Background on CUSA’s Sustainability Lecture Series
To help foster dialogue between social and natural scientists on the challenges of sustainability in the 21st century, the Center for Unconventional Security will convene a seminar series to bring a select group of scholars, researchers, experts, and business leaders to UC, Irvine to present a variety of perspectives on choices and challenges related to sustainability.
Knowledge and Environmental Policy
January 19 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Bren Hall 1100
William Ascher, PhD
Donald C. McKenna Professor of Government and Economics
Claremont McKenna College
Environmental policymakers rely on a prodigious amount of knowledge from a wide variety of sources. Sometimes available knowledge is technically appropriate and covers the broad range of considerations that policymakers ought to take into account, yet it is easy to identify serious limitations in the generation, transmission, and use of relevant knowledge. Some forms and sources of knowledge are inappropriately privileged over others, narrowing the range of considerations that policymakers ought to take into account, such as practical knowledge and the expression of public preferences. The quest for more knowledge may rationalize shortsighted delays in taking necessary actions. By looking at how these three processes are exposed to both technical limitations and contestation, we can learn why and how knowledge is used and abused in the environmental policy process. The views that more knowledge resolves policy disputes, obviating the need for politics, and that “ugly politics” undermines the contributions of knowledge to environmental policymaking, neglect the crucial role that politics, as contestation over societal goals, has to play. The rejection of the inevitability of politics in the knowledge-policy relationship drives the politics underground, making it more difficult to see where value positions are masquerading as purely technical. Based on this diagnosis, many recommendations for improving the knowledge processes can be devised.
The Psychology of Sustainability
February 9- 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Bren Hall 1100
Social Ecology Doctoral Program at the University of California, Irvine
The is growing consensus that environmental, social, and economic sustainability are not possible given current trends and that understanding human interactions with the environment is a key aspect of ameliorating many of these issues. Psychology, as the science of human behavior, is in a prime position to assist with this task. Human interactions with sustainability include human drivers of un-sustainability (e.g. over-use of limited resources), human consequences of instability (e.g. natural and technological disasters), and human responses to a changing environment (e.g. mitigation and adaptation). Although progress is being made in the natural and physical sciences towards technological solutions and in political circles towards more sustainable policies, an understanding of individuals is vital for these new technologies to be adopted and policies supported. This talk will include a discussion of current and pressing issues in the psychology of sustainability and share recent insights in areas such as social norms, risk perception, message framing, and positive psychology that highlight some of the ways that psychology is contributing to these issues.
Transboundary Environmental Policy and Institutions along International Borders
February 16 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Bren Hall 1100
Linda Fernandez, PhD
University of California, Riverside
The seminar analyzes the past, present and future management for pollutant reduction along international borders. Attention towards transboundary waters is necessary as environmental problems have increased in prevalence around the world as the shared waterways straddling boundaries are vulnerable and not infinitely bountiful and resilient. Transboundary settings offer interdependencies, opportunities and challenges to match management on the same scale as the natural physical connectedness of water flow across borders. This seminar investigates the interaction between sovereign countries in North America over shared waterways in the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico borders. These countries present insightful steps for addressing polluted water at a time when the United Nations has designated 2010, Clean Water for a Healthy World where 2.2 million people die of contaminated water per year (United Nations, 2010). Asymmetry between the countries in terms of costs, damages, and emissions influences the incentives to solve the environmental pollution problem in a sustainable way.
Who Controls Water? Conflict, Cooperation, and “Soft” Power
February 23 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Bren Hall 1100
Professor and Chair of the Department of Planning, Policy and Design, University of California, Irvine
Water is our planet’s most precious resource. It is required by every living thing, yet a huge proportion of the world’s population struggles to access it. Agriculture, aquaculture, industry, and energy depend on it – yet its adequacy and safety engender conflict. This conflict is likely to intensify as threats to freshwater abundance and quality, including climate change, urbanization, new forms of pollution, and privatization of control, continue to grow. Can we manage freshwater sensibly, and with proper regard for the welfare of future generations and other species? Must the cost of potable water become prohibitively expensive for the poor, especially when supplies are privatized? Do technological innovations expand supply or do they carry hidden risks? This talk shows how control of freshwater operates at different levels, from individual watersheds near cities to large river basins whose water – when diverted – is contested by entire countries. Nations can work together to embrace multiple water needs while also establishing fair, consistent criteria to promote available supply with less pollution through the exercise of soft power – the ability to advance reform through convincing others to emulate certain values, policies, and cultural attitudes that are embedded in certain prescribed measures such as local sustainability, adaptation to climate change, and the embracing of decentralized, participatory governance.
