Research Articles (Centre for Complex Systems in Transition)


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Now showing 1 - 5 of 6
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    Food system transformation : integrating a political–economy and social–ecological approach to regime shifts
    (2020-02) Pereira, Laura M.; Drimie, Scott; Maciejewski, Kristine; Tonissen, Patrick Bon; Biggs, Reinette, 1979-
    Sustainably achieving the goal of global food security is one of the greatest challenges of the 21st century. The current food system is failing to meet the needs of people, and at the same time, is having far-reaching impacts on the environment and undermining human well-being in other important ways. It is increasingly apparent that a deep transformation in the way we produce and consume food is needed in order to ensure a more just and sustainable future. This paper uses the concept of regime shifts to understand key drivers and innovations underlying past disruptions in the food system and to explore how they may help us think about desirable future changes and how we might leverage them. We combine two perspectives on regime shifts—one derived from natural sciences and the other from social sciences—to propose an interpretation of food regimes that draws on innovation theory. We use this conceptualization to discuss three examples of innovations that we argue helped enable critical regime shifts in the global food system in the past: the Haber-Bosch process of nitrogen fixation, the rise of the supermarket, and the call for more transparency in the food system to reconnect consumers with their food. This paper concludes with an exploration of why this combination of conceptual understandings is important across the Global North/ Global South divide, and proposes a new sustainability regime where transformative change is spearheaded by a variety of social–ecological innovations.
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    The dynamics of proclaimed privately protected areas in South Africa over 83 years
    (Wiley Open Access, 2019) De Vos, Alta; Clements, Hayley S.; Biggs, Duan; Cumming, Graeme S.
    Views that protected area (PA) expansion relies predominantly on land purchased by government are increasingly being challenged. The inclusion of privately owned PAs (PPAs) in national conservation strategies is now commonplace, but little is known about their long-term persistence and how it compares to that of state-owned PAs. We undertook the first long-term assessment of the dynamics of a national system of terrestrial PPAs, assessing its growth, as well as its resilience to downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD). Between 1926 and 2018, 6.2% of all private nature reserves established in South Africa were degazetted, compared to 2.2% of state-owned nature reserves. Privately owned PA growth exceeded that of state-owned PAs. Trends in PA establishment differed between privately owned and state-owned PAs, reflecting different legislative, political, and economic events. Our findings highlight the value of enabling legislative environments to facilitate PPA establishment, and demonstrate the potential of PPAs as a long-term conservation strategy.
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    Could biodynamics help bridge the gap in developing farmer intuition?
    (De Gruyter Open, 2019) Von Diest, Saskia G.
    Several scientific studies indicate that farmers do not often use formalised decision support tools as expected, and many prefer to rely on their intuition to make practical management decisions. While agricultural science and education acknowledge the different types of knowledge that farmers utilize, intuition continues to receive little attention in agricultural science, indicating a gap in farmer decision-making research. The mechanism driving intuition remains under debate, but is described as a pervasive, involuntary, rapid way of knowing, offering access to tacit (internal, intangible) knowledge that complements analytic processes. Many studies agree that intuition can be trained to increase accuracy and reliability. However, the comprehensive works on intuition by Rudolf Steiner hardly feature in modern science, and yet his writings and biodynamic agriculture approach offer farmers and non-farmers guidelines for systematic development of subtle abilities like intuition. There may be value in collaborative, transdisciplinary exploration between agricultural research and biodynamic theory and practice, for supporting farmers to develop their intuitive knowing. Such an alliance could help increase the awareness and practice of biodynamics, expand the knowledge base and lexicon for the emerging research field of intuitive farming, and help reinvigorate agricultural research toward more efficient, customized and connected farming practices.
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    Planning for change : transformation labs for an alternative food system in Cape Town, South Africa
    (BioMed Central, 2020-11-17) Pereira, Laura; Drimie, Scott; Zgambo, Olive; Biggs, Reinette, 1979-
    There has been a call for more participatory processes to feed into urban planning formore resilient food systems. This paper describes a process of knowledge co-production for transforming towards an alternative food system in Cape Town, South Africa. A ‘transformative space’ was created though a T-Lab process involving change-agents advocating for an alternative food system, and was designed to discuss challenges in the local food system from a range of perspectives, in order to co-develop potentially transformative innovations that could feed into government planning. In this paper, we describe and reflect on the T-lab in order to consider whether its design was able to meet its objective: to initiate an experimental phase of coalition-building by diverse actors that could feed into the provincial government’s strategic focus on food and nutrition security. Our findings indicate that T-labs have the potential to be important mechanisms for initiating and sustaining transformative change. They can be complementary to urban planning processes seeking to transform complex social-ecological systems onto more sustainable development pathways. However, as with all experimental co-production processes, there is significant learning and refinement that is necessary to ensure the process can reach its full potential. A key challenge we encountered was how to foster diversity and difference in opinions in the context of significant historical legacies of inequality, whilst simultaneously acting for ‘the common good’ and seeking ways to scale impact across different contexts. The paper concludes with deliberations on the nature of planning and navigating towards systemic transformative change.
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    Harnessing insights from social-ecological systems research for monitoring sustainable development
    (MDPI, 2019) Selomane, Odirilwe; Reyers, Belinda; Biggs, Reinette, 1979-; Hamann, Maike
    The United Nations’ Agenda 2030 marks significant progress towards sustainable development by making explicit the intention to integrate previously separate social, economic and environmental agendas. Despite this intention, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which were adopted to implement the agenda, are fragmented in their formulation and largely sectoral. We contend that while the design of the SDG monitoring is based on a systems approach, it still misses most of the dynamics and complexity relevant to sustainability outcomes. We propose that insights from the study of social-ecological systems offer a more integrated approach to the implementation of Agenda 2030, particularly the monitoring of progress towards sustainable development outcomes. Using five key features highlighted by the study of social-ecological systems (SESs) relevant to sustainable development: (1) social-ecological feedbacks, (2) resilience, (3) heterogeneity, (4) nonlinearity, and (5) cross-scale dynamics. We analyze the current set of SDG indicators based on these features to explore current progress in making them operational. Our analysis finds that 59% of the indicators account for heterogeneity, 33% for cross-scale dynamics, 23% for nonlinearities, and 18% and 17%, respectively, for social-ecological feedbacks and resilience. Our findings suggest limited use of complex SES science in the current design of SDG monitoring, but combining our findings with recent studies of methods to operationalize SES features suggests future directions for sustainable development monitoring for the current as well as post 2030 set of indicators.