Transdisciplinary research for environmental literacy

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  • Ecological Economics 74 (2012) 177178

    Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect


    l sebased and exemplary for a basic understanding of the need for inter-and transdisciplinarity, may serve as a text book for students inenvironmental and sustainability sciences. From a sustainabilityperspective the book can be seen as exploring fundamentals for many

    approaches of transdisciplinarity.

    ReferencesBook Review

    Transdisciplinary research for environmental literacy

    A review of Environmental Literacy in Science and Society. FromKnowledge to Decisions, Roland W. Scholz, Cambridge UniversityPress, Cambridge/UK, ISBN 978-0-521-19271-2 Hardback, ISBN978-0-521-18333-8 Paperback

    Is the lack of sustainability a result of environmental illiteracy? Nodoubt, the assumption that education and research can play afundamental role in coping with unsustainability is an underlyingassumption of environmental and sustainability courses, programmes,books, journals, institutions, and research in thewholeworld. However,in spite of the often repeated request for holistic thinking and views,most of these initiatives and activities are caught in disciplines,particular foci and models of assumptions.

    It is thus a relief to nd a book published which really attemptsto take a broad, inter- and transdisciplinary, however, thoroughlyresearched and scientically founded view on what environmentalliteracy could mean and how it could be achieved. RolandW. Scholzpresents a six hundred page oeuvre starting from the identicationof the origins of dening and considering the environment inscience, to a large overview of the scientic approaches and histor-ical roots when biophysical issues were dealt with in different disci-plines such as psychology, sociology, economics and industrialecology.

    A fascinating chapter is on beyond disciplines and scienceswhereScholz argues for a transdisciplinarity science approach to better dealwith environmental (and sustainability) challenges. Together withco-authors heproposes the use of integrated systemsmodelling of com-plex human-environment systems which precedes his discussion ofwhat transdisciplinarity means and how it could be applied and used.The second last part of the book provides four chapters, three of themwith different co-authors, proposing an approach for transdisciplinarityinvestigations of human-environment systems. The book concludeswith an outlook on new horizons for environmental and sustainabilitysciences.

    The text is structured very well along core questions which guide,in each chapter in an adjusted way, the reader throughout the book.Each Section is summarized with key messages, and boxes andgures illustrate notions, approaches, and effects of different viewsin reality, with excellent examples. This publication, though research


    j ourna l homepage: www.edifferent kinds of academically founded and advanced real life-orientededucation.

    As a research text, the book provides many, new insights, andchallenges the readers to ask questions. The choice of considered disci-plines is based on what Roland Scholz calls components of society(Scholz, 2011, p. 14), i.e. the economic system, the political and legal

    0921-8009/$ see front matter 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.ecolecon.2011.11.001system, the social and cultural order system, and the scientic andeducational system. The disciplines which are discussed with regardto their contributions or lack of contribution to dealing with thebiophysical world are psychology, sociology, economics and industrialecology. This choice could easily be expanded but would probablydivert the attention of the readers from the main focus, the explorationwhat environmental literacy means and how transdisciplinarity cancontribute to its enhancement.

    Quite interestingly, various distinctive German notions are used andcircumscribed for specic issues. Native English readers may be a bitastonished, but the decision where these German notions are appliedis excellent. As a highly reputed international scholar, Scholz is verywell aware of small but crucial language differences between Germanand English terminologies. Whereas these differences often distinguishcontinental European approaches from Anglo-American approachesthey are often not realized because of language barriers. To highlightsuch issues is thus welcome.

    From a research perspective an interesting part of the book is wheredifferent transdisciplinarity approaches are compared. The overview isprobably the most comprehensive so far, although some social scienceapproaches which have gained considerable attention in the Germanand Swiss literature could have been added, like the symptomsapproach (WBGU, 1996), or the needs-oriented research approach(see e.g. Mogalle, 2000, 204), sometimes also called action-eldoriented approach (e.g. Klann and Nitsch, 1999), which is based onSen (1993) functionings denition of the various things that he orshe manages to do or be in leading a life.

    Environmental literacy: what a notion, what a challenge! Giventhe ambition, it is inevitable that various different perspectives andtopics could additionally be included in the discussion of what isneeded and how it could be achieved. Roland Scholz must haveknown that this endeavour could not be comprehensive but wouldat this stage have to be a starting point for further transdisciplinaryresearch and studies. He has thus to be congratulated for his courageand excellently designed, systematic approach to tackle this challenge.This publication has its merits by sketching a new scientic path andby setting an agenda. With his book, Roland W. Scholz is likely to haveinitiated a strand of literature dealing with how mankind can becomemore literate with regard to solving environmental problems andcreating sustainable development through multi-perspectiveconomics

    v ie r .com/ locate /eco leconKlann, U., Nitsch, J., 1999. Der Aktivittsfelderansatz. Ein Ansatz fr die Untersuchungeines integrativen Konzepts nachhaltiger Entwicklung (in German: The activityeld approach. An approach to investigate an integrative concept of sustainabledevelopment) STB-Bericht Nr. 23. DLR, Institut fr technische Thermodynamik,Stuttgart. Download:

    Mogalle, M., 2000. Der Bedrfnisfeld-Ansatz. Ein handlungsorientierter Forschungsansatzfr eine transdisziplinre Nachhaltigkeitsforschung (in German: The needs approach.

  • An activity oriented research approach for transdisciplinary sustainability research)Gaia 9 (3), 204210.

    Scholz, R.W., 2011. Environmental Literacy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge/UK.Sen, A., 1993. Capability andWell-Being. In: Nussbaum, M., Sen, A. (Eds.), The Quality

    of Life. Clarendon Press, Oxford, pp. 3053 (Hrsg.).WBGU, 1996. Welt im Wandel: Herausforderung fr die deutsche Wissenschaft.

    Jahresgutachten 1996. (in German: Theworld in change. Challenges for German science.Annual report 1996) Springer, Berlin.

    Stefan SchalteggerCentre for Sustainability Management (CSM), Leuphana University

    Lneburg, GermanyE-mail address:

    178 Book Review

    Book ReviewReferences


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