1.   IntroductionEstablishinghow a university can, in a logical and practical sense, be re-envisionedthrough a disciplinary informed frame, “Transdisciplinary Perspectives onTransitions to Sustainability” edited by Edmond Byrne, Gerard Mullaly and ColinSage, portrays how through an open and scholarly character of inquiry, the mostvaried issue of contemporary societal unsustainability can be addressed andunderstood in a way that eclipses cramped disciplinary work. In addition, apractical epitome of how more essential options for action in relation tocontemporary sustainability-related crises can crop up than could be accomplished. The book exhibits how only realprogress can be achieved through a transdisciplinary ethos and approach. [1] Dr. Edmond Byrne is a Senior Lecturer inProcess & Chemical Engineering, Dr.

Gerard Mullaly is a Lecturer in the Department of Sociology and finally Dr. Colin Sage is a Senior Lecturer inGeography at University College Cork, Ireland. All three are lead collaboratorson the “Sustainability in Society” transdisciplinary research group at UniversityCollege Cork. [2] Transdisciplinary, by definition of the Oxford dictionary,is: “Relating to more than one branch of knowledge; interdisciplinary”.Considering much has been written about transdisciplinary and sustainability,this book provides a logical pattern which signposts the way others can followin the common journey for real progress. The chapters in this book consist of arange of different viewpoints on making the transition to sustainability thatcan only come to fruition by overcoming a path of obstacles. However, while thecreators of this book stem from different respective backgrounds, the sectionscontained within this book in an exacting sense, cannot be proven to beintegrated solely around transdisciplinarity.

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The chapters within this book, invarying scope, briefly reach transdisciplinarity. However, among thiscollective, a burning ember of ambition lies at the centre, to look outward and candidly, connected with a disciplinarybashfulness which is an important basis for convincing and legitimatetransdisciplinary conversations and abstract knowledge formation. Thecollaborators share an admirable enthusiasm and spiritof inquiry which has led them to venture beyond the bounds of normaldisciplinary barriers, delving into new synergetic possibilities outside universitywalls. Due to the prevailing mood of techno-scientific rationality that hasprevailed throughout the Irish higher education, a collaborative effort hasbeen made by the editors to find a means of evolving interdisciplinarypartnership within the university; seeking others who share similar anxietiesfor the need of a united push to work on the philosophical and interconnectedchallenges faced in the present world.

2.   OverviewAspart of the book review, six chapters which I found particularly insightfulwere selected. In the first part of the book, “Setting the Scene”, whichconsists of three chapters, the book’s editors turn their attention to a seriesof applicable facets of the essence of transdisciplinarity, most notably in thecontext of sustainability.

[3] Following this includes a chapter by Dr EdmondByrne, which analyses some paradigms of sustainability, which are establishedon a “process, relational, dialectical and integrative view” of convoluted reality,and which detail to expansive “ontological, historical, social and scientificcontexts”. This promotes an exposure of transdisciplinary thinking, a frameworkthat is both involved in the recognition and understanding of, and is requiredto construct, the preceding understandings. [4] In this context, it is presentedhow such a model and ideology can add to a redirection of the commanding conceptionof progress, veering from the monist ideal and approaching one which wouldconsider it in an argumentative and contingent sense, to encourage “integrative(ecological-, social-, techno-economic-) system sustainability-as-flourishing”.These chapters are followed by the key part of the book on “TransdisciplinaryConversation and Conceptions”. Byrne follows on from his previous chapter witha view across four contrasting areas to indicate how a modern and rising model,based on the transdisciplinary approach of complicated thought, is embodying itself in varying but comprehensible ways,across disciplinary conceptions of existence. These areas scope from the toughscientific to the socio-technical and from the socio-economic to the profoundand abstract.

These areas relate specifically to: Chemical phase equilibriumthermodynamics, Electrical power generation and transmission and distribution,Management and leadership and Influence of process thought and integrativethinking on theology. In chapter 10, Professor Brian Ó Gallachóir, Dr PaulDeane and Dr Alessandro Chiodi acknowledge how modelling respective energyfutures schemes can support policy decisions. [5] Modelled schemes arepresented for the energy blend in the Republic of Ireland within this chapterin the hope of carbon emission targets being lessened over the impending yearsto come. The task aids in exposing the extent of the current test; “thescenarios presented, which include both 80% and 95% reductions in carbondioxide emission levels”, need not important alterations to renewables, butadditionally critical reductions in overall energy consumption.

