Perspectives

  • Perspective |

    Real-time control of combined sewer systems and green infrastructure can be used to reduce flooding. In this Perspective, the authors simulated the use of integrated stormwater inflow control to dynamically activate infrastructure in Copenhagen, Denmark, to substantially reduce combined sewage emissions.

    • Nadia Schou Vorndran Lund
    • , Morten Borup
    • , Henrik Madsen
    • , Ole Mark
    • , Karsten Arnbjerg-Nielsen
    •  & Peter Steen Mikkelsen
  • Perspective |

    Researchers and decision-makers lack a shared understanding of resilience. Here, the authors define social-ecological resilience as including three characteristics of social-ecological systems — resistance, recovery and robustness — and show how this framework can help resilience management.

    • R. Quentin Grafton
    • , Luc Doyen
    • , Christophe Béné
    • , Edoardo Borgomeo
    • , Kate Brooks
    • , Long Chu
    • , Graeme S. Cumming
    • , John Dixon
    • , Stephen Dovers
    • , Dustin Garrick
    • , Ariella Helfgott
    • , Qiang Jiang
    • , Pamela Katic
    • , Tom Kompas
    • , L. Richard Little
    • , Nathanial Matthews
    • , Claudia Ringler
    • , Dale Squires
    • , Stein Ivar Steinshamn
    • , Sebastián Villasante
    • , Sarah Wheeler
    • , John Williams
    •  & Paul R. Wyrwoll
  • Perspective |

    Data from conventional sources cannot fully measure progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Here the authors present a roadmap describing how citizen-science data can integrate traditional data and make a significant contribution in support of the SDGs agenda.

    • Steffen Fritz
    • , Linda See
    • , Tyler Carlson
    • , Mordechai (Muki) Haklay
    • , Jessie L. Oliver
    • , Dilek Fraisl
    • , Rosy Mondardini
    • , Martin Brocklehurst
    • , Lea A. Shanley
    • , Sven Schade
    • , Uta Wehn
    • , Tommaso Abrate
    • , Janet Anstee
    • , Stephan Arnold
    • , Matthew Billot
    • , Jillian Campbell
    • , Jessica Espey
    • , Margaret Gold
    • , Gerid Hager
    • , Shan He
    • , Libby Hepburn
    • , Angel Hsu
    • , Deborah Long
    • , Joan Masó
    • , Ian McCallum
    • , Maina Muniafu
    • , Inian Moorthy
    • , Michael Obersteiner
    • , Alison J. Parker
    • , Maike Weisspflug
    •  & Sarah West
  • Perspective |

    This Perspective suggests how a systems perspective on artificial drainage can promote sustainable intensification, limiting nutrient losses and greenhouse-gas emissions and increasing nitrogen-use efficiency.

    • Michael J. Castellano
    • , Sotirios V. Archontoulis
    • , Matthew J. Helmers
    • , Hanna J. Poffenbarger
    •  & Johan Six
  • Perspective |

    The Sustainable Development Goals require profound national and societal changes. This Perspective introduces six Transformations as building blocks for achieving the SDGs and an agenda for science to provide the requisite knowledge.

    • Jeffrey D. Sachs
    • , Guido Schmidt-Traub
    • , Mariana Mazzucato
    • , Dirk Messner
    • , Nebojsa Nakicenovic
    •  & Johan Rockström
  • Perspective |

    Record-breaking fire seasons are becoming the new normal, prompting calls for land management and policy reforms. This Perspective clarifies different types of resilience to wildfire to prioritize efforts to better coexist with increasingly fire-prone conditions.

    • David B. McWethy
    • , Tania Schoennagel
    • , Philip E. Higuera
    • , Meg Krawchuk
    • , Brian J. Harvey
    • , Elizabeth C. Metcalf
    • , Courtney Schultz
    • , Carol Miller
    • , Alexander L. Metcalf
    • , Brian Buma
    • , Arika Virapongse
    • , Judith C. Kulig
    • , Richard C. Stedman
    • , Zak Ratajczak
    • , Cara R. Nelson
    •  & Crystal Kolden
  • Perspective |

    In the Anthropocene, our global influence extends to risks. This Perspective argues for including human–environment interactions in our understanding of systemic risks and considers four illustrative case studies, including sea-level rise and megacities.

    • Patrick W. Keys
    • , Victor Galaz
    • , Michelle Dyer
    • , Nathanial Matthews
    • , Carl Folke
    • , Magnus Nyström
    •  & Sarah E. Cornell
  • Perspective |

    The international community has committed to fight climate change and achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Here the authors assess evidence about the relationships between the two agendas and discuss the need of deeper interdisciplinary efforts to understand these relationships.

