Sustainability Goals Should Be Targeted With An Interdisciplinary Approach

One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century will be curbing the unsustainable cycles of over-consumption. Changing this human habit, which is entangled in our everyday lives, has to be done using an interdisciplinary approach. The REDD+ programme of the United Nations can be viewed as such an approach, but more knowledge spillovers should be encouraged.

Since the start of the century several environmental programmes have been created to ensure wealth preservation for future generations. The main objective of the REDD+ programme is to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD). Eighty percent of the Earth’s above-ground terrestrial carbon and forty percent of below-ground terrestrial carbon is in forests. In addition to the large contribution of deforestation and forest degradation to global emissions, combating both has been identified as one of the most cost-effective ways to lower emissions. The idea to take a look at the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks in developing countries was first introduced during the Climate Change convention of the United Nations in 2005. The idea of mitigating climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions through sustainable forest management in developing countries has been a primary goal ever since.

The REDD+ projects try to have an impact through four different categories that together form the sought positive effect on forest governance. All these dimensions have different disciplinary characteristics that together attribute to this desired effect (Bayrak & Marafa, 2016). Environmental progress can only be made with the proper framework, particularly to prevent leakage, when the policy is shifting rather than resolving the environmental problem. The fact that countries with high rates of deforestation and forest degradation are also often those with various policy failures such as corruption and weak law enforcement (Visseren-Hamakers et al., 2012). Therefore, only legislative pressure won’t be effective to tackle deforestation.

The need for disciplinarity to tackle environmental problems has been acknowledged by Kwa (2005) who describes that the policy focus towards collecting data in this debate is a sign of this need. And it is not only scientists who are the driving force behind this trend, as the push for technology as a solution for environmental problems has been largely outside the scientific community. To ensure that policymakers take sustainability into account the role of appraisal frameworks should not be undermined by disciplinary-specific thoughts that limit the effectiveness of environmental appraisal (Gazzola et al., 2011). When interdisciplinary actors create shared spaces of discussion, this can strengthen practice and create innovative opportunities that accelerate the process of sustainability. In other words, knowledge spillovers function like catalysts in sustainable development.

In developing countries, there is less room for non-imminent problems to be integrated into policymaking. This poses a problem to environmental policies, which often are characterized by long term goals as the environmental movement is not yet fully driven by market dynamics, e.g. by profits. However, as the environmental impact of foreign capital flows still lacks investor transparency, environmentally friendly investors that can afford long term considerations, lack the capability for environmental appraisal. The key is to connect the locals with foreign investors through the development of environmental feedback programmes. This demands an environmental strategy that is able to tackle problems by actively including the population to create environmental conjunction with society (de Abreu, 2009). Therefore, more disciplinary principles are required to back the REDD+ and other environmental projects for the world as a whole to tackle these problems. However, the success of REDD+ is highly dependent on its ability to compensate forest dependent communities for using forests in a sustainable manner.

One of the pillars of the REDD+ impact are the institutional objectives. Bayrak & Marafa (2016) show that despite the trend of decentralization of governments around the world, REDD+ schemes benefit from operating on a more national level as it leads to scale and coordination advantages. Moreover, developing countries tend to be more prone to corruption on the local level. However, as civil support for these types of projects is vital for the success rate of the REDD+ projects, a gradual move towards a more national approach is advised. This clearly underscores the necessity not only to look at the administrative and theoretical business approach but also to include the necessary perspective from social sciences like psychology and especially sociology to understand the will of the people and to understand their perspective and essential role in this ongoing challenge.

Raising public awareness and the right institutional framework is challenging in developing countries where institutional power is weak. Therefore, a multilateral interdisciplinary approach is necessary to be able to effectively implement environmental policies in those countries. And as the issue of environmental problems can only be defined as being interdisciplinary in itself, it is only logical that the solution should be developed through an interdisciplinary approach.


  1. Bayrak, M. M., & Marafa, L. M. (2016). Ten years of REDD+: A critical review of the impact of REDD+ on forest-dependent communities. Sustainability (Switzerland), 8(7), 1–22.
  2. Visseren-Hamakers, I. J., Gupta, A., Herold, M., Peña-Claros, M., & Vijge, M. J. (2012). Will REDD+ work? The need for interdisciplinary research to address key challenges. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4(6), 590–596.
  3. Kwa, C. (2005). Interdisciplinarity and postmodernity in the environmental sciences. History and Technology, 21(4), 331–344.
  4. Gazzola, P. (2011). Can environmental appraisal be truly interdisciplinary? Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 54(9), 1189–1208.
  5. Kwa, C. (2005). Interdisciplinarity and postmodernity in the environmental sciences. History and Technology, 21(4), 331–344.

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