A lot more thana technological adjustment is required, a matter that the collaborators acknowledgealongside additional restraints of the model. This conclusively leads to acrucial stride to expand the learning that would not be primarily reliant oncommunicating with a variety of other disciplines, but in a quality oftransdisciplinarity, to also communicate with society on a more widened scope.[6]The final chapter is a contemplative section, conducted by the editors, whichdeals with the campaign so far and concentrates on “emergent possibilities” andtasks around the utilisation of transdisciplinary approaches within, withoutand across the university.3.

A Paradigm ofreduction and separationA Paradigm of reduction and separation is an idea thatI found very striking and insightful. [7] Sustainability, as defined by John R.Ehrenfeld, is the “possibility that humans and other life will flourish on theplanet forever.” [8] Ehrenfeld would plea that principal narratives aroundsustainability use the idea in a form that excludes the encouragement offlourishing, a word defined by John as “the realisation of a sense ofcompleteness, independent of our immediate material context”, but whollyinvolves the increasing material consumption and consideration of the financialbottom line.             [9] Ehrenfeldand Hoffman make the point that by “reducing unsustainability, althoughcritical, does not and will not create sustainability”.

[10] Although this ideais tough to visualise at first, in my view, Byrne describes “The way theyadvertise and publicise their (green) program lulls the public into believingthat the firms are taking care of the future (but) almost everything being donein the name of sustainability entails attempts to reduce unsustainability.”Many companies nowadays provide glossy “sustainability reports” along withtheir annual reports as indicators of their work and achievement. In myopinion, the dilemma is that none of this altruism builds authenticsustainability.

At best, it briefly slows humanity’s progressing drift towardsunsustainability. At worst, it serves as feel-good marketing for products andservices that deteriorate and contaminate our environment. From my observation,to get companies to change their direction in a serious way, the adjustment hasto come from within the business walls, either from leadership or from thebusinesses customers or stakeholders. This claim on companies is supported byEhrenfeld, who describes in his book “Flourishing”, by saying that, forexample, Coca-Cola create an absurdity by broadcasting their environmentallyoriented water management programs while supplying the ever-growing problem ofobesity around the world. [11] As Byrne describes, ““Reducing unsustainability”here manifests itself as the concept of “sustainable development””, which isdefined by John R. Ehrenfeld as “conventional economic development as the bestway for human beings to move forward, with the proviso that we have to do itmore efficiently and fairly.” This “development” turns to drive further consumptionand growth due to a call for eco-efficiency, which by in large, is a good thingin the short term. Personally, I feel this idea remains firmly established,relaxing on the impression that the more cash-ladena nation and its individuals are, the better off they will be.

There is a greatcontrast in wealth between the North and South of the world and an explicitawareness of this contrast needs to be developed. It is a call to arms to sharethe resources available on this planet more reasonably, both for the presentand the foreseeable future. By grouping together less harmful materialconsumption and incorporating more reasonability in the sharing of theprosperity of those resources, a satisfying temporary path is forged. However,critically, it is not a solution. [12] It is a path, as defined by Byrne, “whichcan never hope to wean society off its unsustainable habit of growth-basedconsumerism”. It is paramount to change the structural way we live from mystandpoint.

My impression is that although it is imperative to be moreefficient and to reduce impacts, this will not transport us towardsustainability. Principal models and ideas of sustainability originate from and associate with the commanding socialparadigm. [13] This is described by Byrne as the “modern neo-Cartesian paradigmwhich has obtained and developed over the past four centuries or so.

” The mainneo-Cartesian paradigm of reduction and separation would weaken the theory ofsustainability by separating the composition of sustainability’s three domainsof environment, society and economy and visualise that they can be handled, asByrne describes, “as part of a bigger reductive zero-sum game where overspillsfrom one domain can conveniently be accounted for as quantifiableexternalities”. In Cartesian thinking, webecome detached from the world, the unfolding of truths that structure human behaviour and consciousness is split between anexternal, ahistorical existence and the mind, which through its logical powers,re-creates that external world inside the body. [14] By reductionist scientificreasoning, the human body is perceived as, what Ehrenfeld would describe as “amechanistic organism”, that imprisons the world in its mind and operates onthat awareness according to some logical calculus reasoning, propelling amental computing machine that is always navigating its operations tomanufacture the most pleasure. My view of the Cartesian idea is of a mindseizing the information coming in via the senses and shaping those images usingour so-called “logical machinery”, which has led to a false depiction of themental system as a computer with built-in logic. However, humanity and theworld cannot be reduced to such a mechanical metaphor. Humanity and the worldare convoluted and behave in non-linear and erratic ways. This exercise, in theory, is visualisedas a value-free endeavour, stripped of normativity, where an ethical domain cannotbe visualised nor contained.

