The South American Institute for Resilience and Sustainability Studies (SARAS) is an emerging transdisciplinary institute designed to generate critical insights allowing South America to build sustainable futures. It seeks integration across a broad range of knowledge using innovative approaches and integrating social and natural sciences, mathematics and arts.

SARAS will be housed in a custom designed building currently being constructed at the coast of Uruguay providing space and facilities for workshops, courses and academic residencies, thus serving as a hub for the emergence of novel cooperative networks. We envision the kind and intense interaction at SARAS to shape a new generation of broad visionary thinkers and creators.

Why Resilience?

Human actions impact on ecosystems is generally delayed in time and space. In addition, some changes are difficult to predict, because they are gradual until a certain threshold, at which changes occur suddenly.

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Why Sustainability?

According to the recent UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the structure of the world’s ecosystems changed more rapidly in the second half of the 20th century than in any other period in human history, and virtually all Earth’s ecosystems have been significantly transformed through human actions.

The fastest changes in ecosystems are now taking place in developing countries. Ecosystem services, particularly food production, timber and fisheries, are important for employment and economic activity. However, while intensive use of ecosystems often produces the greatest advantage in the short term, extensive and unsustainable use can lead to losses in the long run.

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Why South America?

In South America science has developed considerably in recent decades. This is well illustrated by Holmgren and Schnitzer’s analysis entitled Science on the Rise in Developing Countries (PLoS Biology, 2004). The authors show that the scientific output per dollar invested in Latin America today is greater than in North America, and that the trend in Latin America is increasing, whereas in North America it decreases.

In spite of that, Latin American scientific publications tend to reach lower level journals and citation scores. The time is ripe for an institute that could promote development of high impact science to enhance the region’s long term sustainable development; an institute that could help strengthen the network of scientific cooperation within South America and its links with the rest of the world.

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Why at Bella Vista?

When the project was first presented to the University of the Republic (UdelaR) authorities (Rodrigo Arocena, Gregory Randall, Ricardo Ehrlich and Mario Wschebor), it was considered convenient to set up the Institute in the Department of Maldonado in order to establish and promote all possible interactions with the ongoing decentralization process that the University carries out across the country. The project had the immediate support of the Mayor of Maldonado, Oscar De los Santos, who suggested the possibility of establishing the headquarters in the west of Maldonado, as a way to balance the real estate development strongly focused to the east of the department. During several months a team made up of Jorge Hourcade, Gabriel Aintablian and Néstor Mazzeo visited several public plots along an extended strip between Solis and Ocean Park resorts.

Conferences

SARAS organizes a series of annual symposia with prominent scientists, artists and scholars on resilience and sustainability issues, including natural science, social science and humanities.

The symposia include discussion workshops and a series of public lectures. The symposia also aim at creating networks that will endure over time. Until 2013, the symposia were:

2010

Freshwater futures

2011

Coastal Fisheries

2012

Critical Transitions

2013

Education for uncertainty

Associates

The SARAS Institute is a joint initiative of Wageningen University (Netherlands), University of the Republic - UdelaR (Uruguay), Resilience Alliance, Ministry of Education and Culture (Uruguay) and Municipality of Maldonado (Uruguay).

SARAS maintains permanent links with: Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics (Sweden), Stockholm Resilience Centre (Sweden), University of Wisconsin (USA), University of Arizona (USA), University of Waterloo (Canada), Catholic University of Chile - CASEB (Chile), Doñana Biological Station - CSIC (Spain), National Patagonian Centre - CONICET (Argentina), Earth System Governance - University of Brasilia (Brazil), Eastern Region University Centre - CURE, School of Sciences and Interdisciplinary Space; these last three institutions are based in Uruguay and belong to UdelaR.

SARAS counts on the institutional and financial support of the Uruguayan State (Ministry of Education and Culture and Municipality of Maldonado). It is a regional centre and draws on a strong cooperation with the scientific community of Argentina, Brazil and Chile, among others. It has also established close links with cooperation and funding agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Ibero-American Programme for Science, Technology and Development (CYTED), the Pew Research Center, and the Interdisciplinary Space (UdelaR).