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Telecoupling pulls pieces of sustainability puzzle together
Date:6/25/2013

Global sustainability is like a high-stakes jigsaw puzzle and an international group of scientists have created a new framework to assemble the big picture without losing pieces.

Scientists led by Jianguo "Jack" Liu, Michigan State University's Rachel Carson Chair in Sustainability, have built an integrated way to study a world that has become more connected with faster and more socioeconomic and environmental interactions over distances. They say "telecoupling" describes how distance is shrinking and connections are strengthening between nature and humans.

In Ecology and Society, Liu, director of MSU's Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS), and his colleagues lay the groundwork to understand how an action on one side of the world has enormous socioeconomic and environmental consequences thousands of miles away and how it doesn't stop there. Telecoupling shows how environmental and socioeconomic actions lead to reactions and feedbacks and then to more repercussions that reverberate globally.

For a world struggling to balance the needs of people and the environment in the face of critical challenges like climate change, food security, water security, energy security, environmental pollution, poverty, biodiversity loss and species invasion, Liu says an integrated framework of telecoupling is essential.

"It has been traditional to focus on either the socioeconomic or environmental impact of an action," Liu said. "But the lack of a holistic understanding of an action means that you really cannot manage a system well for both socioeconomic and environmental sustainability.

The article "Framing Sustainability in a Telecoupled World" lays out a comprehensive telecoupling framework a map for the trip to sustainable development across the world.

The authors use the trading of soybeans as an example of the far-reaching complexities that result.

Soybeans are a booming commodi
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Contact: Sue Nichols
Nichols@msu.edu
517-432-0206
Michigan State University
Source:Eurekalert

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