Reversibility, another main archetypal theorem, is the principal cause of thisand in reversible systems, directionality is futile. [15] Dr. Edmond Byrnewrites how it is “assumed that “all else is equal”, using this as a mechanismto simplify complexities and effectively bracket the social (and itsaccompanying baggage of values).” The outcome is that a quick fix isestablished in the form of an ever-increased efficiency, but when repeatedaftermaths of complex systems inevitably rise, we label these as “unintendedconsequences”. Personally, in the reductionist world, unintended consequencesare always someone else’s problems to solve. In the world of complexity, nosuch easy alibi can be invoked. Hence, sustainability is lined up with the conceptof progress.

[16] Sustainability and progress, examined through the lens of thereductionist model of modernity, represents, as described by Byrne, “theultimate destination on a directed linear causal path”. The adventure alongthis road is fed by the philosophies deep-rooted in reductionist science suchas a pointless techno-optimism, suppression of risk and uncertainty, blind hopein efficiency and positivistic and materialistic theories of science andreality. By this dogma, the expansive scientific reality, paradigm shiftingimplications such as the double-edged nature of technology, including itsdeep-rooted increased tendency for disruption and susceptibility, are essentiallyrejected.

From my angle, technology stands between humanity and the world, andin that separation, something is absent, leading to the creation of a clear andvisible barrier on our path to sustainability and hinders our progress.  [17] Byrne makes the point that “Essentiallyour modernistic goal of controlling the uncontrollable only serves toexacerbate the problems we have created”. Technology becomes a device that safeguardsus from the disorderliness of human experience and the responsibility of ouractions. [18] From the words of Ehrenfeld “The root cause of unsustainabilityis that we are trying to solve all the apparent problems of the world, largeand small, by using the modernistic frame of thinking and acting that hascreated the meta-problem of unsustainability”. In my perspective, humanityhas concluded that technological gadgets are the answer to meet the needs ofboth humans and the world, alleviating us of the responsibility to reflect onthose needs and act appropriately.

Furthermore, with information technology,the situation becomes worse as our most affectionate and confidentialcommunications become mediated by technology. Human life as we know it isessentially social, however, the richness and vital functions of relationships falland disappear into the abyss of the mindless use of social media. By myreckoning, nowadays, technologies that have developed such as Linked In,Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are modifying the aspect of friendship from theelement of relationships to the quantitative count of how many so-called “friends”one is connected to. The crucial input of key relationships to our ability toflourish becomes hidden. Slowly, as humans we become detached from the worldthat we would guide towards sustainability. [19] Toventure outside the limits of reductionism and grasp a model of complexity,Byrne describes how Ehrenfeld “steps into the breach and proposes a definitionwhich envisages sustainability in qualitative terms as an emergent systemproperty.

” From my view, complexity refers to a system whose elements aremultiply attached that it is impractical to anticipate how the system will actwhen bothered. As discussed previously, sustainability becomes possible when wefirst identify what it is that we are sustaining. [20] Therefore, Ehrenfeldproposes the property of flourishing which is described by Ehrenfeld as a“dynamic quality changing as its context changes”.

[21] Flourishing is “theresult of acting out of caring for oneself, other human beings, the rest of the“real material” world, and for the out-of-the-world, that is, the spiritual ortranscendental world”.  This idea ofsustainability strongly places it outside the limits of reductionism andalternatively inside the dimension of values, ethics and philosophicaldiscussion, described by Byrne through the words of Ehrenfeld “an entity built“not just on technological and material development, but also on cultural,personal and spiritual growth””. [22] From my standpoint, in relation to contemporaryscientific concepts of reality, this idea makes sense once a complexityinformed theory of science is acknowledged and stretches outside the limits ofwhat Byrne would describe as “a narrow reductionist materialism”.