Background

Our society is currently facing huge challenges which seem to become more severe from year to year: From an ecological point of view, this can be illustrated by the concept of «planetary boundaries». They describe the resources and capacities of the Earth for important parts of the ecological system. According to this concept, we are already in a critical state for biodiversity and the biochemical cycles of phosphorus and nitrogen. Most public attention is nowadays directed towards climate change. For climate change, we are currently still within the planetary boundary, but will soon exceed the limit if we continue to emit as much CO2 as we do each year. From a social point of view, inequality in terms of income and wealth distribution is still on a high level in most countries, often even increasing. At the same time, more and more people are employed in a precarious manner. Many people have to take several jobs to sustain themselves. Moreover, the social welfare system is oftentimes designed in a way that the danger of old-age poverty or long-term unemployment rises. Overall, these trends lead to a fragmentation of society which favors populist parties.

Looking at these developments, it becomes clear that our way of organizing our society and our economic system will lead to severe problems in the medium to long run. We thus see a need for a “socio-ecological transformation”. This term describes a transformation of our social and economic system into a form that respects the natural boundaries of our planet and that allows all people to lead a decent life. All around the globe, people experiment with alternative ways of living or with single elements of it. Examples for this are concepts like circular economy, regional currencies, community gardens, for-free shops or cooperatives, to name just a few.

To understand the potential of these elements, to design their interaction and to build a functional social and economic system out of them, usually goes beyond the capacities of individual actors. This is the point where scientific support becomes helpful, if not essential. The concept of “transformative science” describes a scientific system that supports the socio-ecological transformation. Further, this term also raises the question whether our current way of doing science is appropriate for this huge task or whether it needs a transformation in itself.

So far, the discourse about Transformative Science has mainly been led in academic and intellectual spheres. What is missing is an easily accessible description of the concept which would allow the broader public to enter into the debate. Therefore, we would like to write a book from young people for young people which describes the most important background information and discussions of the discourse around transformative science. Target group of our book are mainly students and young scientists of all disciplines who are interested in sustainability and the role of science for it.

Conceptually, we would like to depict our own learning process in the book. To do so, we will explore the discourse ourselves, both through own research and through expert interviews. We will document our learning experience in the book so that readers can participate in it. That way, we hope to inspire readers and make them reflect on their own role as (future) scientists! As the discourse is currently mainly held in the German-speaking countries, we will write the book in German. If this goes well, we will however consider an English edition as a second step :)

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