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Letters From ~ 3 

Letter from Australia

Chris Duke’s concerns - never more relevant and needed 

Jim Falk

Like Chris Duke, those of us who share an abiding passion for a "decent life for all" and the desire "to nurture and restore our shared ecosystem" know that achieving this is as difficult as it is vital. Each year, in Kyoto, over 1000 invitees gather to discuss relevant options at the renowned Science, Technology and Society Forum (  It brings together leading figures from science (including usually some ten or more Nobel laureates), with leaders of governments, corporations and universities from around the world.  Associated with it is the RACC

(Regional Action on Climate Change Symposium

( This focuses on issues of

climate change. In recent years it has produced an annual

"Consensus Statement”. Over the last three years this

expert statement has reflected growing alarm.

The basis for that alarm has been sketched in a letter

published in Nature (Falk et al. 2021).  It is not just that

humanity is losing the battle against climate change.

Human actions are also driving risks and cascading impacts

across diverse areas of activity. These are now interacting

ever more strongly and in this sense converging.  This has

the potential for devastating outcomes in the second half

of this century.

For this reason, RACC warns of “a comprehensive crisis within our children’s lifetimes”. The basis for this concern was developed further at the STS Forum in October last year and published in the Journal, Sustainability Science (Falk et al 2022). In November, with the support of the Japanese Government, it was the subject of a presentation at COP-27. 

The most recent RACC statement, “An urgent need for COP27: confronting converging crises”, reports that the evidence for “cascading ecological and socio-political crises” is accumulating.  Symptoms include: the incidence of extreme events (droughts, floods and fires) as planetary systems are destabilised; decline in bio-diversity; impacts from pandemics (notably COVID-19 and cholera); the political and economic disruption from the Russia-Ukraine war; the increasingly evident connection of these to challenges to human health, food crises and climate refugee movements; and associated water, food, economic and climate system disruptions. The signs are that these interacting disruptions, driven also by the relentless increase in human population (which is not expected to peak until around 2090), will grow more intense over the rest of this century.

What is to be done?  Constrained by forces from the status quo, the solution will not come simply from the leaders of nation states.  This brings us to Chris Duke’s third abiding passion – supporting local people to do something about it.  The Nature letter argued that “convergence of risks demands cooperation between knowledge providers and networks that can take action.” In short it is local communities who in the end must face and respond to these trends. It is thus crucial to arm them with the available knowledge to build their resilience to, and act to head off, the impacts of converging risk. That aligns well with the work of Chris Duke, PIMA (and also RACC) focused as they are on empowerment by learning throughout life.  Meeting this goal across the planet, where acquired knowledge enables the necessary technical, social and political changes, will be crucial if humans as a whole are to find a secure way forward.


Jim Falk, Australia. Jim is an Honorary Professorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne and Emeritus Professor at the University of Wollongong, his least known publication being “Pilot Experiments in Memory”, a 440-page thesis he submitted in 1960 (in the successful search for a prize) when he was 14. (For more recent publications - see



Falk, J., Colwell, R.R., Behera, S.K., El-Beltagy, A.S., Gleick, P.H., Kennel, C.F.,   Lee, Y.T., Murray, C.A., Serageldin, I., Takeuchi, K., Yasunari, T., Watanabe, C.,   Kauffman, J., Soderland, K.,   Elouafi, I., Paroda, R., Chapagain, A.K., Rundle, J., Hanasaki, N., Hayashi, H., Akinsete, E. &   Hayashida, S., (2022). An urgent need for COP27: confronting converging crises. Sustainability Science, Nov 10;1-5. pp.1-5. doi:10.1007/s11625-022-01253-5

Falk, J., Colwell, R.R., Kennel, C.F., Murray, C.A. Link knowledge and action to tackle disasters, Nature, vol 599, 18 Nov 2021, p. 372.  doi: 10.1038/d41586-021-03419-0.

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