State Capacity, Economic Crisis and Economic Reform: Implications for Sustainability
March 2 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Bren Hall 1100
George Shambaugh, PhD
Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Government, Georgetown University
Like the economic crises in Korea in 1997 and Argentina in 2001, U.S. and European responses to the 2008-2011 financial crises are less about what particular strategy is most likely to succeed or who specifically will be bailed out, than they are about the capacity of national governments to overhaul their economies and restore confidence in the global markets. Whether adopting neo-Keynesian, monetarist, or neo-liberal reforms or whether rescuing Wall Street or auto makers, state capacity is essential. Enhanced capacity increases a nation-state’s ability to manage the market and has a significant positive effect on the economy by decreasing uncertainty; thus enhancing consumer and investor confidence. Low levels of state capacity compound market uncertainty with political uncertainty. This weakens bargaining strength and undermines confidence in both political leadership and the economy. Understanding how the power of, and distribution of power between, economic and political elites affects the capacity of national governments to manage markets effectively (whether this involves negotiating with labor unions, entrenched corporate and financial groups, domestic and international investors, foreign governments, or international financial institutions), enables us to predict recurring patterns of political exuberance, economic exuberance, economic policy inertia, and credible economic policy reform. These patterns of behavior help to explain the evolution of national economic policies that triggered economic crises in Asia and Latin America a decade ago and the United States and Europe today. They have also shaped national responses to these crises and, as a consequence, confidence in national and global economies.
The Politics of Sustainability
March 9 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Bren Hall 1100
Richard A. Matthew, PhD
Associate Professor, Departments of Planning, Policy & Design and Political Science and Director, Center for Unconventional Security Affairs
Families and health, businesses and educational systems, fresh water and clean air- there are a lot of things in our world that we would like to last. They are the material underpinnings of freedom, dignity, comfort and stability. We have come to realize over the last few decades, however, that some of the things we value and depend upon are moving along trajectories that are not sustainable. The costs are mounting and we can imagine a point in the not too distant future when some of these things run out of gas, falter, perhaps collapse. We have also come to realize that many of the things we value are deeply interconnected. Failure in one area can ripple across many other domains, always complicating matters, and, at times, generating complex disasters. These realizations, rooted in scientific enquiry and local knowledge, have generated one of the defining questions of our age: How do we design, promote, manage and measure the sustainability of different things, at different scales and in differ
ent contexts? The advanced state of many alarming trends and the complexity involved in transforming vast, interconnected processes can seem inexorably to lead to a simple answer: we can’t. But is this really the best answer? We have unprecedented knowledge and tools that confer unprecedented power. Indeed, we often hear that solutions to many of our most daunting problems exist, but that we lack the political will to implement them. Which suggests we have something important that needs to be introduced, or reintroduced, into politics. Because in a democracy political will, the will to tackle new challenges, is the fruit of political concern and engagement. Politics here and across the world could be-and should be-the realm where we explore the challenging questions of our era from many perspectives, mobilize support for possible solutions, experiment with answers, share resources and lessons learned, and fairly and openly assess the effects of our decisions. Politics at its best allows us to do all this in a context imbued with powerful notions of fairness, dignity, and freedom. A politics of sustainability is not only possible, it is in some sense fundamental. Because in its most elemental form politics is about sustainability-about defining the life we want to lead together, and the conditions under which such life can endure and flourish.
Water in the Balance: The Human Fingerprint on Global Freshwater Availability as Seen from Space
April 6 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, SSPA 1100
Jay Famiglietti, PhD
Professor, Earth System Science and Civil & Environmental Engineering, and Director, UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling
Over the last decade, satellite observations of Earth’s water cycle, in particular, those from NASA’s GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) mission, have provided an unprecedented view of recent changes in freshwater availability. In particular, the human fingerprint of water management practices such as reservoir storage and groundwater use is abundantly clear, and raises many important issues for climate, water, food and economic security. Moreover, the worldwide depletion of groundwater aquifers and their transboundary nature points to the great potential heightened conflict in the very near future. In this seminar I will review the basics of how the GRACE mission observes world water resources, what new information the mission has provided since its launch in 2002, and what the implications are for the future of water availability. Several hotspots for water stress, including implications for regional security and conflict, will be highlighted.
Sustainability and Conflict in the Developing World
April 13 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, SSPA 1100
Project Coordinator, Fundacion Futuro Latinoamericano (Quito, Ecuador); International Affairs Columnist, FiveThirtyEight (New York Times)
There is a growing body of academic, applied and journalistic research that points to a strong relationship between natural resources and conflict in the developing world. Whether attributed to a ‘resource curse’ in the case of high value, extractable natural resources, or ‘scarcity and competition’ over water, land, fisheries and other resources, it is clear that natural resources and the environment, because of their importance to human survival, are an important contributor to and victim of violent conflict.
