A D A P T  &  S U S T A I N 

Copyright © A D A P T & S U S T A I N. All rights reserved.

Here are a few of the sustainability

ideas that can be found throughout 

the Adapt & Sustain mural.

The original list of words to be explored in the project  was

determined by a literature review of academic terms provided

to students in the MSoS program at ASU.


Because the design and painting of the mural were collaborative

processes, some of the words that seemed important in the early

planning stages fell out of the image, while others emerged from

workshop discussions and open painting days.  


Biodiversity - Biodiversity includes all of the living organisms that share a common ecosystem.  Our canal system here in Phoenix, for example, is home to more than a dozen different kinds of birds,  fish including carp and white amur, insects of all kinds, and mesquite and palo verde trees that shade the banks during the mornings and late afternoons.​

Costanza, R., Graumlich, L., Steffen, W., Crumley, C., Dearing, J., Hibbard, K., Schimel, D. (2007).Sustainability or collapse: what can we learn from integrating the history of humans andthe rest of nature? Ambio, 36(7), 522–7.

Kajikawa, Y. (2008). Research core and framework of sustainability science. Sustainability Science, 3(2), 215–239.

Mayalang, B. III., Hahn, T., Kumar, P. (2005). Responses to Ecosystem Change and to Their Impacts on Human Well-Being. In Ecosystems and Human Well-being: Sub-Global (pp. 207 – 227).


Scale - Two kinds of scale intersect.   One is temporal scale, which means time: Minutes, days, years, centuries, and eons.  The second is spatial scale, which refers to the physical size of things, from the smallest atom out to the entire universe.​

Bettencourt, L. M. a, Lobo, J., Strumsky, D., & West, G. B. (2010). Urban scaling and its deviations:  revealing the structure of wealth, innovation and crime across cities. PloS One, 5(11), e13541.

Cash, D. W., Adger, W. N., Berkes, F., Garden, P., Lebel, L., & Olsson, P. (2006). Scale and Cross-Scale Dynamics :  ​Governance and Information in a Multilevel World. Ecology and Society, 11(2).

Gaddis, J. (2002).  The Landscape of History:  How Historians Map the Past.  Oxford University Press.

Holling, C. S. (2001). Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems. Ecosystems, 4(5), 390–405. 

Steffen, W., Grinevald, J., Crutzen, P., & McNeill, J. (2011). The Anthropocene: conceptual and historical perspectives. Philosophical Transactions. Series A, Mathematical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences, 369(1938), 842–67. 

Tainter, J. A. (2000). Problem Solving : Complexity , History, Sustainability. Population and Environment: A Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 22(1), 3–41.


Path dependency - is the idea that where you are and what you can do depends very much on where you have been and what decisions you have already made - or what decisions have been made for you - that constrain your present and future capacity and your options, for better or worse.

Leach, M., Scoones, I., Stirling, A. (2010).  Dynamic Sustainabilities:  Technology, Environment, Social Justice (Pathways to Sustainability).  Routledge.


Collective Action - is the idea that many people with different worldviews, working together on a problem at different scales, will be better able to find solutions and accomplish shared goals.  One obstacle to collective action is, of course, that people might not have shared goals in the first place.
Janssen, M. A., Anderies, J. M., & Cardenas, J.-C. (2011). Head-enders as stationary bandits in asymmetric commons: Comparing irrigation experiments in the laboratory and the field. Ecological Economics, 70(9), 1590–1598. 

Odum, H., Odum, E. (2001).  A Prosperous Way Down:  Principles and Policies.  University of Colorado

Poteete, Amy R. Janssen, Marco A. Ostrom, E. (2010). Working Together: Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice (p. 346). Oxford: Princeton University Press.


Socio-ecological system - is "a conceptual model for understanding how energy, matter, and information are transferred among the diffeent components of natural and human systems and how these exchanges impact the long-term development of both systems." - SoS 110 textbook.  In plain English, it is all of us plus the whole world around us, tangled up together.

Remington-Doucette, S. (2013).  Sustainable World:  approaches to Analyzing and resolving Wicked Problems.  Kendall-Hunt 


Resilience and Sustainability

"Resiliency is the ability of a system to adjust its configuration and function under disturbance…Most of us prefer the comfort of an accustomed life (sustainability) to the adventure of dramatic change (resiliency).  We find it difficult to recognize, let alone alter, the ingrained values that underlie our sustainability goals. A fully resilient society would be a valueless one, which by definition cannot be.”    - Tainter, 2006

​“When a water balloon bounces off a wall without bursting.”  - Kevin, 2013 ​

“Sustainability is the capacity to continue a desired condition or process, social or ecological.” - Joseph Tainter 

So, one interpretation of sustainability is what not to change when faced with a challenge; what to keep, or bring along. The common dictionary definition of the root word 'sustain' is, simply,  "to endure."
For more definitions of this term by experts in the field, see this page.

