Category Archives: USSEE

Professor Bobbi Low at USSEE 2011

Noted behavioral ecologist Professor Bobbi Low delivered the second keynote address on day 2 of the USSEE conference on the topic of “Noble Savages or Consummate Conservators? Behavioral Ecology and Green Futures”.

Dr. Low is Professor of Resource Ecology in the School of Natural Resources and the En vironment (SNRE) at the University of Michigan. Her research centers on behavioral ecology and life history theory: how these were shaped by evolution, and how they in turn constrain optimal management. She links data collection, analysis, and theory. Her methodologies include dynamic modeling, optimization, agent-based mod eling and game theory. Dr. Low’s research crosses the biological and social sciences, both in topics and journals. Her biological and ecological research includes studies of toad skin secretions, the ecological tradeoffs of marsupialism, fish schooling, kangaroo foraging, the biology of sex differences, and the evolution of anisogamy. She is co-author of Methods and Models in Evolution, Ecology, and Conservation Biology and Institutions, Ecosystems, and Sustainability. Dr. Low is the former President of the Human Behavior and Evolution Society.

David Korten provides USSEE keynote address

The second day of the 2011 USSEE conference began with a keynote address by noted author Dr. David Korten entitled “Taking Ecological Economics Seriously: It’s the Biosphere, Stupid”. Dr. Korten described the current economic system as “suicide economics” and outlined how ecological economics can provide a new economic paradigm for the 21st century.

Korten is a lecturer and author, and co-chair of the New Economy Working Group, which was formed in 2008 to formulate and advance a new economy agenda. He has worked for more than thirty-five years in preeminent business, academic, and international development institutions, and now works exclusively with public interest citizen-action groups. He is the author of numerous books, including Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth and When Corporations Rule the World. He is the cofounder and board chair of YES! Magazine, the founder and president of The People-Centered Development Forum, a board member of the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, an associate of the International Forum on Globalization, and a member of the Club of Rome.

Eban Goodstein kicks off 2011 USSEE conference

The 6th Biennial Conference of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics kicked off on June 26th with a keynote address by Dr. Eban Goodstein on “Reconciling the Science, Economics and Politics of Global Warming”.

Dr. Goodstein is Director of the Bard Center for Environmental Policy at Bard College. He directs two national educational initiatives on global warming: C2C (Campus to Congress) and The National Climate Seminar. In recent years, he has coordinated climate education events at over 2500 colleges, universities, high schools and other institutions across the country.

Goodstein is the author of a college textbook,Economics and the Environment and other books, including Fighting for Love in the Century of Extinction: How Passion and Politics Can Stop Global Warming and The Trade-off Myth: Fact and Fiction about Jobs and the Environment. Articles by Goodstein have appeared in among other outlets, including The Journal of Environmental Economics and ManagementLand EconomicsEcological Economics, andEnvironmental Management. His research has been featured in The New York TimesScientific AmericanTimeThe Economist, and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Congratulations to Juliet Schor for 2011 Herman Daly Award

The Board of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics is pleased to announce the recipient of the 2011 Herman Daly Award—Dr. Juliet Schor of Boston College, whose pioneering research has challenged long-held theories and assumptions about work, leisure, consumerism, and economic justice. Congratulations, Professor Schor! This award is given in honor of Herman Daly, one of the visionaries who founded the field of ecological economics. The award is designed to recognize individuals who have connected ecological economic thinking to practical applications and implementation of solutions that are sustainable in scale, equitable in distribution and efficient in allocation. The award is given in conjunction with the biennial conference, to be held June 26-29, 2011 at Michigan State University in East Lansing (USSEE 2011 conference).

Juliet Schor is Professor of Sociology at Boston College. Her research focuses on issues pertaining to trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the relationship between work and family, women’s issues and economic justice. Schor’s latest book is Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture. She is also author of The Overworked American: The Unexpected Decline of Leisure and The Overspent American: Upscaling, Downshifting and the New Consumer.

Dr. Juliet Schor is the 2011 recipient of the Herman Daly Award

Schor’s research has challenged long-held assumptions and raised the kind of thought-provoking questions that are consistent with the aims of ecological economists. This has been especially true for her research on work, leisure, and consumption. In The Overworked American, she took a critical look at the impact of so-called time-saving and efficiency-increasing practices and technology. The best-selling book was chosen for the Princeton University Library’s Noteworthy Books in Industrial Relations and Labor Economics, it was cited as one of the best business books of 1992 Business Week, and the New York Times listed it among its notable books in 1992 and 1993.

