Risks, Ethics and Justice in the governance of positive tipping points
Abstract. Biophysical tipping points pose existential threats to current and future generations, both human and non-human, with those currently underserved being the most vulnerable. Social tipping points, as deliberate interventions into systems with the expectation of non-linear impacts and widespread change, have the potential to address some of these challenges. However, the imperative to act cannot increase risks nor perpetuate unjust or inequitable outcomes through the creation of sacrifice zones. In this paper we argue that considerations of what needs to change, who is being asked to change and where the change or its impacts will be felt and by whom, are fundamental questions that require a level of reflexivity and systemic understanding in decision-making. All actors have a role to play in ensuring that justice, equity and ethics are incorporated in each and every intervention. Enabling social tipping points towards radical transformations could benefit from more diverse perspectives to open up the solution space, with a particular emphasis on the inclusion of marginalised voices. We conclude that taking a cautious step back to explore all options, not just those that seem to offer a quick fix could offer a more substantial route into thinking through tipping points and create a more equitable as well as sustainable future.
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