Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society

Dear Subscribers,

GAIA - Ecological Perspectives for Science and Society S1/2017 has just been released. The Special Issue focuses on Resilience – a topical issue today. In times of crisis, resilient strategies seem predestined to be the key to survival. This idea is also symbolised by the sensitive mimosa, also known as the touch-me-not, on the cover of GAIA. Yet how should science and society best implement the idea of resilience? The contributions to this special issue, supported by the Bavarian Research Consortium ForChange, analyse a variety of contexts as well as methodical and normative implications of resilience. Rather than linking resilience to "idealistic" debates on sustainability, the authors argue for the use of resilience as a Tool for Analysing Social Transformations.

We would like to thank authors, reviewers and board members for their contributions to our journal.

We hope you will enjoy browsing through the table of contents below.

Your Editorial Team
Almut Joedicke, Ulrike Sehy, Tobias Mickler, Martina Blum


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Resilienz – ein Begriff und sein Potenzial > (open access)
Resilience - A Concept and Its Potential
Irmi Seidl

Resilienz - Analysetool sozialer Transformationen? > (open access)
Resilience - Tool for Analysing Social Transformations?
Stefan Böschen, Markus Vogt, Claudia R. Binder, Andreas Rathgeber - Guest Editors

Resilience is a topical issue. The question therefore is the analytical quality and relevance of the term "resilience". In this special issue, we argue that "resilience" has potential as a tool for interdisciplinary analysis of social transformations. To this end, it is necessary to subject resilience to a systematic contextualization while always reflect on its normative implications.

Der Resilienzdiskurs. Eine Foucault'sche Diskursanalyse > (open access)
The Resilience Discourse. A Foucauldian Discourse Analysis
Michael Meyen, Maria Karidi, Silja Hartmann, Matthias Weiß, Martin Högl

Using Foucault's toolbox for discourse analysis and key texts from both academic research and the general media, this study asks what has led the term "resilience" to become popular so far beyond its original context. To answer this question, the article first examines definitions from ecology, psychology, geography, and other scientifically oriented disciplines and their implications. The study then proceeds to show how the term is used in management research, corporate communications and mass media. The results are twofold: on the one hand, science as a whole benefits from the resilience perspective since research is required for the threats, strengths, and weaknesses of social systems to be known. On the other hand, resilience fits in with the discourse of individualism and personal responsibility driven by political and economic players. This is made possible because the differentiations of academic discourse disappear within the arena of the general public.

Responsible resilience: Rekonstruktion der Normativität von Resilienz auf Basis einer responsiven Ethik > (open access)
Responsible Resilience. Reconstruction of the Normativity of Resilience through Responsive Ethics
Martin Schneider, Markus Vogt

Within many practical, professional and political fields, resilience has become a normative, barely questioned orientation principle, yet it has not been the subject of explicit reflection. The following considerations aim to contribute to closing this gap without assuming a dichotomy between the functional and the normative levels. Resilience is understood as a process whose focus is the response to upheaval and problems. The ability to respond, then, is the starting point from which the normative aspects of resilience can be more clearly brought out and connected to conceptual differences (simple and reflective resilience; specific and general resilience) within resilience discourse. This is grounded in Bernhard Waldenfels' idea of responsive ethics. Our concept seeks to provide greater understanding of the term "responsible resilience" and bring up the normativity of resilience in a reflective, non-dichotomous way.

From Math to Metaphors and Back Again. Social-Ecological Resilience from a Multi-Agent-Environment Perspective > (open access)
Jonathan F. Donges, Wolfram Barfuss

Social-ecological resilience underlies popular sustainability concepts that have been influential in formulating the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), such as the Planetary Boundaries and Doughnut Economics. Scientific investigation of these concepts is supported by mathematical models of planetary biophysical and societal dynamics, both of which call for operational measures of resilience. However, current quantitative descriptions tend to be restricted to the foundational form of the concept: persistence resilience. We propose a classification of modern notions of social-ecological resilience from a multi-agent-environment perspective. This aims at operationalization in a complex systems framework, including the persistence, adaptation and transformation aspects of resilience, normativity related to desirable system function, first- vs. second-order and specific vs. general resilience. For example, we discuss the use of the Topology of Sustainable Management Framework. Developing the mathematics of resilience along these lines would not only make social-ecological resilience more applicable to data and models, but could also conceptually advance resilience thinking.