Schor is a founding member and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Center for a New American Dream, a non-profit organization committed to challenging the idea that “more stuff makes us happier.” She is also a Founding Member and Staff Economist of the Center for Popular Economics, a non-profit collective of political economists that offers workshops and institutes that simplify economics and put useful economic tools in the hands of people fighting for social and economic justice and against systems of oppression based on race, class, gender, nation and ethnicity.

In 2007 Schor was named the Friedson Lecturer in Sociology at New York University, and in 2006 she received the Leontief Prize for Expanding the Frontiers of Economic Thought from the Global Development and Environment Institute at Tufts University. She also holds a chair in the Economics of Leisure Studies at Tilburg University in the Netherlands. Schor is a graduate of Wesleyan University, and she received her Ph.D. in Economics from the University of Massachusetts. Before joining Boston College, Schor taught at Harvard University for 17 years, in the Department of Economics and in Women’s Studies.

Sustainable Livelihoods Officer


“Sustainable
Livelihoods Programme Officer”

Job Specification

Job Title: Sustainable Livelihoods Programme Officer – Bolivia
Location: La Paz, Bolivia
Date: June 2011
Job Ref: 11-BOL-01

Description of the unit /
department:

Trócaire works in
partnership with local organisations to overcome poverty
and promote justice in developing countries. This
position is located in Trócaire´s South American
sub-regional office. The regional programme is managed
from Tegucigalpa, Honduras overseeing the implementation
of Trócaire´s strategic plan in seven countries –
Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador,
Nicaragua and Haiti. The Sustainable Livelihoods
Programme Officer is responsible for the management and
implementation of Trócaire´s bi-national SL programme
which includes partners located in both Bolivia and
bordering highland areas in Peru.

Background to the
Role:

The Sustainable
Livelihoods programme in Bolivia/Peru is one of
Trócaire´s key institutional programmes worldwide.
Trócaire has been supporting livelihoods partners in
Bolivia and Peru for many years.  In 2009 the
Sustainable Livelihoods Programme was created as a pilot
programme. The programme has now been developed to a new
stage with a focus on food sovereignty and climate
justice for the period 2011-2014.   The pilot
programme has built up a sound track record in
implementing high impact and innovative projects with a
diverse range of local partners mostly in Bolivia but
also in Peru, focussing on indigenous communities in the
highlands and including a strong gender equity
approach.

Reporting to:

Regional Programme
Manager for South America (LARO)

Managing:
(Individuals/Team)
N/A
Contract Type: Local Contract / Fixed Term
Contract
Duration:
2 years
Location of
Position

La Paz, Bolivia (with
frequent travel within Bolivia and occasional travel to
Peru and within the region)

Scope of the
Role:

Building sustainable
livelihoods represents one of the three broad based
programmes adopted by Trócaire in its institutional
strategic plan for the period 2006-2016. At the regional
level the programme focuses on poor and primarily rural
communities with the aim of strengthening their access
to resources in order to strengthen food security and
income generation. The programme includes a strong focus
on disaster risk reduction to reduce the vulnerability
of rural livelihoods to external shocks and the effects
of climate change, as well as the strengthening of
organised advocacy capacities to influence public rural
development and Food Sovereignty policies. The
Sustainable Livelihoods Programme Officer will take
overall responsibility for the implementation of the
programme in Bolivia and in Peru in line with Trócaire´s
strategic aims and working in close collaboration with
the Livelihoods Programme team in Head Office (Maynooth)
to enhance the quality of implementation of programme
initiatives undertaken by local partners.

