Scientists, practitioners, religious communities urge collaborative action to save our planet

Sep 03, 2013
Specially marked bins invite anglers to dispose of unwanted fishing lines. Credit: Susan Clayton

Big global questions face us, among them: How will we feed a growing global population without ruining the soil and polluting freshwater? Or meet our burgeoning energy demands while curbing the greenhouse gas emissions that fuel rising sea levels, flooding, drought, disease and wildfire? And what can we do to stem the extinction of thousands of other species that share the planet with us?

These daunting "environmental" problems are not only in the domain of ecologists and . Other natural scientists, social, behavioral and economic researchers, urban designers and planners, and religious groups are also grappling with ways to turn around our sobering collective trajectory. And, in what marks a significant shift, ecologists are recognizing that generating and distributing scientific data is not enough. They see the need to embrace the social and ethical dimensions of scientific practice and to join with a wide variety of allies to solve these real-world problems.

September's Special Issue of Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment brings together the perspectives of anthropologists, architects, , ecologists, engineers, ranchers, members of religious communities and others on ways to foster Earth Stewardship—defined here as taking action to sustain life in a rapidly changing world.

Anthropologist Laura Ogden and colleagues highlight socio-ecological drivers of global change that create patterns of environmental injustice and .

Architect Frederick Steiner and colleagues address the need to make urban areas more resilient to and they highlight the potential of "green" infrastructure. Alex Felson et al. offer four practical examples that emphasize interactions between urban designers and ecologists.

Psychologist Susan Clayton and co-authors review ways to encourage people to change a behavior that causes unintended damage. For example, old fishing lines that wash into the sea can entangle marine mammals, often leading to severe injury or death. A successful initiative invites anglers to dispose of their unwanted fishing tackle in specially marked bins placed in popular fishing areas. "The relative ease of performing this behavior as well as the large potential audience for the intervention makes it worth targeting," say the authors.

Gregory Hitzhusen and Mary Tucker explore the potential of religion to advance Earth Stewardship. "Religions play a central role in formulating worldviews that orient humans to the natural world and in articulating ethics that guide human behavior," say the authors.

Often overlooked and undervalued, rangelands are subject to degradation, conversion to other land uses and fragmentation worldwide. Noting that rangelands support the livelihoods of some 1 billion people and provide the animal protein, water and other resources to twice as many, Nathan Sayre and co-authors argue that rangelands are in dire need of Earth Stewardship.

The next generation of scientists, Ricardo Colon-Rivera and colleagues, bring attention to the desire of an increasing number of graduate students in science fields to integrate civic concerns with their research.

Explore further: Scientists call for religious help to save our wildlife

More information: The September issue is open access, as are all Frontiers Special Issues and may be accessed at: www.esajournals.org/toc/fron/11/7

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

What can plants reveal about global climate change?

Jul 26, 2013

Recently, climate change, including global warming, has been a "hot" news item as many regions of the world have experienced increasingly intense weather patterns, such as powerful hurricanes and extended floods or droughts. ...

Urban metabolism for the urban century

Jan 24, 2013

Like organisms, cities need energy, water, and nutrients, and they need to dispose of wastes and byproducts in ways that are viable and sustainable over the long run. This notion of "urban metabolism" is a model for looking ...

Ecological impact of African cities

Dec 02, 2008

African cities are growing faster than anywhere else in the world. This is having a major impact, but few ecologists are studying the urban environment and effect of cities on rural areas. One of the most important ecological ...

Recommended for you

Big data confirms climate extremes are here to stay

14 hours ago

In a paper published online today in the journal Scientific Reports, published by Nature, Northeastern researchers Evan Kodra and Auroop Ganguly found that while global temperature is indeed increasing, so too is the variab ...

Peru's carbon quantified: Economic and conservation boon

14 hours ago

Today scientists unveiled the first high-resolution map of the carbon stocks stored on land throughout the entire country of Perú. The new and improved methodology used to make the map marks a sea change ...

How might climate change affect our food supply?

15 hours ago

It's no easy question to answer, but prudence demands that we try. Thus, Microsoft and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) have teamed up to tackle "food resilience," one of several themes ...

Groundwater is safe in potential N.Y. fracking area

16 hours ago

Two Cornell hydrologists have completed a thorough groundwater examination of drinking water in a potential hydraulic fracturing area in New York's Southern Tier. They determined that drinking water in potable ...

User comments : 0