A new field of sustainability science is emerging that seeks to understand the fundamental character of interactions between nature and society. Such an understanding must encompass the interaction of global processes with the ecological and social characteristics of particular places and sectors (3). The regional character of much of what sustainability science is trying to explain means that relevant research will have to integrate the effects of key processes across the full range of scales from local to global (4). It will also require fundamental advances in our ability to address such issues as the behavior of complex self-organizing systems as well as the responses, some irreversible, of the nature-society system to multiple and interacting stresses. Combining different ways of knowing and learning will permit different social actors to work in concert, even with much uncertainty and limited information.
With a view toward promoting the research necessary to achieve such advances, we propose an initial set of core questions for sustainability science. These are meant to focus research attention on both the fundamental character of interactions between nature and society and on society's capacity to guide those interactions along more sustainable trajectories.
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Kates, Robert W., et al. "Sustainability Science." Science 292.5517 (2001): 641-642