Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies Millbrook, New York, United States
Background/Question/Methods The last few years of pandemic lockdowns, economic turbulence, profound inequities, death and fragmentation and transformation of socio-ecological systems forces us to rethink the structure of fundamental societal building blocks such as education and science. These disruptions catapulted us into the “anthropause”, providing a glimpse of how socio-ecological systems respond to dramatic change. The pandemic, in particular, has exposed the vulnerabilities of the interconnected world; it continues to underscore the dire need for a better understanding of the linkages between ecological processes and human well-being.
How do we move forward in a changing and changed world? The anthropause represents a cultural and ecological inflection point. It presents a remarkable opportunity to catalyze and guide change in how, when, what, where and with whom we create ecological knowledge. The future will be shaped by our individual, and collective, response to the anthropause. Whether and how we underpin our actions with socio-ecological data and understanding will further define our future. A series of actions to bolster social and ecological resilience is identified, inspired by this unique moment in time.
Results/Conclusions Ecological knowledge, and a systems approach, are foundational for unraveling knotty, interconnected, environmental problems. To wit, up to three quarters of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic in origin; our ability to predict as well as abate them is highly dependent on understanding fundamental disease ecology. Ecologists and ecological knowledge must be central to decision making.
We must also expand, as well as refocus, the ways in which we view, create, and apply ecological knowledge through new lenses and contexts. Embracing new perspectives on justice, history, and knowledge are essential to co-create solutions.
Understanding and enhancing feedbacks in socio-ecological systems is paramount. The anthropause compels us to not only consider dynamic systems, but to trace and quantify connections, flows of information and matter, and feedback loops as we problem solve amid environmental, social, and cultural change. Further, in order to do so, we must foster robust interactions among a diverse group of scientists, knowledge holders, communities, and decision makers. Open communication and meaningful listening are the foundation for the creative, knowledge-based solutions we need. The goal is not only to be at the table, but for everyone who comes to the table to walk away with expanded ideas, solutions, and knowledge.