Closing remarks: novel approaches to complex societal change and sustainability

Sander Van Der Leeuw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


This paper summarizes some personal impressions of the 7th conference of the International Complex Systems Society, co-organized with “Future Earth”, held in Stockholm on August 24–26, 2017. The main point is that it is urgent and important to consider the sustainability conundrum as long-term, society-driven one, and to place societal dynamics at the core of how we, as a global society, came to this point, how ongoing dynamics are driving us towards a tipping point, and which role the Information and Communication Technology revolution plays in that process. A much wider involvement of the social sciences is essential. This also requires major changes in our thinking about sustainability—we need to develop an approach in which change is the natural state of affairs and societies attempt to impose stability on the dynamics involved. We need to focus on learning from the past, about the present, but above all for the future. And we need to shift from an entity-focused approach to a relational one, which pays more attention to contexts and networks. Other issues raised by such a shift in our thinking are about the role of science, the adoption of complex systems approaches and a few others that the paper points to.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1589-1596
Number of pages8
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018


  • Future earth
  • ICSS2017
  • Sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Health(social science)
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Ecology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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