Water as a Metaphor for a Transdisciplinary Approach

Palavizini R1*, Litre G1,2, Brito TAS1

1International Centre on Water and Transdisciplinarity – CIRAT. UnB Campus Universitário Darcy Ribeiro, Asa Norte, CEP 70910-900 Brasília/DF, Brazil

2Sustainable Development Center (CDS) – University of Brasília. CDS-UnB Campus Universitário Darcy Ribeiro, Asa Norte, CEP 70910-900 Brasília/DF, Brazil

*Corresponding author: palavizini@gmail.com

Keywords: Water, Transdisciplinarity, Ternary Logic, Molecular structure of water, Water governance.

• Received:  November 22, 2021
• Revised: February 10, 2022
• Accepted: March 2, 2022
• Published: April 25, 2022




Water is a transdisciplinary element in itself. It interconnects, unites, separates, adapts and is present in nature in different states, forms and organisms. The multifaceted nature of water equally challenges researchers, practitioners and users in finding a unity of knowledge that is crucial to (re)establishing a healthier and more sustainable way of life on Earth. This unity of knowledge and perspectives creates a kaleidoscope for the holistic understanding of water as an element – its structure, dynamics, functionality and governance. Based on ternary logic – which recognizes the included middle as a universe of possibilities and synergies – the complex nature of water can only be grasped within an open system. Using this logic, stakeholders interact with uncertainties while respecting and valuing diversity, differences, and academic and non-academic knowledge. Through this logic, transdisciplinarity opens the way to alternative ways of perceiving, thinking, understanding, being and behaving in a world that is submerged in poverty, inequality and climatic and sanitary crises. At the same time, the potential of transdisciplinary approaches to efficiently address the world’s most pressing issues still requires improvement and legitimation. A transdisciplinary approach addresses the socio-environmental dimension of water governance and can be a source of optimism and opportunities for collaboration. Water governance is, in this regard, committed to valuation of ecological and cultural diversity; to the health of people and ecosystems; and to sustainability. In this opinion article, water is presented as a metaphor of how the transdisciplinary approach – going way beyond modern science’s conventional fragmentation – can offer significant governance alternatives, with positive repercussions in various fields of knowledge, and action.

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