The Noah Project

Rebuilding a sustainable world.

Telecoupling – A Holistic Understanding of Sustainability

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Michigan State University’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability highlights a recent study by  led by Jianguo “Jack” Liu, Michigan State University’s Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability:

In the new issue of Ecology and Society, Liu, director of MSU’s Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS), and his colleagues lay the groundwork to understand how an action on one side of the world has enormous socioeconomic and environmental consequences thousands of miles away – and how it doesn’t stop there. Telecoupling shows how environmental and socioeconomic actions lead to reactions and feedbacks – and then to more repercussions that reverberate globally.

The study posits that, “Sustainability can be understood better when different types of interactions are integrated across multiple coupled human and natural systems.”

The [study’s] authors use the trading of soybeans as an example of the far-reaching complexities that result.

Soybeans are a booming commodity in China – used for food, vegetable oil and animal feed. The telecoupling framework uses five components (systems, agents, flows, causes, and effects) critical to assembling the whole picture.

Systems are where humans and nature interact. Explosive growth and increasing urbanity has sent the Chinese shopping elsewhere for soybeans. Brazil has stepped up to the plate to meet the demands and has suffered environmental consequences as delicate rainforests are converted to farmland. China, on the other hand, has been converting farmlands back to forests.

The entire study can be found at Ecology and Society.

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Author: Daniela

I was born in Croatia, at that time Yugoslavia. My family moved to the US when I was very young, but I still treasure the memories of my grandfather teaching me how to protect myself against the "evil eye," my grandmother shopping early every morning, at the open air market, to buy the freshest vegetables for the day's meals, and the traditions that were the underpinnings of our society. Someone once noted that "For all of us that want to move forward, there are a very few that want to keep the old methods of production, traditions and crafts alive." I am a fellow traveler with those who value the old traditions and folk wisdom. I believe the knowledge they possess can contribute significantly to our efforts to build a more sustainable world; one that values the individual over the corporation, conservation over growth and happiness over wealth.

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