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Future Earth’s Work and the COVID-19 Crisis – A Message From Executive Director Amy Luers

Dear Future Earth Community,

These are uncertain, and a bit surreal, times. I hope that everyone in our Future Earth community is healthy and safe. Our thoughts are with those affected. We hope you are all able to take the necessary measures to help limit the spread of the virus and to keep you and your loved ones healthy.

The Secretariat is adjusting to a new normal as we embrace remote work, shift priorities, and practice physical distancing. This means that some of our planned activities will be postponed. Namely, the Sustainability Research and Innovation 2020 Congress (SRI2020) will be postponed until mid-2021. More details on this can be found on the SRI website. Changes are also being arranged for the Future Earth Summit to be held virtually this year.

While some adjustments are being made, we continue to advance work under our three strategic pillars: (i) Facilitating Research and Innovation, (ii) Building the Field of transdisciplinary sustainability science, and (iii) Shaping the Narrative around global sustainability. For example, we just launched the first call for the North America cohort of the new Earth Leadership Program. We are also working with the Governing Council and the External Review Committee to finalize the external review report and to develop a plan to respond to the recommendations.

Our work at this time is more relevant than ever. There appears now to be a heightened awareness of the need to better understand the dynamics and interconnections of our natural systems and social systems, and to help government, businesses, and society collectively identify solutions to global challenges. Indeed, during the response and recovery of this pandemic there will continue to be a growing demand for the rapid mobilization of transdisciplinary research and policy-relevant science. I expect that each of our Global Research Projects (GRP) and Knowledge-Action Networks (KAN) are leaning in as they are able, with their particular expertise. I know that the oneHealth GRP, the Systems of Sustainable Consumption and Production (SSCP) KAN, the Health KAN, and the Risk KAN have certainly been active. A few examples of how our community is responding: Peter Daszak recently published an excellent oped in the NYT on epidemic/pandemic preparedness, Maurie Cohen and the SSCP KAN are holding a webinar this Thursday around the COVID response and sustainability, and the Global Risks Perceptions and the Sustainability in the Digital Age teams are working with members of the SSCP and Risk KANs to launch a survey later this week to generate some collective intelligence on the opportunities and challenges emerging from this crisis for advancing the global sustainability agenda.

Future Earth aims to serve as a platform to elevate its community’s expertise. We, in the Secretariat, are looking for opportunities to be helpful, and we encourage you to get in touch if you have ideas for the role that Future Earth should play in this rapidly evolving situation.

Stay safe and connected. Let’s work together to find ways to bounce forward from this global crisis.

Amy Luers, Executive Director, Future Earth.