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Time-geographical approaches to emergence and sustainable societies

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Overcoming constraints to sustainable development

Innovation is a widely used term. Often however it is a concept that cannot surpass the point of epiphany. The role of innovation on sustainable societies and the hurdles it must overcome have been analysed.

Climate Change and Environment

Time geography is the branch of human science involving the relation of temporal factors on spatial human activities taking into consideration constraints or limitations. The concept was developed in the late 1960's by Torsten Hägerstrand, professor in the Department of Social and Economic Geography at Sweden's Lund University. It consists of analytical methods paired with a generalising mechanism in order to conclude how people use spatially patterned resources. The concept emphasises that time is as important as spatial proximity when it comes to human activity. It also stresses that people's spatial activity can often be governed by limitations rather than by independent decisions. With this concept in mind, the TIGRESS project analysed the way in which Time-geographical methods can provide insight for integrating sustainability with social, economic and environmental policies. The notion was that TG concepts might help clarify spatio-temporal constraints on people's behaviour and illustrate how innovation (qualitatively new system behaviours arising through changed beliefs) is blocked. The project's analysis was comprised of case studies in a wide range of areas associated with sustainable socio-natural development. These include fisheries management, urban sprawl and water demand, trans-national demographic change, sustainable agriculture and land planning. Several key findings resulted from this analysis. Overall, it was evident that the more regulated, stratified and competitive a given environment is, the less likely it is that innovation is possible. Such environments have a higher degree of what is known as systemic inertia which needs to be overcome in order for pioneering ideas and creativity to flourish.

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