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New definition of sustainability overcomes flaw hampering global transformation efforts

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An interdisciplinary team led by Senior Researcher Dr. Christoph Rupprecht (FEAST Project, RIHN) has revealed a new definition of sustainability that expands the concept to non-human species and their needs. With this new definition, published in the journal Global Sustainability, the researchers addressed a critical flaw in the original concept of sustainability that was hindering global transformation efforts. Examples from landscape planning and the Healthy Urban Microbiome Initiative (HUMI) suggest the new multispecies sustainability concept will have wide-ranging applications.
Visualizations of the sustainability concept (adapted from Wu, 2013). Credit: CC-BY (4.0) license

The team of nineteen researchers identified a contradiction at the core of sustainability: its resource management approach ignores that the well-being and needs of all living beings is interdependent in ecologically complex ways. To overcome this critical flaw, they combined recent advances in multispecies ethnography with research by Indigenous scholars and insights from cybernetics. Based on this work, the team formulated a set of six principles and a new concept of multispecies sustainability, defined as meeting the interdependent needs of all species while enhancing the ability of future generations of all species to meet their own needs. The researchers then showcased potential applications that help enable human-wildlife coexistence and radically rethink urban greenspace design based on recent microbiome and public health insights.

"Whether you look at climate change, biodiversity decline or microplastic pollution,…
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