Publication date (electronic): 31 March 2015
Does sustainability emerge from between the scales?
Helena Bender has completed a Bachelor of Science at Trent University in Canada, a PhD in Zoology at the University of Melbourne, Australia and a Bachelor of Primary and Secondary Education at Deakin University, Australia. Her current role at the University of Melbourne is Senior Tutor for a first year core subject in the Bachelor of Environments degree called Reshaping Environments that strives to practice interdisciplinarity. She is the editor of a successful university textbook published by Cambridge University Press in 2012 entitled Reshaping Environments: an Interdisciplinary Approach to Sustainability in a Complex World in which she authored the ‘Introduction’, and co-authored two chapters: ‘Sustainability: a Model for the Future’; and ‘Working with Complex Issues in Group Situations’. She has also coauthored two papers in 2010 with Ruth Beilin Beilin on the ‘getting of interdisciplinarity’ in higher education, published in an edited collection of works by Emerald Publishing, and the 'Interruption, interrogation, integration and interaction as process: how PNS informs interdisciplinary curriculum design', published in Futures. Earlier research focused on the deterrence of problem species with the use of sound. She also has research interests in assessing the aspirational goals eschewed by Australian universities in their graduate attribute statements, and how games can perhaps assist students to learn more deeply abstract concepts like complexity and scale that are important for moving towards sustainability.
Kate Judith has completed Masters Degrees in Environmental Science and Education (both at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia), a Graduate Diploma of Secondary Education in English and Science, also at Monash and Bachelor degrees in both Arts and Science at The University of Melbourne. Currently she works at the Open Access College at The University of Southern Queensland, as the learning and teaching coordinator. Prior to this she was the Senior Tutor for the subject Natural Environments at The University of Melbourne. She has taught in a wide range of contexts, both within the humanities and sciences. Recent publications include two textbook chapters, ‘Sustainability: a Model for the Future’ (co-authored) and ‘Understanding Research Methodology’ in Reshaping Environments: an Interdisciplinary Approach to Sustainability in a Complex World published by Cambridge University Press in 2012, and seven student guide chapters and one student guide book for Victorian Certificate of Education English texts, published by National Educational Advancement Programs (NEAP). Research interests focus on ecological ways of understanding.
This paper applies systems thinking and emergence theory to present an understanding of sustainability in terms of the human actions and attitudes required for sustainability to emerge. Sustainability is viewed as an emergent quality that occurs when the interactions within the system, and between the system and its environment are nourishing. We suggest this conception is useful because it indicates the kinds of relationships individuals and groups need to engage in as actors; the responsibilities and importance of observers in recognising emergent patterns; and the significance of the relationship between the actor and observer scales. We aim to identify strategies in these three areas that can best facilitate the emergence of sustainability. Emergence theory is found to be a fruitful framework for generating solutions and stimulating new thinking about defining, monitoring, or acting for sustainability.
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