News & Comment

  • Q&A |

    Pushpam Kumar, Chief Environmental Economist at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), talks to Nature Sustainability about the need to focus on wealth to achieve sustainability.

    • Monica Contestabile
  • 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
  • Editorial |

    Embedding behavioural, environmental and health considerations, alongside economic needs, into transport policies can pave the way to a sustainable system.

  • 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
  • Editorial |

    The effects of the COVID-19 outbreak are unfolding rapidly and governments around the world are seeking scientific advice to respond. Sustainability communities should be part of the process but need to up their efforts to engage with policy needs.

  • News & Views |

    Political pressure on the creation and use of scientific evidence to support environmental approvals for the Adani coal mine has undermined the legitimacy of these approvals. We need to harness the power of law more effectively to protect the independence and rigour of scientific processes, and enable transparent consideration of the evidence.

    • Erin O’Donnell
    •  & Rebecca Nelson
  • 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
  • News & Views |

    In a world of increasingly integrated supply chains, disasters have impacts far from where they hit. A new paper looks at how tropical-cyclone impacts propagate across cities, showing that indirect impacts become large for the most-destructive storms.

    • Stephane Hallegatte
  • Editorial |

    A growing, increasingly affluent and urban human population is driving demand for more food grown in more-sustainable ways. This issue features a suite of articles highlighting how intensification of production on existing farmland and with fewer inputs is an aspirational and data-hungry challenge.

  • 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
  • News & Views |

    Large hydropower infrastructure is being built along environmentally sensitive tropical rivers. An analysis in Amazonia shows that climate change and forest cover must be considered when planning hydropower infrastructure.

    • Marcos Heil Costa
  • Editorial |

    Measuring the full set of society’s assets is critical to the design of policies for a sustainable future.

  • News & Views |

    Can economic growth be made greener, or must we look beyond growth to achieve sustainability? An important new study shows that the pursuit of ‘green growth’ would increase inequality and unemployment unless accompanied by radical social policies.

    • Daniel W. O’Neill
  • News & Views |

    Increasing pressure for communities to conserve wildlife in mixtures with livestock faces scepticism about whether such management is sustainable. The study by Sitters et al. shows that wildlife–livestock coexistence may be sustainable, but only if megaherbivores are included.

    • Mark E. Ritchie
  • Editorial |

    Engineering approaches to wastewater treatment must aim for more than improved efficiency.

  • 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
  • Editorial |

    While global efforts to tackle hunger and other food-related crises are stepping up, Nature Sustainability and the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability convene a new Expert Panel focusing on system changes and human agency.

  • Q&A |

    A convening of leading international sustainability experts met for the first time in Potsdam, Germany, in March 2019 to re-think sustainability primarily as a societal challenge. Ortwin Renn and Solène Droy from the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies tell Nature Sustainability about the initiative.

    • Monica Contestabile
  • Obituary |

    Arjen Y. Hoekstra, creator of the water footprint concept, unexpectedly passed away at the age of 52. He changed the way we think about water.

    • Davy Vanham
    • , Mesfin M. Mekonnen
    •  & Ashok K. Chapagain
  • Editorial |

    After a year of intense activities, the University of Virginia–Nature Sustainability Expert Panel on behavioural science for design is ready to share its main findings and eager to bring more experts on board.

  • 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
  • Editorial |

    A significant amount of research is needed to determine whether promising technologies in the lab could translate into implementable solutions to achieve sustainability.

  • 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
  • News & Views |

    The Sustainable Development Goals elegantly capture humanity’s shared aspirations, but it’s at the national level where the rubber hits the road. Progress is possible across multiple goals but challenges to comprehensive achievement remain.

    • Brett A. Bryan
    • , Michalis Hadjikakou
    •  & Enayat A. Moallemi
  • News & Views |

    Phosphorus recovery is as important for closing the phosphorus cycle as its discovery 350 years ago was for food production. A new analysis highlights costs and benefits of creating value from the wastes generated by our food systems and modern lifestyles.

    • Paul J. A. Withers
  • 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
  • Editorial |

    Continuing debates on resilience reflect ongoing tensions and are vital to the advancement of understanding. Nature Sustainability welcomes them and aspires to promote constructive and forward-looking dialogue.

  • 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
  • News & Views |

    Lack of good-quality monitoring and evaluation data is a key barrier to large-scale uptake of agriculture interventions. Data from low-cost microsatellites have a strong potential to bridge this gap and promote sustainable intensification targets.

    • Jadunandan Dash
  • News & Views |

    Fisheries conservation requires restricting access to countries’ exclusive economic zones (EEZs), which is costly to monitor and enforce. A new analysis shows that unauthorized foreign fishing is indeed substantially lower just inside the EEZ boundary compared with just outside.

    • Scott Barrett
  • Correspondence |

    • Zhaohai Bai
    • , Shuqin Jin
    • , Yan Wu
    • , Erasmus zu Ermgassen
    • , Oene Oenema
    • , David Chadwick
    • , Luis Lassaletta
    • , Gerard Velthof
    • , Jun Zhao
    •  & Lin Ma
  • 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