Introducing the Geofunctions Project

Human activity is now disrupting all of the global-scale systems upon which our societies and indeed our survival depend. People around the world are working to find the best way of understanding and responding to this situation, but disagreement is rife. The need is urgent to find a way forward that takes proper account of the full range of relevant knowledge, values and options.

The Geofunctions Perspective

A new and promising approach to the understanding and management of earth systems and their functioning—what we term the “geofunctions perspective”—has emerged over recent decades, and is now being taken up by different groups of researchers, activists, and policymakers. This perspective sees earth systems as functionally integrated, and focuses on the role that social-ecological functioning plays in these systems. It highlights the importance of nonlinear interactions between processes, the distinctive kinds of dangers and opportunities that these may create, and the need for integration of understanding across disciplinary boundaries. The aim of the Geofunctions Project is to undertake a broad exploration of the geofunctions perspective and what it reveals, and to catalyze its development and effective use in scientific research, practical application, policy-making, and public understanding.

Managing Earth Systems: Questions about Facts, Values, and Knowledge

The problem of how to understand and manage earth systems is multifaceted, involving questions about facts, values, and knowledge. The factual questions concern the structure of global-scale causal systems and of interactions among them. The questions about values include difficult ethical problems concerning justice, individual freedom and collective goods; the value of future lives and non-human beings; and broader questions about the goals of earth systems management. Questions about knowledge arise because diverse kinds of knowledge are relevant to understanding and valuing different aspects of earth systems, and premature closure may be reached in important debates when not all the relevant voices are heard. Together, this array of questions calls for contributions from many different areas of academic research, as well as from expert practitioners who are often remote from academic networks, legal and policy experts, aboriginal authorities, and diverse community stakeholders and innovators.

The Geofunctions Project

The Geofunctions Project is an interdisciplinary community-engaged research project, bringing together scientists, philosophers, and a wide range of other academic and practical experts to explore the geo-functions perspective and its lessons and applications. The project focuses especially on identifying and overcoming obstacles to the effective use and development of this new perspective in scientific research, practical action, policy-making, and public understanding. The Geofunctions Project will include research, events, and practical projects in three broad categories. Understanding Geofunctions includes projects that explore and develop the geofunctions perspective. Building Agreement for Action—Geofunctional Knowledge and Choices includes projects that help build a shared core of concepts, research aims, and practical goals by bringing together diverse participants to work together on earth-systems research and management. Rethinking Intervention: Geofunctional Management and Innovation includes projects that use the geofunctions perspective to address local and global problems of earth-systems management through policy and social innovation.

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Project Leaders

Gillian Barker (Western University, Philosophy)

Eric Desjardins (Western University, Philosophy)


Radoslav Dimitrov (Western University, Political Science)

Elisabeth Lloyd (Indiana University, History and Philosophy of Science)

Helen Longino (Stanford University, Philosophy)

Sheila Macfie (Western University, Biology)

Jeremy McNeil (Western University, Biology)

Sara Seck (Western University, Law)

Brent Sinclair (Western University, Biology)

Greg Thorn (Western University, Biology)

Marco Van de Wiel (Coventry University, Center for Agroecology, Water and Resilience)

Tony Weis (Western University, Geography)

Community Partners

Golboo Amani

Ron Benner

Sara England

Julian Haladyn

Maxwell Hyett

Miriam Jordan

Elyse Portal

Rob Read

Post-Doctoral Fellows

Alkistis Elliot-Graves (Western University, Philosophy)

Dan Hicks (Western University, Philosophy)


Graham Bracken (Western University, Economics)

Andrew Chater (Western University, Political Science)

Melissa Jacquart (Western University, Philosophy)

Demetri Pananos (University of Waterloo, Mathematics)

Boyana Peric (Western University, Philosophy)

Yannick Rousseau (Western University, Geography)

Martin Vezer (Western University, Philosophy)

Meghan Winsby (Western University, Philosophy)