. Cornell
    • , Robin Freeman
    • , Monique Grooten
    •  & Andy Purvis
  • Comment |

    The paired watershed approach is the most popular tool for quantifying the effects of forest watershed management on water sustainability. But this approach does not often address the critical factor of water stored in the landscape. Future work needs to quantify storage in paired watershed studies to inform sustainable water management.

    • J. J. McDonnell
    • , J. Evaristo
    • , K. D. Bladon
    • , J. Buttle
    • , I. F. Creed
    • , S. F. Dymond
    • , G. Grant
    • , A. Iroume
    • , C. R. Jackson
    • , J. A. Jones
    • , T. Maness
    • , K. J. McGuire
    • , D. F. Scott
    • , C. Segura
    • , R. C. Sidle
    •  & C. Tague
  • Comment |

    At least 30 million people in three African countries and Yemen are experiencing severe food insecurity. To rapidly scale-up international aid, we should acknowledge the systemic risk implied in food insecurity by looking at, for example, potential international refugee movement.

    • Michael J. Puma
    • , So Young Chon
    • , Kaoru Kakinuma
    • , Matti Kummu
    • , Raya Muttarak
    • , Richard Seager
    •  & Yoshihide Wada
  • Comment |

    Academic enterprises seeking to support society’s efforts to achieve global sustainability need to change their legacy reward systems. We need new structures to foster knowledge that is deeply integrated across disciplines and co-produced with non-academic stakeholders.

    • Elena G. Irwin
    • , Patricia J. Culligan
    • , Marina Fischer-Kowalski
    • , Kara Lavender Law
    • , Raghu Murtugudde
    •  & Stephanie Pfirman
  • Comment |

    The rapid growth of bottled water use in low- and middle-income countries, and its normalization as a daily source of drinking water, does not provide a pathway to universal access. Generous and sustained investment in centralized and community utilities remains the most viable means for achieving safe water access for all.

    • Alasdair Cohen
    •  & Isha Ray
  • Comment |

    Three decades of increasing temperature were expected to cause cod stocks to decline in the North Sea and Gulf of Maine, but they increased in the North Sea and declined in the Gulf of Maine. These trends are due to changes in fishing pressure rather than climate change.

    • Keith M. Brander
  • Comment |

    The Belt and Road Initiative will greatly influence the future of global trade. However, it may also promote permanent environmental degradation. We call for rigorous strategic environmental and social assessments, raising the bar for environmental protection worldwide.

    • Fernando Ascensão
    • , Lenore Fahrig
    • , Anthony P. Clevenger
    • , Richard T. Corlett
    • , Jochen A. G. Jaeger
    • , William F. Laurance
    •  & Henrique M. Pereira
  • Comment |

    In sub-Saharan Africa, the food system impacts on a number of urban development issues such as poverty, unemployment and poor health. Informal traders meet the food needs of many poor urban households. However, supermarket chains are changing this, demanding particular policy and planning responses.

    • Jane Battersby
    •  & Vanessa Watson
  • Comment |

    The study of cities needs to become more than the sum of its parts. An international Expert Panel investigates why, and how.

    • Michele Acuto
    • , Susan Parnell
    •  & Karen C. Seto