Reconstructing Sustainability Science: Knowledge and action for a sustainable future, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Reconstructing Sustainability Science

Knowledge and action for a sustainable future, 1st Edition

By Thaddeus R. Miller


112 pages | 5 B/W Illus.

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The growing urgency, complexity and "wickedness" of sustainability problems—from climate change and biodiversity loss to ecosystem degradation and persistent poverty and inequality—present fundamental challenges to scientific knowledge production and its use. While there is little doubt that science has a crucial role to play in our ability to pursue sustainability goals, critical questions remain as to how to most effectively organize research and connect it to actions that advance social and natural wellbeing.

Drawing on interviews with leading sustainability scientists, this book examines how researchers in the emerging, interdisciplinary field of sustainability science are attempting to define sustainability, establish research agendas, and link the knowledge they produce to societal action. Pairing these insights with case studies of innovative sustainability research centres, the book reformulates the sustainability science research agenda and its relationship to decision-making and social action. It repositions the field as a "science of design" that aims to enrich public reasoning and deliberation while also working to generate social and technological innovations for a more sustainable future. 

This timely book gives students, researchers and practitioners a valuable and unique analysis of the emergence of sustainability science, and both the opportunities and barriers faced by scientific efforts to contribute to social action.


"A new generation of students and scholars has embraced sustainability as a concept and is eager to explore more thoughtful, more integrative and better scientifically grounded ways to approach it. Thad Miller’s new book is just what they are looking for."

Paul B. Thompson, Michigan State University, USA

"Thad Miller’s book presents a sophisticated, nuanced and insightful analysis of the emerging field of sustainability science. Particularly welcome is his analysis of the normative, ethical and epistemological underpinnings of different approaches to sustainability. His proposal for an explicitly normative solutions-oriented approach to sustainability is exactly right."

John Robinson, University of British Columbia, Canada

"Thad Miller, in this new conceptualization of how to restructure for sustainability science, outlines the logic and mechanisms by which an action-oriented, outcome-driven science might emerge. His book serves as a guide for what all sophisticated future-oriented knowledge enterprises should have as a part of their teaching, learning and discovery agendas in order to pursue a more sustainable future."

Michael M. Crow, Arizona State University, USA

"This book will be appealing to readers who are interested in learning more about sustainability science as

a field, and for those grappling with the diversity and diffuse nature of what may or may not be considered under its banner it will be useful orientation."

Lorrae van Kerkhoff, Human Ecology

Table of Contents

Preface Part 1: Constructing Sustainability Science 1. Planet Under Pressure 2. A Science for Sustainability 4. Constructing Sustainability Science 4. Tensions in Sustainability Science Part 2: Reconstructing Sustainability Science 5. Reclaiming Sustainability: Limits to Knowledge 6. Sustainability as a Science of Design 7. Conclusion: Sustainability and our Socio-Technical Future

About the Author

Thaddeus R. Miller is Assistant Professor at the Nohad A. Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning and a Faculty Fellow at the Institute for Sustainable Solutions at Portland State University, USA. He is also an affiliate of the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes at Arizona State University, USA. His research explores the social, ethical and political dimensions of science, technology and sustainability.

About the Series

The Earthscan Science in Society Series

The Earthscan Science in Society Series aims to publish new high quality research, teaching, practical and policy- related books on topics that address the complex and vitally important interface between science and society.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy