The major event of next year is without a doubt the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development - Rio+20 - conference. This will take place in Brazil on 4-6 June 2012 to mark the 20th anniversary of the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), in Rio de Janeiro. It is a conference at the highest possible level, meaning that Heads of State and Government will participate and aim to produce a focused political document. The Conference will focus on two themes: (a) a green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication; and (b) the institutional framework for sustainable development. We give you a short run-down of what Green Economy is.
Bill Clark is the Harvey Brooks Professor of International Science at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government - for a full profile, guide your browsers here. The slides of his talk, and all the others, are also available.
The film which is narrated by David Attenborough also reviews the impact of forest on business as usual and on transformative solutions.
Interestingly, the movie as well as the report sees a Green Economy as not only relevant to more developed economies but as a key catalyst for growth and poverty eradication in developing ones too, where in some cases close to 90 per cent of the GDP of the poor is linked to nature or natural capital such as forests and freshwaters.
"The report’s first point is that food production needs to increase in the areas where hungry people live. At the resolution of the planet I believe Foley is correct in his analysis that we need to blend the benefits of conventional and organic agriculture. But the poorest farmers with no cash can lower their vulnerability (increase food security and safety and self-reliance) by relying on place-based resources."
"The report’s second point is more political. The report suggests that supporting La Via Campesina and similar organizations is an effective way of scaling up agroecological best practices. This requires a shift in pubic policy from supporting the “green revolution” paradigm of subsidizing inputs to instead supporting the knowledge generation and dissemination done by networks such as La Via Campesina"
The post ends with a summary of some key points from the De Schutter report. There is a huge potential in scaling up agroecology, but that will require gargantuan effort from the public sector, research community and international donors to in different ways engage and support agroecological projects and initiatives. It also requires dissemination of agroecological practices through networks such as La Via Campesina. But this shift must be conducted against the grain of increasing support to "green revolution" paradigms and the rise of GM agriculture in developing countries.
The final day of the Resilience2011 conference featured began with a plenary talk by Elinor Ostrom. The talk began with her stressing the need for analytical approaches that draw on different disciplinary knowledge but that strive to integrate interdisciplinary boundaries.
Ostrom then spent the opening part of her talk mapping out the development of the design principles of social-ecological systems (SES). It began with the idea to build a common framework that could develop theories and models about SES's. This idea then grew over the years into a solid research programme that encompassed numerous case-studies and experiments. After almost 30 yrs of research that essentially proved that Hardins ideas of the tragedy of the commons were not always true (i.e. users of common pool resources can self-organize sustainably) it all culminated in the developing of Ostroms framework of SES's (the famous design principles). Basically this is an analytical framework of an SES, broken down into 10 key variables that affect the likelihood of an SES self-organizing towards sustainability. This framework is increasingly being used to better understand sustainable self-organization in local cases around the world. It has also inspired younger scholars to study and improve the design principles.
One of the other key points made by Ostrom was the fact that the ideas of excluding local users out of a system does not increase the sustainability of the resource extraction from that system. In an example from forest systems in India, studies show that allowing local groups to harvest within the forest system creates an interest to engage in monitoring and sanctioning. This ensures the production of goods and services at larger scales (i.e carbon sequestration). This flies in the face of much conventional conservation wisdom that stresses the expansion of protected areas to ensure sustainability.
The rest of the day was spent in different meetings and so thats were the summary ends. Hope you've enjoyed the recap of what was an exceptionally stimulating conference.
Sorry for the delay in getting this up, but its been a busy week. But the good news is that I'm merging summaries from the middle 2 days of the Resilience 2011 conference into one single post. The post from the final day will be up soon. And as an aside - rumors have it that videos from all plenaries will be up beginning of April, so watch this space!
Resilience 2011 - 13 March.
This was a Sunday, and following a huge brunch at Harlow's cafe I attended three sessions dealing with regime shifts, transformations and opportunities for change in social-ecological systems.
In the first session attended, Oonsie Biggs and Per Olsson raised the question of how we conceptualize regime shifts in social-ecological systems. Oonsie presented some of the fantastic work she has been leading in putting together the regimeshifts database - which has some very pedagogic and illustrative examples of social-ecological regime shifts. Another speaker from this session, Erle Ellis, gave a very interesting talk on the anthromes project he is leading. In essence, Erle made the suggestion that anthromes are a way of visualizing and delineating social-ecological systems and could be a tool to map regime-shifts.
A recently released UN report says that moves by small-scale farmers in developing countries to ecological agriculture (agroecology) can double food production within 10 years in the poorest regions of the world.
The report was presented by Olivier de Schutter, the UN special rapporteur on the right to food, and is based on an extensive review of recent scientific literature and the outcomes of an international expert seminar on agroecology that was held last summer in Belgium. The report shows that agroecology, if sufficiently supported, can double food production in entire regions within 10 years while mitigating climate change and alleviating rural poverty.
Stockholm Resilience Centre researcher Elin Enfors working with resilience perspectives on agroecosystems in Eastern Africa. Photo by Jerker Lokrantz/Azote