Concept Note & Tracks

Background

One of the most striking dynamics of the Anthropocene Era is the ability of anthropogenic processes to interact with ecological systems on a large scale and at a rapid rate, with greater intensity and uncertain consequences. Human societies have managed to build many forms of disconnected environments to meet a myriad of needs – which are not usually considered as fundamental to the survival and development of human species – while crossing many ecological thresholds, sometimes irreversibly. The failure to perceive these societies as part of the Earth System (Geosphere, Atmosphere, Biosphere, and Hydrosphere), and act accordingly, is increasingly associated with the emergence of interdependent and complex risks – that are mostly global in scope and unprecedented in scale – affecting the security, viability and resilience of both social and ecological systems at all levels. This, in turn, continuously unveils our incapacity to efficiently manage these risks and crises by using the same value systems, which are the main cause of their emergence. Failure to mitigate and adapt to climate change, biodiversity loss, man-made environmental disasters,  and the collapse of many ecosystems represent, among others, the chief risks to social systems. These risks affect, among others, food and health systems, socio-economic development, and political integration with many implications for well-being, productivity, and even regional and domestic security. Similarly, many risks affecting social systems, such as poverty, hunger, conflicts, displacements, injustice, inequalities, etc. are increasingly induced by ecological systems' dynamics, especially environmental and climate changes. As it is recently expressed, of all the risks to the globe, it is in relation to the environment that the world is most clearly sleepwalking into catastrophe.

For illustration purposes, the current global food system – as a Social-Ecological System – is highly impacted by biodiversity loss and climate change through changes in temperature, precipitation, extreme weather events, and sea-level rise. In the meantime, the global food system is a major driver of biodiversity loss and climate change given its higher carbon emissions, depletion of freshwater and land resources, increased pollution of aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems, deterioration of public health, increased mortality and animal suffering. The way we produce and consume food, especially in Northern and the so-called emerging countries, is increasingly considered as a human and environmental catastrophe. Scientists predict that within the coming decades, the ecological, climatic and health challenges of the global food system could dramatically increase in the absence of appropriate response mechanisms, reaching levels beyond the planetary boundaries that define a safe operating space for humanity. It was also shown that options for reducing the negative environmental and health effects of the food system, while meeting increasing food demands sustainably, need to be implemented simultaneously and in an integrated way according to innovative conceptual and policy frameworks.

Such dynamics urgently press us to rethink the nature of interaction between social and ecological systems from different perspectives and new paradigms. The social systems currently bear the main responsibility to change their relationship with the ecological systems, given the available capacities (i.e. knowledge, technology, power of action) that can be mobilized to reverse destructive trends. The shifts to be made should cover all aspects of interaction between the two systems such as: The integration and restructuring of governance frameworks (multilevel norms, actors, values and deliberations…) from a Social-Ecological System perspective; the reorganization of production and consumption systems far from the growth model and consumerism; the elaboration of mitigation, adaptation, and SDGs implementation measures while reinforcing the resilience and viability of a Social-Ecological System; and the consideration of appropriate approaches and paradigms while elaborating and implementing response mechanisms (such as the gender approach, human rights and human security, socio-ecosystem approach).

Approach & Objectives

 

The 5th International Conference (SES2019) – as a part of a series of science-policy fora organized by CERES along with many partners since 2009 – is an opportunity to deepen the debate about Social-Ecological Systems (SES). The approach consists of: 

  • Assessing the structural drivers of vulnerability, crises and insecurity of Social-Ecological Systems; 

  • Identifying areas of integration and synergy given the interdependence of Social-Ecological Systems;

  • Assessing the ability and inability of existing response mechanisms (governance frameworks, conceptual referential, cultural patterns and values...) to foster the resilience and viability of SES; and

  • Promoting approaches and ways of action to reverse undesirable trends. 

 

Speakers from different perspectives will be provided the opportunity to present their research, insights, and successful practices, and explore innovative options to guide future processes of change with regard to the resilience and viability of Social-Ecological Systems. The Conference topics are multidisciplinary – enabling fruitful interactions between numerous scientific fields – and relevant to policy-making processes – enabling interactions among researchers/experts/practitioners and decision makers from different scales and spheres. 

Publication

A large part of the works presented during the previous editions of the Conference had been published by famous publishers such as Springer NatureRoutledge Environment & SustainabilityLaval University PressIRD Editions, etc. Delegates wishing to publish their research papers after the Conference venue will be given the opportunity to submit their complete papers upon acceptance of their abstracts according to the publication guidelines imposed by the selected publisher. Book editors and chapters' authors are systematically provided with copies of published volumes whether in soft or hard format according to the publishing contracts.

Key Languages

The Conference languages are: English, French, and Arabic.