Beyond Emissions-Conversation with Climate Leaders
Executive Director of the BRIDGES Coalition
Dr. Luci Attala
Director of the BRIDGES UK Hub
Welcome to the July edition of the Beyond Emissions: Conversations with Climate Leaders. We are honored to have Steven Hartman, Executive Director of the BRIDGES Coalition and Dr. Luci Attala, Director of the BRIDGES UK Hub in conversation with the School of Policy and Governance. Together, they shed light on how BRIDGES is leading the way in driving climate action through its humanities-driven sustainability science approach. Join us as we explore their strategies and initiatives aimed at fostering meaningful dialogue, raising awareness, and mobilizing action to address pressing global climate challenges
BRIDGES is a humanities-driven sustainability science coalition established in UNESCO’s Management of Social Transformations (MOST) programme. Composed currently of dozens of international institutes, organizations, programs and formal networks, the coalition works closely with the Intergovernmental Council and Scientific Advisory Committee of MOST, UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences sector and the membership of the other founding partners, the International Council for Philosophy and Human Sciences (CIPSH) and the Humanities for the Environment global observatory network.
Q1) Can you shed some light on how a global body like BRIDGES works as a Humanities led coalitions and works to promote local, national, and international collaborations in response to global challenges like Climate Change?
Response: In mitigation, adaptation and remedial efforts, the international community are not keeping pace with the global scope and intensity of socio-environmental challenges, despite best intentions and meaningful progress working to deliver the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), national and international targets defined by the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and other landmark agreements and treaties. This state of affairs naturally raises serious concerns about the ability of the world to achieve necessary milestones for 2030, 2040 and 2050. At the beginning of the present decade, the founding partners of BRIDGES resolved to co-design an inclusive international coalition that could help to complete and strengthen the sustainability science domain as it had developed over the previous two decades, to a large extent without significant involvement of the humanities, the arts, social sciences, educational sciences and many local and indigenous communities. Consequently, BRIDGES was established to promote a general conceptual framework for sustainability rooted in transdisciplinarity, to support sustainable and inclusive development capable of realizing profound transformations. Such goals cannot be achieved alone by technical solutions such as renewable energy, better water management, innovative building, etc. Lasting change requires solutions that value and incorporate human contextual differences. This is part of what in BRIDGES we refer to as ‘humanities-driven sustainability science’ (HdSuS), but it goes beyond a narrower traditional framing of the humanities in most academic contexts.
Q2) What are the key elements we need to consider in shaping more successful and effective responses to global climate change impacts?
Response: Many otherwise well-conceived initiatives (in research and policy) aimed at supporting transformations to sustainability continue to fail because of an underlying technological optimism—a faith that solutions not yet realized will be found through continued investment in technological development. In other words, such efforts rely too heavily on the promise of technological fixes rather than on investment in transdisciplinary or co-productive approaches that can be socially and institutionally innovative, capable of developing new adaptive capacities while mitigating the very conditions or removing the drivers that make some of these adaptations necessary. BRIDGES recognizes the need to open up channels of societal knowledge and siloed repositories of wisdom and to bridge these resources through an investment in new structures and processes—and especially in people—that can together have a force-multiplying impact in our efforts to achieve resilient, just and flourishing societies and a sustainable, healthy planet. By definition, working in a transdisciplinary manner requires working co-productively from the outset—beginning with how we address our challenges and who is part of that conversation. In its very posture and approach to HdSuS, BRIDGES places transdisciplinarity right at the center of its mission.
Q3) How do you believe organizations like BRIDGES can contribute to accelerating conversations and engagement on climate change in the developing world?
Response: BRIDGES has 40+ charter member institutes and organisations working at the forefront of sustainability science, education, and socio-environmental policy, governance and community co-production that form a coalition concerned with advancing HdSuS. From an operational perspective, BRIDGES has ‘hubs’ around the world through which local initiatives and projects can be seeded, encouraged or born. Hubs provide resources that are working to forge collaborations locally and regionally, or sometimes under thematic rubrics that connect groups in different regions around the world. By rooting hubs in this way, hub teams can support academics, local community groups and businesses to come together to discuss how to work in collaboration and determine what questions need to be answered, what problems can be addressed and how the competencies and knowledge communities required can best be brought together effectively, with respect and shared agency. This approach contributes to accelerating conversations and engagement. It does so by recognizing the vast wealth of untapped local expertise and knowledge that can be used to respond to climate change. BRIDGES also provides international collaborative opportunities across the coalition, which enables colleagues from very different situations a chance to work together, in ways other organizations might not be able to offer. We also have an important role as a contact point for the humanities (again, in an expanded sense) within UNESCO and for UN organizations looking for expertise relevant to sustainability knowledge production, education and action, particularly in the science-policy interface.