Toward a Sustainable Future Earth: Challenges for a Research Agenda

Myanna Lahsen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Future Earth is an evolving international research program and platform for engagement aiming to support transitions toward sustainability. This article discusses processes that led to Future Earth, highlighting its intellectual emergence. I describe how Future Earth has increased space for contributions from the social sciences and humanities despite powerful, long-standing preferences for bio-geophysical research in global environmental research communities. I argue that such preferences nevertheless are deeply embedded in scientific institutions that continue to shape environmental science agendas and, as such, constitute a formidable obstacle that needs to be recognized and countered to bolster efforts at effective societal transformation in the face of sustainability challenges. The analysis draws on two decades of observant participation in environmental research communities in the United States, Europe, Brazil, and elsewhere, including participation in the visioning process that led to Future Earth.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)876-898
JournalScience Technology and Human Values
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Belmont Forum
  • climate change
  • environmental research
  • Future Earth
  • global environmental change
  • International Council for Science
  • science policy
  • social transformation
  • sustainability
  • sustainability science

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