Following the thinking of Jane Jacobs and Warren Weaver, sustainability can be described as a challenge of organised complexity. Moreover, understanding the nature of complexity in the living world is essential to delineating a regenerative sustainability paradigm. Although complex systems thinking has been commonly accepted within sustainability research and practice since the initial release of the Brundtland report, it remains incoherent with development within industrialised systems—which still carry the fingerprint of a mechanistic worldview.
Research describing processes and mechanisms of change, evolution, self-organisation, and emergence in social and ecological systems offers a unique perspective on prospects for sustainability. While this kind of thinking is arguably still on the fringe of applied transition initiatives, it may also point to strategies by which to repattern coupled human and natural systems.
In this workshop, we examine the relationship between sustainability and complexity, considering how to apply concepts, theories, and methodologies from the latter to structure increasingly deeper stages of systems transformation for global transition. To do so, we juxtapose the concrete goals of sustainable development and climate change mitigation against the more abstract notions of thresholds, adjacent possible, multiple stable states, economies of scale, as well as first, second, and third-order systems change.
KEYWORDS: climate change mitigation, cybernetics, organised complexity, regenerative sustainability, sustainable development, transition