Anderies, J. M., Folke, C., Walker, B., & Ostrom, E. (2013). Aligning Key Concepts for Global Change Policy : Robustness , Resilience , and Sustainability. Ecology and Society, 18(2).

Folke, C., Carpenter, S. R., Walker, B., Scheffer, M., Chapin, T., & Rockström, J. (2010). Resilience Thinking : Integrating Resilience , Adaptability and Transformability.  Ecology and Society, 15(4).

Holling, C. S. (2001). Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems. Ecosystems, 4(5), 390–405. doi:10.1007/s10021-001-0101-5

Tainter, J. a. (2006). Social complexity and sustainability. Ecological Complexity, 3(2), 91–103. doi:10.1016/j.ecocom.2005.07.004

Walker, B. H., Anderies, J. M., Kinzig, A. P., & Ryan, P. (2006). Exploring Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems through Comparative Studies and Theory Development.  Ecology and Society, 11(1).


Full World and Empty World - Empty world is a historic paradigm, in effect for the majority  of human history, in which the environment contained  a great deal of space,  a great many resources,  and just a few human beings.   ​Full world describes a paradigm shift into  the current socio-ecological state:   Limited resources, constrained space,  and a great many human beings.​

Fisher, W. (1984).  Narration as a Human Communication Paradigm:  the Case of Public Moral Argument.  Communication Monographs, 51 (March), 1-22.

Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press.

​Söderbaum, P. (2009). Making Actors , Paradigms and Ideologies Visible in Governance for Sustainability.  Sustainable Development, 81(March), 70–81.


Paradigm - These are worldviews.   When they shift,  there can be  upheaval and distress.    And, at the same time, there can be  transformation and new opportunities.​
Kuhn, T. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (50th Anniv., p. 217). Chicago, London: University of Chicago Press.
Bäckstrand, K. (2004). Civic Science for Sustainability : Reframing the Role of Experts , Policy-Makers and Citizens in Environmental Governance.  Global Environmental Politics, 3:4,  24–42.
Söderbaum, P. (2009). Making Actors , Paradigms and Ideologies Visible in Governance for Sustainability.  Sustainable Development,  81(March), 70–81.


Structure and Agency - Structure can be thought of as the physical, social, and legal parameters that protect and constrain societies.  Agency is the power and freedom of thought and action that individual people can exercise, within those constraints.

Pelling, M., & Manuel-Navarrete, D. (2011). From Resilience to Transformation : the Adaptive Cycle in Two Mexican Urban  Centers, Ecology and Society, 16(2).

Haglund, L., & Aggarwal, R. (2011). Test of Our Progress: The Translation of Economic and Social Rights Norms Into  Practice. Journal of Human Rights,10(4), 494–520. doi:10.1080/14754835.2011.619409


Tragedy of the Commons - is an economic concept in which individuals, each acting in their own self-interest, deplete some common resource with results that are detrimental to the whole group’s interest.   It is not inevitable.   People can be unexpectedly cooperative.

Hardin, G. (1968).  The Tragedy of the Commons.  Science, 13 December 1968:  Vol. 162 no. 3859 pp. 1243-1248 

Reid, W. V, Chen, D., Goldfarb, L., Hackmann, H., Lee, Y. T., Mokhele, K., Ostrum, E., Raivio, K., Rockstrom, J., Schellnhuber, H.J., Whyte, A. (2010). Earth System Science for Global Sustainability : Grand Challenges. Science,  Vol. 330 (November).


Transdisciplinarity - a way of working to solve problems.  People with different kinds of knowledge and expertise - who may or may not have formal training or personal experience with a problem - explore ways of fixing the problem together, and learn from each other at the same time.​

Lang, D., Wiek, A., Bergmann, M., Stauffacher, M., Martens, P., Moll, P., Swilling, M., Thomas, C. (2012).  Transdisciplinary research in sustainability science:  practice, principles, and challenges.  Sustainability Science, 2012. 

Allenby, B. (2007). Earth Systems Engineering and Management: A Manifesto. Earth Systems. Harlow, J., Golub, A., & Allenby, B. (2013). A Review of Utopian Themes in Sustainable Development Discourse. Sustainable Development, 21(4), 270–280.