Rising global demands for water, food and energy are intensifying land-use conflicts, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions, and exacerbating threats to natural ecosystems and wildlife. It is imperative that we develop ways to balance our growing consumptive needs with environmental protection, particularly in the tropics where population growth has been most rapid, the people are poorest, and biodiversity is richest and yet most threatened globally. Environmental and social scientists can help by developing decision-support tools that will enable decision-makers to evaluate the consequences and tradeoffs of pursuing alternative development options in relation to the biophysical, socioeconomic, and technical constraints and considerations within individual societies and landscapes. Ultimately, scientists play a crucial role in helping decision-makers achieve a careful balance of the various priorities within each society, which is needed to ensure sustainable development for the benefit of both humans and the environment.

Koh, L.P. Balancing societies’ priorities: An ecologist’s perspective on sustainable development. Basic and Applied Ecology (2011), doi:10.1016/j.baae.2011.05.004 (in press)