Reconnecting society with its ecological roots

Mark Everard*, Gary Kass, James Longhurst, Sophus zu Ermgassen, Herbert Girardet, James Stewart-Evans, Jonathan Wentworth, Kevin Austin, Ciara Dwyer, Robert Fish, Paul Johnston, Gary Mantle, Chad Staddon, Dave Tickner, Steve Spode, Jackie Vale, Rhianna Jarvis, Mathilda Digby, Gwilym Wren, Tim SunderlandAmanda Craig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Recent high-profile analyses of trajectories and prognoses of ecosystem decline around the world have called for a renewed focus on embedding the values of the natural world across all areas of public policy. This paper reports the results of a UK-based deliberative process involving experts from a wide range of policy domains and across societal sectors: government departments, associated agencies, national and international NGOs, professional institutions, academia and independent experts. A symposium, based on a collaborative learning approach, explored instances in which ecosystem values have successfully been embedded into public policy, identified challenges to their more widespread embedding despite commitments to do so over generational timescales, and took a backcasting approach to develop actionable outcomes required to deliver transformation change across state and civil society. Emergent themes were expressed in social, technological, environmental, economic and political terms. Recommendations for interventions in complex social-ecological systems are cross-sectoral in scope and will necessarily entail multiple agents of change, well beyond governmental leadership, within any given sphere of societal activity and interest. We identify strategic challenges for, and between, a spectrum of societal policy areas, many currently overlooking ecosystem dependencies, impacts and potential benefits. Reflections on the collaborative learning approach are also provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-19
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work could not have been completed without the assistances of John Bilyeu, Cy Helms, Paul Rollins, Mark McClelland, and John Delphia of TxDOT, and Lee Gustavus andTom Scullion of the Texas Transportation Institute.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Deliberation
  • Ecosystems
  • Socio-ecological systems
  • Sustainable development
  • System change
  • Transformation


Dive into the research topics of 'Reconnecting society with its ecological roots'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this