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The 3rd GPSS-GLI International Symposium

Last updated November 18, 2014


Program Overview 


Background of Symposium

              The Graduate Program in Sustainability Science – Global Leadership Initiative (GPSS-GLI) started in 2012 and offered a new curriculum leading to master’s and doctoral degrees in sustainability science after being selected for “Programs for Leading Doctoral Schools” under the Ministry of Education Culture, Sports and Technology (MEXT), Japan. GPSS-GLI not only provides actual training necessary for future global leaders to make a profound impact on sustainability science and sustainable development on global, regional and local scales, but also endeavors to play a key role in developing networks among institutions of higher education that emphasize sustainability as a core subject of their curricula. Since 2012, the GPSS-GLI has organized an annual international symposium that discusses key issues related to sustainability education at the higher education level. In addition to this general perspective, the special focus on “Kizuna” (絆) was chosen as the theme of the 2015 symposium.


Underlying Concept

              “Kizuna” is a Japanese word meaning ‘linkage’ or ‘bond’ among people. This word became a buzzword after the Great East Japan Earthquake because it was the strong “Kizuna” relationship among people that was praised by people in other parts of Japan and around the world as well. However, we use this term as the main theme of our 2015 symposium to explore the frontiers of Sustainability Science from an ecological perspective that has been developed as a science of relationships.

              But, why focus on ‘Relationships’? Since the issues that the world is facing today are highly complex, dynamic, and interdependent, conventional approaches of a single discipline or a single field can only provide a partial solution that often leads to other problems. What Sustainability Science aims at is the development of new systems for society from a broader perspective that untangles conventional segmentalized approaches and restructures the new relationships…new “Kizuna” bonds… among various aspects.

              Sustainability Science has heretofore endeavored to explore ways of linking these segmentalized approaches by using such terms as ‘Holistic’ or ‘Transboundary’. Holistic approaches have brought about systemic and comprehensive views on the concerned issues, and have been applied to defining sustainable goals for society. Transboundary approaches have provided us with respect and thus insight into diversity and individual values, and they have also contributed to managing decision-making processes. However, satisfactory outcomes have yet to be achieved because a bridge that connects holistic and transboundary approaches has been lacking. So, how then can we move forward to overcome segmentalized approaches and develop true integration of discipline-based or sectorial approaches?

              GPSS-GLI believes that ecology can serve as a useful reference since this discipline has been developed as a science to study the interactions among organisms and their environments. Interspecies relationships, for example, have long been regarded as ‘predator-prey relationships’ or ‘competition’. However, the new paradigm ‘symbiosis’ has been added, and this new notion has greatly developed its own discipline. Sustainability Science also endeavors to present a new paradigm of ‘relationships’ that enhances organic links, or Kizuna, in our world society.

              More precisely, the 2015 GPSS-GLI International Symposium will reconsider the relationships of the somewhat confrontational paradigm of human and nature, economics and environment, current generation and future generations, and local benefits and global benefits to shape a vision, and to approach this task through determining organic linkages in these paradigms.

              In this way, the symposium encourages participants to discuss how we can nurture ‘Kizuna’ for sustainability from an ecological perspective that has been developed as a science of relationships.


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