Conceptualizing Resilience in Transformation Processes. Working with Context Resilience and Specifying Interrelated Systems in Bavaria's Forest and Wood Use Systems > (open access)
Amra Bobar, Gordon M.Winder

This paper explores how "resilience" can be conceptualized in transformation processes. We focus on the German Advisory Council on Global Change's (WBGU) call for a Great Societal Transformation and on two of the recommended measures, namely substitution and cascade use of wood. In the context of Bavaria's forest industries, policies to promote cascade use and substitution interact with a complex web of actors, structures, practices, and expectations, best conceived of as two partially interrelated systems of forests and wood use. In these interrelated systems, we recommend use of an actor-oriented political ecology approach that will reveal the politics at work around narratives of resilience. Transformation processes are embedded in specific social, economic, political, ecological and spatial contexts, where resilience can have several meanings. We argue that the concept "context resilience" is needed when researching interrelated systems.

"It's an Endurance Race". An Indicator-Based Resilience Analysis of the Energy Transition in the Allgäu Region, Bavaria > (open access)
Susan Mühlemeier, Claudia R. Binder, Romano Wyss

The energy transition currently taking place in Germany is recognised as being one of the most ambitious socio-technical transitions at the present time. Scholars have so far mostly studied the resilience of the current or future state of the energy system. They have neglected to analyse the resilience of the transition process itself. We present an interdisciplinary way of analysing the resilience of the energy transition operationalised as a socio-technical transition, using an indicator set for diversity and connectivity. For the case of the Allgäu region in the state of Bavaria, we measured these indicators in a semi-quantitative way, and found that the diversity indicators point to a resilient transition process. The connectivity indicators, however, show that the region is in a state such that the transition could stagnate. For the future of this transition process, connectivity should thus be increased, for example, by involving the tourism sector in the actor network. Our research confirms the need for an interdisciplinary analysis of the resilience of an energy transition.

Wie resilient sind Märkte? Eine kontextualisierte Analyse von Rohstoff- und Strommärkten > (open access)
How Resilient Are Markets? A Contextualized Analysis of Commodity and Energy Markets
Benedikt Gleich, Rebecca Gutwald

There is almost no subsystem of society that influences our lives as strongly as markets do. Markets account for wealth and poverty, progress - and the destruction of ecosystems. Markets have the capacity to make very valuable contributions to the common welfare, but only if their potential is channeled using their specific principles and mechanisms. To gain a comprehensive perspective, we introduce the concepts of first- and second-order resilience (Eigenresilienz and Kontextresilienz), asking whether and how the resilience of markets on their own (first-order resilience) influences the resilience of societies and our environment as a whole (second-order resilience).We further examine how these two concepts relate to normative resilience, assuming that all three aspects need to be in balance. Presenting two empirical examples - the global commodity markets and the German energy market, we reveal the challenges that typically arise when designing and regulating markets that, if they are resilient in both senses, can help to promote sustainable development.

Resilienzkonstruktionen: Divergenz und Konvergenz von Theoriemodellen. Eine konzeptionell-empirische Analyse > (open access)
Construction of Resilience: Divergence and Convergence of Theoretical Models. A Conceptual and Empirical Analysis
Stefan Böschen, Claudia R. Binder, Andreas Rathgeber

The concept of resilience has been applied within a wide spectrum of disciplines and has become increasingly relevant for interdisciplinary research. The interdisciplinary use of the concept could be linked to the fact that the conceptualization of resilience is not so much related to a discipline, but rather to the concrete ways of posing a research question. Against this background, the article builds on both conceptual and empirical arguments. At the same time, it explores a collaborative interdisciplinary research network of 13 projects with regard to the used theoretical models, applying a quantitative empirical investigation. The results show that the projects of this network differ when it comes to the theoretical models used. Four different theoretical models could be identified regarding basic concept (structural vs. process-oriented) and context relation (open vs. closed). Moreover, the construction of the theoretical model is strongly related to the specific ways of posing a research question while remaining rooted in a specific discipline.

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