Acknowledging temporal diversity in sustainability transformations at the nexus of interconnected systems

Publikation: Beiträge in ZeitschriftenZeitschriftenaufsätzeForschungbegutachtet


The language of the global sustainability discourse in science and society is laden with time rhetoric, and time has been identified as one major contextual condition for sustainability transformations. Still, time and temporal dynamics are often not explicitly considered or conceptualized in research and strategy-building towards sustainability transformations in social-ecological and socio-technical systems: While existing approaches to time such as the concept of time ecology mainly inform system knowledge, many transformation concepts are found to lack an in-depth integration of time. This sets up the challenge to acknowledge and operationalize temporal system dynamics in transformation processes, in order to be able to plan and act purposefully towards long-term sustainable development. In this article, we take a first step to meet this challenge and propose an approach towards operationalizing and integrating the findings of time ecology for these sustainability transformation concepts. The presented time-in-transformations-approach consists of three subsequent steps. Each step informs specific features of the transformation process and is operationalized on the basis of insights from time ecology. By applying these steps to the exemplary case of the mineral-energy nexus, we show how our approach might enable a better temporal system understanding and support a structured reflection on human perception of change and typical temporal patterns. The approach leads to two main outcomes: First, it can inform how to design and carry out interventions in a way that they consider a system's temporal resilience and transformability. Second, an active consideration of temporal dynamics can inform strategy-building towards coherent sustainability transformations across sectors and regulatory levels, spatial and temporal scales. Therefore, it can contribute to a shared and operational understanding of temporal diversity and may thus meaningfully complement existing approaches to analyze, assess and purposefully intervene into systems across sector boundaries.

ZeitschriftJournal of Cleaner Production
Seiten (von - bis)273-285
Anzahl der Seiten13
PublikationsstatusErschienen - 20.09.2017

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