    • Francesco Fuso Nerini
    • , Benjamin Sovacool
    • , Nick Hughes
    • , Laura Cozzi
    • , Ellie Cosgrave
    • , Mark Howells
    • , Massimo Tavoni
    • , Julia Tomei
    • , Hisham Zerriffi
    •  & Ben Milligan
  • Perspective |

    Managing the interactions and impacts of scaled-up solar energy production will require understanding of the relationships between technological and ecological systems. This Perspective proposes a framework that could help engineer beneficial outcomes from an energy transition.

    • Rebecca R. Hernandez
    • , Alona Armstrong
    • , Jennifer Burney
    • , Greer Ryan
    • , Kara Moore-O’Leary
    • , Ibrahima Diédhiou
    • , Steven M. Grodsky
    • , Leslie Saul-Gershenz
    • , Rob Davis
    • , Jordan Macknick
    • , Dustin Mulvaney
    • , Garvin A. Heath
    • , Shane B. Easter
    • , Madison K. Hoffacker
    • , Michael F. Allen
    •  & Daniel M. Kammen
  • Perspective |

    Understanding how people and ecosystems are connected is a continuing and vital challenge. This Perspective suggests many environmental problems revolve around common core challenges and advocates using network approaches that acknowledge key underlying assumptions.

    • Ö. Bodin
    • , S. M. Alexander
    • , J. Baggio
    • , M. L. Barnes
    • , R. Berardo
    • , G. S. Cumming
    • , L. E. Dee
    • , A. P. Fischer
    • , M. Fischer
    • , M. Mancilla Garcia
    • , A. M. Guerrero
    • , J. Hileman
    • , K. Ingold
    • , P. Matous
    • , T. H. Morrison
    • , D. Nohrstedt
    • , J. Pittman
    • , G. Robins
    •  & J. S. Sayles
  • Perspective |

    Sanitation is usually considered just an engineering and public health issue. This Perspective suggests avenues by which recoverable resources can enhance ecosystem services, such as provisioning nutrients for food production, and suggests synergies that can promote sustainable development.

    • John T. Trimmer
    • , Daniel C. Miller
    •  & Jeremy S. Guest
  • Perspective |

    Addressing sustainability challenges requires attention to the material basis of society. This Perspective illustrates how a Systems Thinking in Chemistry Education framework could help to integrate knowledge about the molecular world with the sustainability of Earth and societal systems.

    • Peter G. Mahaffy
    • , Stephen A. Matlin
    • , Thomas A. Holme
    •  & Jennifer MacKellar
  • Perspective |

    Urban systems must adapt to climatic and other global change. This Perspective uses urban systems to argue that sustainability and resilience are complementary but not interchangeable and that, in some cases, resilience can even render cities unsustainable.

    • Thomas Elmqvist
    • , Erik Andersson
    • , Niki Frantzeskaki
    • , Timon McPhearson
    • , Per Olsson
    • , Owen Gaffney
    • , Kazuhiko Takeuchi
    •  & Carl Folke
  • Perspective |

    Sand and gravel have become important commodities due to infrastructure and coastal protection schemes, leading to shortages on a global level. This Perspective looks at how Greenland could diversify its economy towards export of its sand resources and the potential impacts on the environment and local way of life.

    • Mette Bendixen
    • , Irina Overeem
    • , Minik T. Rosing
    • , Anders Anker Bjørk
    • , Kurt H. Kjær
    • , Aart Kroon
    • , Gavin Zeitz
    •  & Lars Lønsmann Iversen
  • Perspective |

    Effectively managing natural capital and its associated ecosystem services is difficult given that the effects of most actions depend on the wider environmental conditions. This Perspective presents an analytical framework that allows identifying why and where management actions can best enhance natural capital.

    • Rebecca Spake
    • , Chloe Bellamy
    • , Laura J. Graham
    • , Kevin Watts
    • , Tom Wilson
    • , Lisa R. Norton
    • , Claire M. Wood
    • , Reto Schmucki
    • , James M. Bullock
    •  & Felix Eigenbrod
  • Perspective |

    Transgressing planetary boundaries has generated global, ongoing and interconnected problems that represent a real challenge to policy makers. This Perspective sheds light on the complexities of designing policies that can keep human life within the biophysical limits of planet Earth.

