Ten Facts about Land Systems for Sustainability

A new article published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS) is a call to action for policymakers worldwide seeking to develop sustainable and equitable solutions to humanity’s most urgent global challenges. “Ten Facts about Land Systems for Sustainability” is co-authored by 50 leading land system scientists, including Unai Pascual (Ikerbasque Professor at the Basque Centre for Climate Change) from 20 countries.

The study is intended to inform policies aimed at addressing challenges like how to limit the impacts of climate change, designing systems for sustainable food and energy production, protecting biodiversity, and balancing competing claims to land ownership. It also details implications for policymakers to consider if they hope to develop economically, culturally, and environmentally sustainable solutions to these complex challenges.

The article presents 10 basic facts to be considered in policymaking where land use is concerned:

1) Meanings and values of land are socially constructed and contested;

2) land systems exhibit complex behaviours with abrupt, hard-to-predict changes;

3) irreversible changes and path dependence are common features of land systems;

4) some land uses have a small footprint but very large impacts;

5) drivers and impacts of land-use change are globally interconnected and spill over to distant locations;

6) humanity lives on a used planet where all land provides benefits to societies;

7) land-use change usually entails trade-offs between different benefits—”win–wins” are thus rare;

8) land tenure and land-use claims are often unclear, overlapping, and contested;

9) the benefits and burdens from land are unequally distributed; and

10) land users have multiple, sometimes conflicting, ideas of what social and environmental justice entails.

Unai Pascual states that “these 10 basic facts shape the outcomes for people and nature of policies involving land, including climate change mitigation and adaptation, biodiversity conservation, and human health”.

More information:

Meyfroidt P., et al (2022). Ten facts about land systems for sustainability. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119 (7) e2109217118; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2109217118

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