Cyberseminar on “The habitability concept" - Welcome message

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Marion Borderon

Mar 13, 2023, 12:40:20 PMMar 13
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Dear PERNSEMINAR list members,

Welcome to PERNs cyberseminar on “The habitability concept in the field of population-environment studies: relevance and research implications”! 

The seminar will run from today, Monday, March 13 through Monday, March 20.  This cyberseminar aims to explore the relevance of the concept of habitability for the field of population-environment research. We wish to discuss the following questions:

•    Do we need a new concept that brings together environmental and social realities and their co-evolutions? What is the added value of researching the population-environment interaction through the lens of habitability?

•    What does it imply empirically to study the habitability of a place or a Socio-ecological System? Can we establish thresholds that underline that the system under study is or will no longer be habitable? Who should decide/define habitability? What are the implications of talking about (unin)habitability?

•    How do we take into consideration teleconnections and place connectivities when defining and measuring habitability (and avoid similar shortcomings to that of the notion of carrying capacity)? How to make use of existing research on trajectories of livelihoods, populations and places?

•    Are social tipping points real, and if so, how do we go about identifying when they are happening?

•    What are the implications of habitability for human mobility?

•    Would conceptualisation and operationalising habitability contribute to research on catastrophic scenarios, adaptation limits and existential risks?

 This cyberseminar will be carried out via a discussion list. Each day we will post one or more statements by our expert panellists. We will start with the arguments related to the definition(s) of the concept and end with the case studies:   

3/13       David J. Wrathall (et al.)                Oregon State University, USA   Defining Habitability

3/14       David O’Byrne   Lund University, Sweden              Habitability as capability: proposing a normative definition of the concept

3/15a    Maria Franco Gavonel   University of York, UK   Thinking about habitability through the exploration of thresholds and tipping points in climate migration

3/15b    Harald Sterly      University of Vienna, Austria      Thinking habitability as socially differentiated, and as influenced by tele-connections

3/16       Luke Kemp          Cambridge University, UK            Uninhabitable Futures on a Habitable Earth

3/17a    Aliyu Barau Bayero University, Nigeria   Beyond Normal: Thinking About the Multi-dimensionalities of Distressed Habitability Landscapes in Dryland African Cities

3/17b    Carol Farbotko  Griffith University, Australia       Thinking about (unin)habitability through a regionally grounded perspective:the atolls of Oceania

Their statements will be posted to the list, and will also be available at  

Finally, a few general guidelines:

*  We recommend reading the background materials, however this is not necessary in order to contribute to the discussions and debates.

 *    As a general rule we like to encourage informed contributions – i.e., based on first-hand research, personal observation, or familiarity with the literature.

*    Where assertions are made, we suggest (to the extent of possible) to include citations and provide references at the end of your message.

Without further ado, we wish all a very fruitful discussion!


Drs. Susana Adamo & Alex de Sherbinin

PERN Network Coordinators


Dr. Marion Borderon

Moderator (University of Vienna)


Lisa Lukang

PERN Senior Network Assistant


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