    • Thomas Sterner
    • , Edward B. Barbier
    • , Ian Bateman
    • , Inge van den Bijgaart
    • , Anne-Sophie Crépin
    • , Ottmar Edenhofer
    • , Carolyn Fischer
    • , Wolfgang Habla
    • , John Hassler
    • , Olof Johansson-Stenman
    • , Andreas Lange
    • , Stephen Polasky
    • , Johan Rockström
    • , Henrik G. Smith
    • , Will Steffen
    • , Gernot Wagner
    • , James E. Wilen
    • , Francisco Alpízar
    • , Christian Azar
    • , Donna Carless
    • , Carlos Chávez
    • , Jessica Coria
    • , Gustav Engström
    • , Sverker C. Jagers
    • , Gunnar Köhlin
    • , Åsa Löfgren
    • , Håkan Pleijel
    •  & Amanda Robinson
  • Perspective |

    Since the 1990s, global agricultural output has been driven largely by innovations that raised the efficiency of using labour, land and other inputs, together called total factor productivity (TFP). This Perspective discusses this reality and suggests two pathways for future growth: technology-based and ecosystem-based. Future research on farm-system sustainability and resilience should leverage these options.

    • Oliver T. Coomes
    • , Bradford L. Barham
    • , Graham K. MacDonald
    • , Navin Ramankutty
    •  & Jean-Paul Chavas
  • Perspective |

    Organizations are social systems different from ecosystems and natural resources. Using social systems theory, and employing the concepts of emergence, resilience and scale, this Perspective presents management principles for pursuing sustainability across an array of organizational contexts.

    • Dror Etzion
  • Perspective |

    Issues around the use of natural resources are often framed in terms of the nexus concept. This Perspective discusses why the nexus concept matters in understanding the link between bio-physical and human dimensions, particularly with regard to the SDGs.

    • Raimund Bleischwitz
    • , Catalina Spataru
    • , Stacy D. VanDeveer
    • , Michael Obersteiner
    • , Ester van der Voet
    • , Corey Johnson
    • , Philip Andrews-Speed
    • , Tim Boersma
    • , Holger Hoff
    •  & Detlef P. van Vuuren
  • Perspective |

    Reservoirs are frequently posited as a method of increasing water supplies, especially in arid areas. However, they may be inducing and enabling demands for water through increased population and economic activity, and these demands can surpass even the supply that the reservoir can provide and counterintuitively make the areas more vulnerable to drought conditions.

    • Giuliano Di Baldassarre
    • , Niko Wanders
    • , Amir AghaKouchak
    • , Linda Kuil
    • , Sally Rangecroft
    • , Ted I. E. Veldkamp
    • , Margaret Garcia
    • , Pieter R. van Oel
    • , Korbinian Breinl
    •  & Anne F. Van Loon
  • Perspective |

    Nitrogen pollution is an intensifying, globally important problem driven by industrial agriculture. The authors propose applying the Corporate Average Fuel Economy logic to promote adoption of enhanced-efficiency fertilizers by farmers.

    • David R. Kanter
    •  & Timothy D. Searchinger
  • Perspective |

    The sustainability discourse is at risk of remaining too shallow to achieve necessary change. This Perspective argues not just for a commitment to transdisciplinarity but also a deeper understanding of the capabilities and failings of science in understanding the relationship between the human and natural worlds.

    • Daniel Niles
    •  & Narifumi Tachimoto
  • Perspective |

    The decades-long movement for sustainable seafood is centred on a ‘theory of change’ that emphasizes third-party initiatives for certification and consumer signalling. The evolution of that theory, and its potential futures, shows the challenges of management and co-ordination with multiple actors.

    • C. A. Roheim
    • , S. R. Bush
    • , F. Asche
    • , J. N. Sanchirico
    •  & H. Uchida
  • Perspective |

    A shift away from fossil fuel subsidies to carbon pricing could generate revenues to finance progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals. This Perspective shows that in many low-income countries, as private sources of finance are limited, revenues from carbon taxes could be a particularly attractive policy option for financing the SDGs.

    • Max Franks
    • , Kai Lessmann
    • , Michael Jakob
    • , Jan Christoph Steckel
    •  & Ottmar Edenhofer
  • Perspective |

    Most of the sustainability challenges and opportunities associated with urbanization are found in the global south. This Perspective shows the extent to which urban issues differ between the developed and developing worlds and identifies steps to re-focus the urban research system globally in view of allowing a more prominent role of urban scholarship from the global south.

    • Harini Nagendra
    • , Xuemei Bai
    • , Eduardo S. Brondizio
    •  & Shuaib Lwasa
  • Perspective |

    Theories of cultural evolution can help explain how norms that are externally enforced are internalized to become intrinsic motivations to behave sustainably. This knowledge is useful for developing interventions for behavioural change.

    • Taylor Davis
    • , Erin P. Hennes
    •  & Leigh Raymond
  • Perspective |

    For natural capital like wetlands, biodiversity and land productive capacity, ‘no net loss’ is becoming a policy goal. This study highlights that the intended outcomes of no net loss policies can be very different depending on the reference scenario.

    • Martine Maron
    • , Susie Brownlie
    • , Joseph W. Bull
    • , Megan C. Evans
    • , Amrei von Hase
    • , Fabien Quétier
    • , James E. M. Watson
    •  & Ascelin Gordon