Key Duties &
Responsibilities

Programme

  • Implementation of the Sustainable
    Livelihoods Programme in accordance with the Bolivia
    strategic plan and the organisational strategic plan.
  • Ensure programme quality and
    strengthening through annual reviews of the programme
    with partners and consolidate the joint programme
    between Bolivia and Peru facilitating information
    exchange, promoting exchange events and identifying
    and organising capacity building activities for
    programme partners
  • Support partners in advocacy efforts
    around strategic issues, including sustainable
    management of natural resources, Food Sovereignty and
    climate change adaptation and mitigation, at local,
    national, regional and international level.
  • Participate to the ongoing research
    survey on the impact of climate change on rural
    households in the Bolivian highlands
  • In coordination with the Gender and
    HIV team in Head Office, ensure mainstreaming of
    Gender across the Programme.
  • Based on the new programme proposal
    document (PPD) and the programme logical framework,
    develop a participatory base line for the programme
  • Prepare programme budget and annual
    budgets
  • Analysis and approval of project
    proposals and budgets received from partners and new
    contacts.
  • Keep abreast of political, economic
    and social developments in Bolivia, Peru and in the
    Latin American region in general.
  • Feed into Trócaire policy work and
    positions on environmental justice, management of
    natural resources, Food Sovereignty and other relevant
    thematic issues through coordination with the
    Livelihoods organisational team and the Latin American
    Regional Liaison Officer.
  • Contribute to cross-organisational
    learning on Livelihood Security, Environmental Justice
    and Disaster Risk Reduction.
  • Identify projects suitable for
    co-financing, identify opportunities for in-country
    co-financing and assist with preparation of proposal
    and reports to donors

Building of skills and
capacity

  • Facilitate regional exchange events
    on LS and EJ issues where relevant.
  • Organise and facilitate capacity
    building processes for partners on areas relating to
    their work.
  • Organise and facilitate capacity
    building processes for partners on gender
    mainstreaming and programme cycle management

Communications and
reporting

  • Prepare reports for Trócaire, the
    Irish government and other donors where relevant.
  • Provide information on demand from
    head office and donors relating to programme
    activities.

Monitoring

  • Regular monitoring and evaluation of
    partner project implementation at local level.
  • Receipt, analysis and approval of
    partner reports (technical and financial).
  • Preparation of technical reports for
    donors.
  • Implementation of an effective
    programme and project monitoring and evaluation
    system.
  • Compliance with the requirements of
    the Trócaire Management Information System

Networking

  • Coordinate with other International
    NGOs working in Bolivia and Peru in support of
    programme partners, in terms of poverty reduction
    interventions, and in advocacy efforts on issues of
    particular importance to development in Bolivia, such
    as adaptation to climate change and Food Sovereignty
  • Coordinate with other country
    offices in Latin America on thematic issues of
    strategic interest in the region
  • Support and facilitate linkages
    between the Sustainable Livelihoods Programme and
    other programmes at country and regional level, and
    with programme teams in Maynooth.
  • Represent Trócaire at relevant for a
    as required by the Regional Programme Manager
Finance
  • Implementation of the Trócaire funds
    management policy in collaboration with the South
    America Finance Officer
  • Analysis of partner financial
    management capacities and request partner inspections
    by the South America Finance Officer as per needs
    identified

Other

  • Other duties, as may be specified by
    the Regional Programme Manager, from time to time.
  • Support and facilitate visits to
    Bolivia including education, campaigns, fundraising,
    communications, and advocacy trips

Person Specification – Essential
(E)

(E)
Qualification:

Graduate level education
in development issues or a relevant subject

(E) Experience:
  • A minimum of 1 year relevant field
    work experience in Latin America.
  • Experience of working with local
    partners.
  • Knowledge of the key issues and
    trends in Livelihood Sovereignty and Environmental
    Justice as well as DRR work in the Latin American
    context.
(E) Skills:
  • Ability to manage and build capacity
    of partner organisations.
  • Fluent written and oral
    communication in Spanish and English.
  • Good understanding and experience of
    Project/programme management cycle.
  • Strong team-working and
    interpersonal skills.
  • Excellent research, analysis and
    writing skills
  • Excellent communication skills and
    ability to communicate effectively with a variety of
    actors in the development context
  • Excellent organisational skills
  • Efficient, ability to work under
    pressure and to meet deadlines
  • Computer literate with ability to
    work in Word, Excel, Power Point, Email and Internet.
  • Excellent practical understanding of
    financial management, budget monitoring and reporting.
(E) Qualities
  • An understanding of Trócaire’s
    rights-based approach to development
  • Strong commitment and sensitivity
    towards poor and marginalised people and communities.
  • Dynamic and willing to take
    initiatives, ability to work independently
(E) Other:
  • Availability to work outside normal
    hours and travel extensively within Bolivia and, when
    necessary, within the region.

Person Specification – Desirable
(D)

(D)
Qualification:
(D) Experience:
  • Previous work experience on
    Sustainable Livelihoods programmes or projects in the
    South America Region.
  • Strong technical background in
    natural resource management, climate change related
    issues, marketing, sustainable agriculture, micro
    enterprise, or any other focus area of the programme.
  • Experience of working with external
    donors, e.g. the European Union.
  • Knowledge of Trócaire and its ways
    of working
(D) Skills:
  • Ability to mainstream gender
    equality within livelihoods programmes and projects.
(D) Qualities:
(D) Other:
Job Spec approved by
(Initials):
HB
Date: 03-06-2011

Application

Please send your application letter and CV, both
in English, quoting the reference 11-BOL-01 and including 2
professional references to soneill@trocairehn.ie. Please indicate your
salary expectation in your motivation letter. Applications
without salary expectation will not be considered.

Only shortlisted candidates will be contacted.
Closing date: 24th June 2011

Regional Programme Manager, Latin America Region-Trocaire


              Reference ID:

11/ID/013A

                    Thu, 2011-06-02 09:11 – Wed, 2011-06-15 09:11
Description   of the unit / department: The   International
Division is based in Maynooth and a number of overseas locations.   It
is comprised of 5 geographical regions, (Asia/Middle East; Latin
America;   Central & West Africa; East & Horn Africa; Southern
Africa) and   Institutional Funding Unit. There are five
cross-organisational teams that   are inextricably linked to the
International Division, following the 5 themes   of our strategic plan –
governance and human rights, building sustainable   livelihoods and
demanding environmental justice, preparing for and responding   to
emergencies, HIV and gender.
Background   to the Role: This position
is located in the   Latin America region. The region is managed from
Tegucigalpa, Honduras   overseeing the implementation of Trócaire’s
strategic plan in seven countries   – Bolivia, Colombia, Guatemala,
Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Haiti. Trócaire   has almost
completed its phase out process of Peru and Brazil.As part   of its
decentralisation process Trócaire has established a strong field
presence in South America. The Regional Programme Manager (RPM) will
assume a   leading role in overseeing the implementation of quality
programmes in the   region with a focus on 2 countries of South America
(Bolivia and Colombia)   plus oversee the closure of a few ongoing
projects in Peru and Brazil.
Reporting   to: Regional   Manager for Latin America
Managing:   (Individuals/Team) POs in Colombia   and Bolivia (4), a sub-regional finance officer plus administrative staff.
Contract   Type: Fixed-term
Contract   Duration: 3 years
Grade   and Scale: Regional   Programme Manager salary scale
Location   of Position La Paz,   Bolivia with frequent travel throughout South American and occasional travel   to Central America and or/Head Office
Scope   of the Role: With reference   to
Trócaire’s Strategic Plan 2006-2016 and the Operational Plan 2011-14,
the   Regional Programme Manager will be responsible for overseeing and
co-ordinating all aspects of programme work in the South American
countries.   This will include implementation of country plans and
programmes; it will   also include roll out and implementation of
Trócaire organisational policies   and procedures. The RPM will work
closely with the Regional Manager and   others to implement plans to
maximise income from institutional sources.
Key   Duties & Responsibilities Programme   Management

  • With
    the Regional Manager, to take the lead in co-ordinating the   design,
    implementation and maintenance of high quality, coherent programmes   in
    the region. This will include: development of programmes;
    identification,   accompaniment and funding of projects; and advocacy
    and lobbying on relevant   issues.
  • Work
    with Programme Officers to monitor and manage the implementation   of
    programmes through partner organisations. This will include tracking of
    programme progress and spending and problem solving as needed.
  • Ensure
    that Programme Officers follow Trócaire’s procedures in the   approval
    process of programmes and projects and their implementation which
    includes complying with the Management Information System’s
    requirements.

Programme   Quality

  • Together
    with the Regional Manager ensure that Trócaire partnership   and
    programme approaches and strategies are relevant, effective and reflect
    best practices
  • Ensure
    that priority cross-cutting issues are integrated across   programmes
    and provide training and support to both staff and partners to   enable
    this integration to take place
  • Systematically
    reflect on country programme experience, research, and   overall trends
    in order to feed back into the regional programme and identify   areas
    for further work
  • Ensure
    that Programme Officers and other staff are aware of   developments,
    changes and updates at an organisational level and respond to   these
    developments at the regional level, in consultation with the Regional
    Manager.
  • Actively
    contribute to organisational learning through ensuring   systematic
    documentation, evaluation, monitoring and reporting on Trócaire
    programmes.

Partnership

  • Co-ordinate
    initiatives to encourage the building of organisational   capacity of
    partners to ensure their development and sustainability.
  • Ensure
    that Programme Officers support partners in producing timely
    proposals and reports, which comply with Trócaire standards.
  • Lead
    and co-ordinate appropriate training initiatives for local NGO   staff
    in the design and management of high quality programmes.

Management

  • Keep
    abreast of political and economic developments and report on the
    impact of macro-issues on the regional and country programmes for the
    use in   planning both regionally and internationally and also for use
    in development   education and advocacy in Ireland
  • Line management and co-ordination of the work of Programme staff

Human Resource Management

  • In collaboration with the Regional Manager implement a supervision and   performance appraisal system for staff in the region.
  • In
    collaboration with the Regional Manager, identify the training   needs
    of international and national personnel and arrange for and evaluate
    training.
  • In
    collaboration with the Regional Manager manage the recruitment and
    induction process of Programme and Finance Staff when their replacement
    is   needed

Budgeting and Financial Management

  • Assist in the preparation of annual country and regional budgets for   both programme and administration costs
  • Support the analysis, monitoring and supervision of Trócaire funds and   disbursement to partners.
  • Develop
    relationships and liaise with in-country donors, the Regional
    Institutional Funding Officer and the Institutional Funding Unit in
    mobilising institutional funding for Trócaire partners.

Advocacy

  • Co-ordinate all advocacy issues in the sub region, internally and   externally with relevant agencies.Provide regular information on context and situation to staff in Latin   American region and in Ireland.

Representation and networking

  • Contribute to the development of Trócaire’s networks and profile in   the region.
  • Represent Trócaire at events and meetings as required

Person Specification –   Essential Requirements (E)

(E)   Qualification
  • A
    relevant academic qualification at masters   level with theoretical
    knowledge of the principles and practices of   development and
    humanitarian cooperation
(E)   Experience
  • Minimum
    five years’ development experience,   with at least three working in
    the field in Latin America of which two should   be in a management
    capacity.
  • A
    thorough knowledge and understanding of the   international development
    sector, with particular reference to the specific   role of
    international NGOs
  • A demonstrated ability to think strategically   and to oversee the implementation of a regional programme
  • Knowledge of the Latin American region and an   understanding of the principle causes of poverty and inequality.

 

(E)   Skills

·           Knowledge   of both development and emergency programming

·           A   thorough understanding of partnership and rights based approaches

·            A
specific knowledge of Programme Cycle   Management issues, including
development of proposals and reports,   monitoring, evaluation and
impact measurement systems.

·           A   demonstrated ability to manage personnel and human resource systems

·           A   demonstrated ability to manage budgets and financial systems

·           Fluent written and spoken   Spanish and English

  • Excellent    IT  & communication skills
(E)   Qualities
  • A strong commitment to the work of justice   and an empathy with the ethos and work of Trócaire. Team player
(E)   Other
  • Ability and willingness to travel within and   outside the region on a regular basis.

·           Person Specification – Desirable Requirements (D)

(D)   Qualification
(D) Experience
  • Specific experience of working in a NGO environment   and some years of experience in a management capacity
(D)   Skills
  • Human Resource and Financial Management
  • Analytical, report writing and presentation skills


To apply for this position please fill out the attached application form [1] and return to Jason Rice, HR Officer, Trocaire, Maynooth, Co.Kildare or email jobs@trocaire.ie [2]. Closing date for receipt of applications is Wednesday 15th June 2011.

USSEE 2011 conference registration is open

Registration for the 2011 conference of the U.S. Society for Ecological Economics is now open. The conference will be held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, June 26-29, 2011, and the conference theme is “Building a Green Economy,” Keynote speakers for the conference include Dr. Larry Walker (Cornell University), Dr. David Korten (author, lecturer), Dr. Eban Goodstein (Bard College), Mr. Dave Dempsey (International Joint Commission), Dr. Kristen Sheeran (Economics for Equity and the Environment Network [E3]), and Dr. Bobbi Low (University of Michigan).

We invite you to register for the conference at the Conference Registration web page. Take advantage of lower rates by registering early; these rates are in effect through May 15. Information about the venue, travel, and hotel accommodations can be found on the Conference Venue web page.

Please share this information widely with colleagues and other interested parties. We look forward to seeing you at Michigan State University in June!

Job Opening: Assistant Professor of Ecological Economics at Northern Illinois University

The Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy at Northern Illinois University (NIU) and the Environmental Science Division at Argonne invite applications for an anticipated joint, tenure-track position at the rank of Assistant Professor to begin August 16, 2011.

We seek a candidate with teaching and empirical research interests in ecological economics (macro and micro), ideally with additional experience in related subjects such as sustainability science, political economy, economic geography, or other fields related to environmental policy and management. It is expected that this faculty member will apply modeling approaches to assess the balances and tradeoffs among the human economy and the economy of nature, such as ecological footprint analysis, macroeconomic capacity assessment, ecosystem services evaluation, input-output analysis, spatial econometrics, or climate change impact assessment. This person will work closely in a multidisciplinary academic environment and an off-campus research environment.

A Ph.D. in a relevant discipline is required at the time of appointment. The successful candidate will have choice of tenure home in Economics, Geography, Political Science or another applicable department. The position is part of the new, interdisciplinary Institute for the Study for the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy at Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL.

More information about current faculty research interests and the Institute is available at http://www.niu.edu/ese/.

Applicants must electronically submit a letter of application, CV, statements of teaching and research interests, and three letters of references addressed to:

Dr. Carl von Ende,

Environmental Faculty Search Committee Chair,

at webmail: envs11econ@niu.edu.

Complete applications must be received by Feb 15, 2011.

NIU and Argonne are AA/EEO Institutions that value diversity in their faculty, staff, and student bodies; thus we strongly encourage applications from diverse candidates, including women and minorities

USSEE 2011 is now accepting abstracts

CALL FOR ABSTRACTS

USSEE 2011: Building a Green Economy
June 26-29, 2011, Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan, USA

Dear colleague:

The Board of the United States Society for Ecological Economics (USSEE) cordially invites you to submit an abstract for an individual poster, paper presentation, or complete session proposal to our 6th biennial conference, entitled “Building a Green Economy.” The conference will be held at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, June 26-29, 2011 (see https://www.msu.edu/~ussee).

USSEE 2011 is now accepting abstracts. Abstracts (200 words maximum) for sessions, individual papers, workshops, or other contributions should be submitted online via the Abstract Submission Form before the deadline date of January 31, 2011. For details, please see the Call for Abstracts and the list of Conference Themes, or visit the conference website. We extend a particular welcome to submissions of papers, posters, and session proposals related to the conference theme, “Building a Green Economy.”

Please share this information widely with colleagues and other interested parties. We look forward to seeing you in East Lansing in 2011!

With kind regards, on behalf of the conference committee,

Robert Richardson, USSEE 2011 Conference chairperson

2011 Conference: Building a Green Economy
Michigan State University, East Lansing, Michigan
June 26-29, 2011
https://www.msu.edu/~ussee
http://www.ussee.org
ussee@msu.edu

GFN: “Why self-interest can save the climate debate (and waiting for consensus might waste your future)”

From http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/blog/why_self-interest_can_save_the_climate_debate
12/06/2010 12:56 AM

By Mathis Wackernagel

 

Mathis Wackernagel, President Global Footprint Network
Mathis Wackernagel Ph. D., President, Global Footprint Network (Photo: http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/our_team/)

As world leaders head into the final days of climate talks in Cancun, it is time to put to right a misperception that for too long has shackled our approach to this vital issue. The error is simply this: Taking action is a burden some nations will need to shoulder for the good of the world – rather than the single best action each nation can take to further its own long-term interests.

