Inter- and transdisciplinary approaches play a key role in finding sustainable development solutions and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals indicated by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The BUP acts as a valuable means of streamlining current research findings and innovative ideas, which, at our multidisciplinary and international events, gain momentum and a far-reaching, cross-field impact. It is therefore only for the sake of clarity that we distinguish 10 themes that function as an organising principle at BUP events and within the information it distributes.

1. Climate Change

Several anthropogenic activities, including the burning of fossil fuels, as well as land-use change, construction of infrastructure and buildings and emissions from industries, are driving a rapid global temperature increase. This leads to consequences for ecosystems and planetary systems and impacts on the socio-economic development of the globe. Science plays a key role in investigating these climactic changes to provide a better understanding of them as well as aid the mitigation of emissions and help in adapting to a warming planet. In this BUP theme, we study climate change from many different aspects and fields through interdisciplinarity.

Research network on Climate Change.

Storm clouds above green fields

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2. Energy Systems

The transition towards renewable energy sources is key to avoid severe climate change. This is particularly important when considering that a majority of carbon emissions orginate from the burning of fossil fuels. The transition includes a reduction of energy consumption and the development and implementation of low emission energy production in the energy, transport and industry sectors. In this BUP theme, we generally refer to renewable energy as both zero and low emission energy production as well as incorporating a more holistic approach to low carbon-emitting energy systems.

Research network on Energy Systems.

Wind turbines on snowy hills

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3. Sustainable Societies

Social factors play a significant role in our future and are as important as technical innovations. The development and implementation of new policies at the local, regional and global levels and whether and how they incorporate sustainable development matters, is decisive for what kind of a world we can expect to see in several-decades time. Issues such as public involvement and participation, transparency, the access principle and freedom of speech are seminal for the development of sustainable societies. Research into the workings of society are crucial for a sustainable outcome of the interplay of the many interests involved in decision-taking, legislation-making and everyday actions.

Research network on Sustainable Societies.

Tall buildings with greenery

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4. Sustainable Water Resources

Water is becoming scarce and the way we treat it is rapidly gaining importance. It is urgent to examine and document both what human societies need and require regarding water and what the environment needs to continue its life as undisrupted as possible. From here, it is possible to identify a balanced state of water usage, which is an important step toward achieving the sustainability of water resources. Ideally, water resource management planning takes into consideration all competing demands for water and seeks to allocate water on an equitable basis to satisfy all of them. This is likely to become increasingly more complicated due to climate change, which makes this research field vital.

Research network on Sustainable Water Resources.

A stream with flowing water

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5. Urban-Rural Development

Urbanisation has, globally, led to urban growth, densification and uncontrolled sprawl. As a result, the concept of a sustainable society has been studied mainly from an urban perspective (sustainable cities, eco-cities), removed from discussions on the development of rural areas, farmlands and forests. The area of urban-rural interactions has been neglected and left out of planning, which has contributed to the fact that cities are now supported with food, natural resources and energy originating mainly from the global market instead of their immediate surroundings. It is imperative to develop regional and local flows of products and resources (which we call a relocalisation process) and focus on human behavioural patterns (which include, e.g., urban lifestyles).

Research network on Urban-Rural Development.

Two hills and a city skyline

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6. Sustainable Mobility

In all modern societies, people tend to increase their mobility. The total volume of transportation and its different modes is determined by economic, political and social factors. The main concern of researchers in the area of sustainable mobility is the reduction of adverse effects linked to increased transportation. One of the employed strategies is the promotion of co-modality, which means an optimal combination of various modes of transport within the same transport chain, particularly regarding freight (cargo transport). Technical innovations and incentivising a shift towards lower pollution levels and more energy efficient modes of transport, e.g., collective transport, as well as walking and cycling, also play an important role.

Research network on Sustainable Mobility.

People standing on a train platform

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7. Circular Economy

Circular economy refers to an economic system built on circular materials flows, instead of the more conventional economic systems where a product is made, used and disposed of. In a circular economic system, products are made not only for a single use but are later reused, repaired, repurposed and recycled. A circular economic flow entails lower emissions and leads to a resource use that does not contribute to a depletion of the environment. The economy, at the same time, continues to flourish unhindered. This system has already been implemented on a small scale in some places and sectors in the Baltic Sea Region but needs to be upscaled to have implications that go beyond the local.

Research network on Circular Economy.

Coins and a small plant in a glass

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8. Sustainable Tourism

Tourism as a global industry has grown and changed dramatically over the past twenty years, becoming one of the largest resource-consuming industries in the world. This has led to concerns about its environmental, economic and social sustainability. Apart from placing demands on the environment, it is also the fastest growing industry in terms of the number of employees and its proportions imply far-reaching consequences for local cultures and communities. Its social sustainability is also therefore of paramount concern. This research area takes into consideration the prior mentioned aspects of travel, explores issues such as destination development, tourist attractions, and accommodation, and seeks to find sustainable solutions for our highly mobile world.

Research Network on Sustainable Tourism.

Information on the Network for Sustainable Tourism (NST).

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9. Education for Sustainable Development

ESD studies transformative learning in formal, non-formal and informal settings. Since education is perhaps the single most powerful tool for affecting change, we need an efficient and widespread ESD if there is to be a chance that we, not only as individuals, but as a society at large alter our perception of environment and our behaviour. The field of ESD focuses on how to teach about complex issues such as climate change, disaster risk and overconsumption. The goal is to empower (future) educators by providing them with new skills, the knowledge of participatory teaching methods and other tools that will foster critical thinking, action competence and the ability to imagine future scenarios for their students.

Research network on Education for Sustainable Development.

A group of people holding boxes covered in the UN:s Sustainable Development Goals

Photo: Sylwester Nagorka

10. Sustainable Food Systems

A key challenge of our time is a sustainable management of agricultural land and the development of resilient food systems to feed the growing world population. Agricultural production is increasingly impaired by climate change, degradation of natural resources and increasing environmental externalities. It is crucial to increase accessibility of food resources while sparing the environment negative fallouts from excessive logistics and environmentally inefficient distribution. We are already able to develop a nearly waste-free production chain, where each by-product could be further used or processed – now we need to promote its implementation. Science and education are some of the most valuable tools to renew a society’s connection to agriculture and to change conventional patterns of resource management.

Research network on Sustainable Food Systems.

Green and yellow fields

Photo: Ricardo Gomez Angel on Unsplash