While there are many strategies for analyzing and transforming these sorts of conflicts in the short and medium term, such as negotiations and settlements over specific resources, external interventions that award control over resources, international boycotts of resources funding conflict, etc., sustainability and sustainable development have emerged as a potential key aspect of long term strategies. This talk will analyze, at a very practical level as well as in theory, where this has been and could be successful and where it will likely fall short.
Crisis to Sustainability: Lessons from Africa
April 27 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, SSPA 1100
International Institute for Sustainable Development (Geneva)
The management of natural resources is often conflictual. Conservation practitioners know all too well that their work is a form of conflict management, trying to reconcile competing (and sometimes incompatible) interests in the same, oftentimes dwindling, natural resource base. The links between natural resources and conflict are especially evident in developing countries, where poverty, population growth and dependence on natural resources are high. Here, the availability of and access to natural resources are more likely to affect livelihood security, wealth distribution, power structures and even group identities, i.e., some of the more familiar sources of conflict. By trying to protect and sustainably manage the natural resource base and improve human well-being, conservationists are effectively working to minimize important causes of conflict. But managing competing interests over scarce natural resources has its risks. This is especially true in conflict zones, where heightened social tensions and human suffering, along with weak governance and the circulation of small arms and light weapons can create a volatile operational context. Experiences from Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) highlight these risks but, just as importantly, they also demonstrate the potential for sustainable natural resource management to contribute to peacebuilding.
Water Crisis… Tool for Diplomacy and Platform for Progress
May 4 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Beckman Center (RSVP required)
Founder of Blue Legacy
Blue Legacy is an initiative started in 2008 by Alexandra Cousteau to engage individuals around the world through telling the story of our water planet. Blue Legacy works to: to help shape society’s dialogue to include water as one of the defining issues of our century; to inspire people to take action on critical water issues in meaningful ways.
Alexandra will be recieveing CUSA’s 7th annual Human Secuirty Award. The Human Security Award recognizes the remarkable efforts of people working to empower and protect the world’s most vulnerable communities.
Energy: What is it, where does it come from, and how do we use it?
May 11 – 7:00 – 8:30 pm, Bren Hall 1100
Rebecca Ford, DPhil
Postdoctoral Fellow at the Centre for Sustainability,
University of Otago, NZ
In the US, the residential sector accounts for about 20% of energy related carbon emissions, and increasingly individuals are being called upon to take steps towards reducing their energy consumption at home. However, the links between our everyday actions and the carbon emissions due to those actions tend not to be particularly visible, leading to misconceptions about what actions, behaviours or technologies are high-energy consumers and wasters.
This lecture aims to address some of these missing links by providing a meaningful definition of energy, looking at where the electricity that we use in our homes comes from, and seeing how every purchase decision, down to buying an apple at the supermarket, has implications on our carbon footprint. This talk also explores the potential knowledge gain, behaviour change, and ultimately carbon reductions, that may be induced by energy feedback, and challenges further thought about what constitutes useful feedback in terms of both content and delivery.
Background on CUSA’s Sustainability Seminar Series
While its roots may be traced back decades and even centuries, the concept of sustainable development only became a prominent and perennial feature of world affairs in the late 1980s with the publication of the Brundtland Commission’s landmark 1987 report, Our Common Future. Although critics have assailed the concept for being an oxymoron, redundant or vague, it has nonetheless been widely endorsed by political, business and community leaders, and embraced by different cultures and socio-economic classes around the world. Proponents have represented sustainable development as an invaluable approach to designing unified solutions to linked challenges.
The concept of sustainable development acknowledges the urgency of global problems, recognized critical connections between them, and sought to devise a framework for thinking about how they could be jointly addressed. The core elements of this framework are often understood to be economics, environment and equity, and the goal is to balance the requirements of each in a way that satisfies the needs of the present generation without compromising the prospects of future generations. While there is general agreement on the value of the goals of sustainable development, demographic, economic and environmental trends present considerable challenges to particular efforts aimed at improving sustainability.
Creating more sustainable societies will require addressing challenges and will require involving multiple perspective`s from the social and natural sciences, as well as political, community and business leaders. Our sustainability seminar series brings together scholars, researchers, experts, and business leaders to consider a variety of perspectives on choices and challenges related to improving the sustainability of water, energy, food, transportation and security systems.
CUSA would like to thank these sponsors for their generous support of this seminar series: