Human / Social Ecology meets Systems Science

In cooperation with the International Society for the Systems Sciences in July 2017 the BCSSS organized the 61st Annual World Conference ISSS2017 Vienna.

The analysis of socio-ecological systems and the comparison of views of systems science and views of human ecology have been a special focus of the scientific sessions in this framework on Thursday, July 13, 2017.  

Robert Dyball (Human Ecology, Univ. Canberra, AUS) presented the approach of human ecology in the study of socio-ecological systems. In his view human ecology is systemic sustainability research. He demonstrated the stepwise procedure of human ecological transdisciplinarity where the stakeholders of socio-ecological systems are integrated into the process of exploration and modelling of the system.

Ray Ison (Open University, UK) pointed out that systems thinking is tightly connected to epistemic questions that are the basis of misconception of soci-ecological systems: de-framing, re-thinking, re-framing are important steps in order to reorganize the governance and management of socio-ecological systems.

In the afternoon, a workshop with the title “Human / Social Ecology meets Systems Science” was run by Stefan Blachfellner and Felix Tretter, current presdient of the German Society for Human Ecology and BCSSS Fellow. Felix Tretter introduced the essentials of the history of human ecology and social ecology in his brief talk. Specific epistemic objects, concepts,  methods, paradigms and theories and the role of systems thinking  were presented.  The participants agreed on one of the most impressing examples of integration of social ecology and systems science still being the study of the Club of Rome “The limits to growth”: environmental, social and economic  data were computed in complex differential equations and calculated in the context of simulations of scenarios.

After this framing, Robert Dyball  and Ray Ison discussed various points that made clear that it is difficult to distinguish a human ecology approach as it was proposed by Robert Dyball from a systems approach that was demonstrated by Ray Ison. This discussion showed paradoxically that it might be important to indicate the differences that make a difference between these approaches!  


The BCSSS plans  to connect its activity that is focussed on “Systems Nutritution Ecology of Urban Regions” in cooperation with the German Society of Human Ecology  with the research program that is conducted by Robert Dyball. A next step will be the participation at the World Conference of Human Ecology in Lisboa in 2018.

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