CCC recently joined two publishing industry collaborations, each with the aim of promoting a more sustainable future. By signing on to both the Climate Change Knowledge Cooperative and the UN SDG Publishers compact, we have joined publishers and fellow publishing-adjacent organizations as we look to the next phase of our ever-more human influenced (“Anthropocene”) era.
“Sustainability” has been defined in the US EPA’s Sustainability Primer (2015) as “a systems-based approach that seeks to understand the interactions which exist among environmental, social, and economic pillars in an effort to better understand the consequences of our actions.” As I see it, these descriptions serve to clarify some prevalent misconceptions around sustainability. Many people conflate initiatives or arrangements that are “good for the environment” with those that are “sustainable.” While that is certainly part of sustainability, a technology or business only becomes truly sustainable when its potential to improve the planet is matched by a sufficiently motivating business imperative, as well as full social acceptance. Sustainability likewise may involve charitable efforts, but charity must be aimed at the creation of holistic systems.
Using that framework, let’s take a look at each of these initiatives in turn.
The primary goal of the new Climate Change Cooperative is, without doubt, worthy of support by socially- and environmentally-conscious organizations: “…[to maximize] the influence of Climate Change research” through helping to “broaden the discovery and understanding of climate change research — and accelerate its application towards a sustainable future.”
As I see it, the Climate Change Knowledge Cooperative is sustainable in large part because it does not seek to create a new system. Rather, it harnesses existing business models for the creation of content in the publishing industry —including open access and subscription – to make the content more accessible and actionable. The last 24 months have highlighted the risks of ignoring peer review and of expecting journalists and other non-scientists (like me) to understand complex research concepts as expressed in scientific articles. Publishers in the Cooperative nominate articles of interest relating to climate change only after the articles have been peer reviewed, and the Cooperate prepares a natural language summary explaining the findings and why the research matters. For example, the article Collecting Microplastics in Gardens: Case Study (i) of Soil from the journal Frontiers in Environmental Science may be open access, but it is not accessible to me in terms of its domain-expert language or meaning. The summary published by the Cooperative, entitled Are you using plastics in your garden? You could be causing microplastic pollution , is directly useful and relevant and will lead to a sustainable shift in my gardening practices.
Our sponsorship of the Cooperative follows upon our commitment to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
In June 2021, CCC joined the United Nation’s SDG Publishers Compact. Launched in 2020 by the UN and the International Publishers Association, the Compact is open to anyone in the broader publishing industry. The 17 specific, measurable goals of the Compact include #4 “Quality Education,” #9 “Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure,” and #10 “Reduced Inequalities” — and these are the three CCC is focusing on. What I find especially admirable about the Compact is that it goes beyond mere statements of lofty ideals and holds the signatories to making specific commitments and accountability for acting on them in a timely manner.
The extent to which change becomes significant is keyed to the degree to which it is also sustainable. We’re truly all in this together.