Past Conference: ISDRS 2017, Bogotá. Track 3a Life on Land

Below a few key results of the 3a Life on Land track at the Bogotá Conference are displayed. A wide variety of interesting talks led to the following general conclusions;

• Ecosystem services (ESS) are a bridge concept linking natural, social and cultural sciences with decision makers from different walks of life.

• ESS are a social construct, with definitions based on subjective choices, combined with qualitative or quantitative measurement. As a result, measuring “nature’s contributions to people” can never be an “objective measurement”.

• For democratic decision making, it is important to know what people value, but this is not best expressed in terms of prices. Ordinal scales often offer the best way to structure and communicate the information.

• Definitions hold power, and deciders on definitions wield power over social processes and impacts. Consequently, decision making power over definitions must be legitimate, not only competent.

• Legitimacy is not with science agents, but with democratically chosen representatives. These should make scientifically informed decisions – science based decisions are not democratically legitimised.

• Critical self-reflection is necessary for better science, able to defend itself against external criticism in the post-truth age of alternative facts.

Research needed:
• Which facts determine what is being valued by whom, and how can this differentiation be integrated in scientific analysis and political decision making.

• Which is the role of agents and power structures, and societal institutions more general, in valuation processes? How is power integrated with responsibility and liability?

• Science needs to provide research on prospective impact assessments, analysing both ESS and disservices, by the groups affected (incl. future generations), and communicate it to decision makers at all levels and from all walks of life.