Stockholm Resilience Day

"If the planet doesn’t work, we will not be able to live on it”

The decisions that humanity makes this decade will shape the living conditions on our planet for many generations to come.

In the first-ever Stockholm Resilience Day, researchers, policy-makers, business leaders, experts and artists gathered at the Centre to discuss sustainability science insights, and actions needed to live and develop within Planetary Boundaries.

"Last year, we not only experienced the hottest year ever measured; we also saw increasing geopolitical tensions. The world is turbulent for so many reasons. A lot of our work on ecology, security issues and Anthropocene dynamics connects these turbulences and makes it possible to better understand them," said Line Gordon, Centre director, in her opening speech at the Stockholm Resilience Day.

In a time when human activity has had a substantial impact on the planet, beyond a safe operating zone, a notable shift in the mindset gives some hope, said Carl Folke, Chair of the Centre Board:

“People are realising that if the planet doesn’t work, we will not be able to live on it. It is a big mind shift, compared to the 1980's when the discussion was centred around development versus conservation.”

Folke elaborated that Anthropocene is not just a changing game, but a whole changing playing field for the game: "We need a really solid foundation of interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary science that makes us understand what's going on, and how can we act."

Lisen Schultz, Carl Folke and Line Gordon on stage during Resilience Day 2024

"The world is turbulent for so many reasons," Line Gordon adressed the audience.

Building resilience through diverse knowledge

Deputy Science Director Per Olsson presented the most recent science findings from the Centre. He pointed out that six out of nine planetary boundaries have been crossed and that it’s becoming evident that the climate, energy, food, inequality, geopolitical, and biodiversity crises cannot be viewed as separate anymore.

"We organize our research into themes to address the interconnected crises of the Anthropocene, focusing on resilience, justice, and transformative change. Embracing complexity, our work contributes to navigating precarious contexts with stewardship in mind, catalysing sustainability transformations in times of uncertainty and addressing potential backlash," said Olsson.

Themes inspire each other with transdisciplinary work related to the co-production of knowledge.

Food theme leader Malin Jonell

Centre researchers and theme leaders Malin Jonell (Food for resilience), Lan Wang-Erlandsson (Anthropocene dynamics) and Robert Blasiak (The human ocean) delved deeper into key insights and concepts developed last year. The panellists shared a few examples of one theme contributing to the work in another theme:

"Understanding the simplification of the agricultural system, which is a key feature of the Anthropocene dynamics, requires an understanding of the global food system, how it's wired and how the ocean operates," said Wang-Erlandsson.

"Themes inspire each other with transdisciplinary work related to the co-production of knowledge. For example, the SeaBOS initiative has become a great source of inspiration on how to work with large companies in the MISTRA Food Futures programme," added Jonell.

In a follow-up panel, researchers from other institutions reflected on scientific insights put forward.

“As a natural scientist, I have become increasingly aware of the role of social science. Social science has many of the answers to the questions we have. Here at the Centre, you mix both and bring forward important knowledge about how we best collaborate. That is not easy, but it is necessary,” reflected Magnus Breitholtz, Senior Advisor to the Stockholm University President for Environment and Sustainable Development.

Lisen Schultz, Anna Jöborn, Magnus Breitholtz and Henrik Österblom on stage.

"We need to build resilience as human beings," said Anna Jöborn from Mistra.

Diverse research and collaborations, according to Anna Jöborn, CEO of the research foundation Mistra, could contribute to individual resilience:

“We need to build resilience as human beings to find the strength to work with all these challenges. My key message is: scale it up!”

We have to become stewards of the entire planet.

Johan Rockström, Centre co-founder and Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research

Johan Rockström, Centre co-founder and Director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, called for collective efforts to mitigate further loss of resilience and steer humanity towards a manageable future on a stable Earth system:

"We have to become stewards of the entire planet. We are losing resilience in the whole Earth System. We can today say that if we are not careful with the stability, resilience and functions of the planet, we will not have any chances for an equitable and prosperous future for all," emphasised Rockström.

Collaborations contributing to impact

Whether analysing the Anthropocene, food systems, the ocean or transformations, Centre researchers not only combine multiple science disciplines but also collaborate with a variety of change-maker communities outside academia – businesses, non-governmental organisations, artists and the public.

A recent initiative , the citizen's assembly organised by the programme Fairtrans, gathers 60 representatives from diverse backgrounds to deliberate on climate issues. The assembly aims to allow Swedish participants to engage in informed discussions about climate transformation, which often involves difficult decisions and trade-offs.

"It is an interesting experiment, showing or at least testing what can happen, when people get resources, such as lectures and scientific insights, to discuss climate issues. Participants were very excited at the beginning but soon realised the challenges that decision-makers face. We do not know what will happen at the end, but it would be interesting to understand which ways are leading processes that contribute to sustainable and democratic transition," commented Sverker Sörlin, professor of environmental history at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology.

Festivals and events have a great potential to be transformative, they can create great impact on a both individual and systemic level.

Louise Lindén, Secretary General at LiveGreen

A longer-lasting collaboration with the music festival organiser Greentopia provides the Centre with the platform to share the latest insights on sustainability and discuss how could the event industry transform and set an exemplary model for regions, cities and sectors.

“Festivals and events have a great potential to be transformative, they can create great impact on a both individual and systemic level. People visiting events are more open-minded to try new things, to challenge their identity and to change traditional behaviours and norms. We also know that when artists speak, people listen,” explained Louise Lindén, Secretary General at LiveGreen.

Ane Brun

The artist Ane Brun performed as part of Stockholm Resilience Day 2024.

Concluding the day, Elena Bennett, Chair of the Centre's International Scientific Advisory Council, reflected that the tools and experiments taking place at the Centre help to navigate the turbulent world:

"The Centre's work with diverse communities, e.g., citizens, music festivals, industries, policymakers, CEOs and unions, allows researchers not only to share their knowledge but also to listen to different knowledge and perspectives on those problems that emerge from all of these communities," said Bennett.

"The most important is to reflect on what it is that each of us can do to navigate this thin corridor of life, and what we can do jointly, together, to become better stewards of this planet," concluded Line Gordon.

Stockholm Resilience Day was hosted on 7 May at the Stockholm Resilience Centre to launch the “Investing in Resilience” report which summarises the Centre’s key research findings and activities conducted in 2023.

Published: 2024-05-17

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