 

The question by governments of “What’s in it for me?” has up to now been a major stumbling block to international agreement. But if leaders and their administrations truly understood the underlying resource dynamics, they would have the exact opposite approach. They would see it is in their self-interest to act quickly and aggressively, whatever the actions taken by their global neighbors.  In fact, each country’s own actions will become more urgent and valuable the less others do.

Why would it be in any individual country’s interest to address a problem whose costs are ultimately born by all of humanity? Consider the nature of the carbon problem.

Climate change, first and foremost, is a consequence of high fossil fuel dependence. Even though climate change is a global problem, the fossil fuel dependence that contributes to it carries growing economic risks for the emitting country. Working our way out of this addiction takes time, and the longer we wait to radically rethink and retool our societies, the less chance we will have to alter course.

But there is another important piece of the picture beyond fossil fuel. Climate change is not an issue in isolation, but rather, a symptom of a broader challenge: humanity’s systematic overuse of the planet’s finite resources.

Our natural systems can only generate a finite amount of raw materials (fish, trees, crops, etc.) and absorb a finite amount of waste (such as carbon dioxide emissions). Global Footprint Network quantifies this rate of output through a measure called biocapacity. Biocapacity is as measurable as GDP – and, ultimately, far more significant, as access to basic living resources underlies every economic activity a society can undertake.

Up to now, we have treated biocapacity as an essentially limitless flow, to the point that our demand for nature’s services now outstrips biocapacity by 50 percent, according to Global Footprint Network’s latest research . This approach has been an integral part of the climate crisis, as with every hectare of forest we clear for raw materials, built-up land or other land-uses (such as grazing or cropland), we reduce the Earth’s ability to absorb CO2 and regulate climate.

Ecological trends suggest, however that we will soon be facing another crunch: biocapacity.

Consider this: No matter which way the future goes, whether we avoid climate disaster or we continue with business as usual, increasing consumption, population and CO2 emission, the pressure on biocapacity will escalate— and having access to biocapacity will earn ever higher premiums.

The Climate Accord vs. the Runaway Scenario
The US President, European heads of state and other G-20 leaders have affirmed the need to stay within a 2º Celsius climate alteration (at a minimum) to avoid widespread calamity. Some climate models point to a 350 ppm limit for CO2 in the atmosphere in order to achieve this – less than the carbon concentration we have today. Yet even if we aim for the more conservative target of 450 ppm, this would call for shifting out of fossil fuel, and a wholesale restructuring of the way we produce and use energy. But hardly anybody admits this mathematical truth.

Even with significant development of wind and solar power technologies, if we want to have the amount and ease of choice around energy availability we have enjoyed up to now, we will need to rely to some extent on fuels from biological sources. Add to that the resources needed to provide for a growing population, a swelling middle class, and the two billion alive today who lack enough to meet basic needs. It is clear, even with a strong climate accord, biocapacity will be under pressure as never before.

And what if we don’t succeed in heading off climate change? Biocapacity will become even more vulnerable and, in all likelihood, subject to staggering declines. With crops failing and drought widespread, the failure of an international cooperation will set a poor stage for negotiating the distribution of dwindling resources. Those countries whose economies depend most on access to massive amounts of resources – especially resources from abroad – will find themselves particularly vulnerable.

Winning – or losing – the Earth Race
In a world facing a biocapacity crunch, the winning economic strategies will be preserving biocapacity on the one hand, and reducing demand for it on the other. And here’s a bit of good news: those also happen to be leading strategies for minimizing climate change.

Many believe the race to develop green technology – what columnist Thomas Friedman has dubbed the “Earth Race”— will bring the spoils of the future to the early movers and adopters, and secure innovative nations and enterprises with positions of advantage on the global stage. This is the carrot pushing green innovation. But there is an even more powerful stick. Those countries and cities trapped in energy- and resource-intensive infrastructure will not be able to adapt in time to meet the emerging resource constraints.

In the face of a failure to reach agreement at Cancun, individual countries will have to do more to curb their resource demand in order to assure their long-term stability and security. The lack of agreement won’t give us a break from taking action—on the contrary, it will force us to work significantly harder.

If our leaders understood this, the discussion at global climate talks would take an entirely new direction. As Cancun draws to a close, we are not calling on leaders simply to do what’s needed for the good of other nations. Rather, we are asking them to come to the table mindful of what they must do to responsibly serve their own.