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What if sustainability doesn’t work out?

November 20, 2013

Here’s an interesting academic paper from Interactions, called What if sustainability doesn’t work out? The authors (a group of HCI researchers) discuss “the possibility that global change is imminent, and that industrial civilizations may need to adapt dramatically in the coming decades, rather than indefinitely continuing the growth that has been its hallmark for much of the past two centuries” … They propose “that it is now appropriate for HCI researchers to begin exploring how our discipline may help to address the problems that would likely arise in such scenarios.”

Here’s an excerpt:

In his keynote at the National Academies symposium, John Holdren, head of the U.S. Office of Science and Technology Policy and chief science advisor to the nation, described a need for both mitigation—the reduction of the magnitude of change—and adaptation—the mobilization of responses to change [6]. Holdren offered that many more projects are currently focusing on mitigation than adaptation. Researchers around the world and across widely disparate fields are exploring ways to mitigate environmental problems. Mitigation is a key focus for many industrialized nations seeking to enable their citizenry to maintain or improve their lifestyles. Nevertheless, despite the significant efforts to mitigate global change being exerted across many elements of human civilizations, it is not clear that these efforts are sufficient to place humanity on a path that avoids the grave consequences of this change.

If, as increasingly seems likely, humanity is unable to prevent dramatic global change, then adaptation to these transformations will be of growing relevance. The manner in which humans adapt to the changes will define the future of civilization. Here, we engage with the topic of how IT tools can support adaptation to global change.

Read more here.

Thanks to Daniel Pargman at KTH (Sweden’s MIT) for recommending the article. Check out his blog — which explores some similar themes — here.

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Infrastructure, Systems