The Biosphere Sustainability Project (BSP) has maintained two closely linked purposes and sets of research activities. The more conceptual component has centred on scholarly review of the concepts and insights from six rapidly developing and interrelated areas of academic enquiry related to efforts to contribute to sustainability:
- understanding the nature of complex open systems,
- enhancing the sustainability of social-ecological systems,
- recognizing and enriching the roles of civil society and citizen engagement in governance,
- strengthening the resilience of desirable systems,
- assessing the sustainability implications of options and proposals, and
- fostering social innovation for transition to greater sustainability.
The second, more practical component has involved studies and other collaborations with people and organizations in UNESCO biosphere reserves in Canada, and other specially recognized areas, known for exemplary sustainability-related initiatives. Initially we worked mostly with three Ontario biosphere reserves (the Long Point, Niagara Escarpment, and Georgian Bay Biosphere Reserves). But we have since expanded our work to include several other biosphere reserves in Canada from coast to coast, plus several Model Forests/Forest Communities (e.g. Prince Albert in Saskatchewan and Le Bourdon in Quebec) and some other similar initiatives including an Oak Ridges Moraine/Greenbelt initiative in southern Ontario.
The combined conceptual and practical challenge has been to bring together the two aspects of the research so that each informs the other in ways that can effectively inform and strengthen both. The intent is that ideas drawn from theoretical explorations along with reports on their application elsewhere will help practitioners, while insights from local practical experience will sharpen the theorizing.