Foundations for Sustainability: A Coherent Framework of Life-Environment Relations | Dan Fiscus & Brian Fath

Sep 22, 2020

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center

Presented by Dr. Dan Fiscus, Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics, and Dr. Brian Fath, Towson University, September 22, 2020

Abstract: This presentation reviews key concepts in sustainability and asks deep questions about why there are so many symptoms of environmental crises present in the world today (climate disruption, mass species extinctions, nitrogen cycle disruption, ocean acidification, crises with food, energy, and water, and many more). These symptoms relate to the prevailing approach, in which we use reductionist mental models and treat living and environmental systems as if they are mechanisms. However, contrary to machines, ecological systems show much resilience and capacity to self-organize, regenerate, increase their organization and complexity, and improve their environment over time. We propose that achieving a sustainable world will require a shift in the way we approach life and life sciences. The good news is that such a shift is possible now, without the need of waiting for new technologies, and is limited only by our willingness.

Reference: Fiscus, D. and B. Fath. 2018. Foundations for Sustainability: A Coherent Framework of Life-Environment Relations. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA: Academic Press.

Reproduced from: Foundations for Sustainability | ScienceDirect

Foundations for Sustainability
A Coherent Framework of Life–Environment Relations

1st Edition – November 16, 2018

Authors: Daniel Fiscus, Brian Fath
Paperback ISBN: 9780128114605
eBook ISBN: 9780128116449


Foundations for Sustainability: A Coherent Framework of Life-Environment Relations challenges existing assumptions on environmental issues and lays the groundwork for a new paradigm, bringing a greater understanding of what is needed to help create an environmentally and economically sustainable future, which to date has been an uphill battle and not an obvious choice. The book presents the case for a paradigm based on a multi-model of life as organism, life as ecosystem, and life as biosphere, as opposed to the singular assumption that life can be viewed solely as an organism. All backed with well-cited research from top investigators from around the world, this book is a must-have resource for anyone working in ecology, environmental science or sustainability.

Key Features

  • Introduces a holistic, systemic approach and a synthesis of the systemic root cause that underlies many surface symptoms that are part of individual environmental problems (climate, water, energy, etc.)
  • Complements current piecemeal approaches in order to solve many interconnected environmental problems which share root causes
  • Provides tests and thought experiments to challenge current views on sustainability, leveraging the power of critical thinking to find new solutions
  • Gives insights on how to find solutions by blending interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary focuses with disciplinary specialization in ecology and ecosystem science
  • Bridges concepts and methods from math to ecology to human development


Ecologists, environmental scientists, environmental managers, geographers, sustainability experts, biologists needing information on sustainability

Table of Contents

1. To Solve a Difficult Problem, Enlarge It
2. Life as the Basis of Value
3. Holistic Science of Life-Environment – Mutualistic Interfaces
4. Life: From Origins to Humans
5. Reforming Reductionism with Six Core Principles
6. Life Science Lessons from Ecological Networks and Systems Ecology
7. A Bridge Not Too Far: Spanning Theory to Science to Application
8. Technology and Applications in the Context of Holistic Life-Environment
9. Sustainability: A Goal for All

Product details

No. of pages: 292
Language: English
Copyright: © Academic Press 2018
Published: November 16, 2018
Imprint: Academic Press
Paperback ISBN: 9780128114605
eBook ISBN: 9780128116449

About the Authors

Daniel Fiscus

Dan Fiscus is a researcher in sustainability, systems ecology, food systems, and regenerative economics. He has degrees in electrical engineering, ecology with a minor in biomathematics, and a PhD in Environmental Science. He studies holistic, sustainable human-environment and life-environment relations, theoretical ecology and ecological modeling, ecological network analysis and sources of leverage for change to benefit humanity. He is also a member of the Western Maryland Food Council, which works to increase local food production and for systemic change and improvement to the food system in the Western Maryland region. Dan also collaborates with colleagues in the Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics (RARE).

Affiliations and Expertise

Western Maryland Food Council and Research Alliance for Regenerative Economics

Brian Fath

Brian D. Fath is Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Towson University (Maryland, USA) and Senior Research Scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (Laxenburg, Austria). He has published over 180 research papers, reports, and book chapters on environmental systems modeling, specifically in the areas of network analysis, resilience, and sustainability. He co-authored the books Foundations for Sustainability: A Coherent Framework of Life–Environment Relations (2018) and Flourishing Within Limits to Growth: Following nature’s way (2015). He is also Editor-in-Chief for the journal Ecological Modelling. Dr. Fath was the 2016 recipient of the Prigogine Medal for outstanding work in systems ecology, and held a Fulbright Distinguished Chair at Parthenope University (Naples, Italy) in 2012.

Affiliations and Expertise

Professor, Towson University, MD, USA Senior Research Scholar, Advanced Systems Analysis Program, IIASA, Austria

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