Globalization, the process by which local social-ecological systems (SESs) are becoming linked in a global network, presents policy scientists and practitioners with unique and difficult challenges. Although local SESs can be extremely complex, when they become more tightly linked in the global system, complexity increases very rapidly as multi-scale and multi-level processes become more important. Here, we argue that addressing these multi-scale and multi-level challenges requires a collection of theories and models. We suggest that the conceptual domains of sustainability, resilience, and robustness provide a sufficiently rich collection of theories and models, but overlapping definitions and confusion about how these conceptual domains articulate with one another reduces their utility. We attempt to eliminate this confusion and illustrate how sustainability, resilience, and robustness can be used in tandem to address the multi-scale and multi-level challenges associated with global change.