Category Archives: General

Is 3D printing the “next big thing” for ecology?

If you are interested in emerging technologies with disruptive potential, it is hard to avoid the growing hype around 3D-printing: printers able to reproduce a digital model by adding materials in layers, until the final product is achieved. If you think this sounds like weird science fiction, you probably haven’t heard about 3D printed bikes, jawbones, guitars and …. meat. And yes, there is a “Pirate Bay” for 3D printing called “physibles” which would allow you to download the code needed to print 3D objects.

3D-printed bike, image from policymic

Interestingly enough, a paper by William Sutherland and colleagues was recently published in TREE [PDF] where they explore emerging technologies which may have big implications for conservation and biological diversity. Among the list of issues you find rapid growth of concentrated solar power, wide spread development of thorium-fuelled nuclear power, ecological monitoring drones, vegetarian aquaculture feed and of course, 3D-printing. They write:

The environmental effects of a society that only prints what is needed could include waste reduction and decreased emissions from transporting manufactured goods. Additionally, spare parts could be printed in remote regions. However, printing on a whim could lead to an increase in resource consumption, higher energy demand due to transportation of raw materials, and pollution, if storage or disposal of chemicals used in household-level printing are haphazard.

Interesting first take on the issue, but seems like there is lots more to think about than simply the consumption of raw materials and energy.

A Planet without Humans? Two Short Reflections on “Does the terrestrial biosphere have planetary tipping points?”

Are “planetary tipping points” likely? Trends in Ecology and Evolution recently published a very thought provoking article by Brooks et al. that challenges the notion of abrupt global threshold change. In the authors’ own words, we are likely to experience “[…] relatively ‘smooth changes at the global scale, without an expectation of marked tipping patterns.”

“Planetary tipping points” is not only a very important issue, with clear links to discussions about “planetary boundaries” and a “state shifts in the Earth’s biosphere”. It is also a very multifaceted inquiry that entails an electric combination between Earth system science, complex systems thinking, and science communication.

The paper opens up a whole set of important issues, but allow me to just briefly elaborate points that I find critical and interesting to explore and debate further.

1. Connectivity

Connectivity is a key factor in the assessment of the paper. As the authors note “If drivers or responses are spatially heterogeneous and inter-regional or intercontinental connectivity (through biotic or abiotic factors) is weak, the global aggregate pattern and rate of ecological change are likely to be relatively constant, without any identifiable tipping point. Conversely, if drivers and responses are spatially homogeneous or inter-regional or intercontinental connectivity is strong, ecological change might display a tipping-point pattern at a global scale.” (pp.2)

So, how strong is “intercontinental connectivity” between ecosystems? It depends on how you define “connectivity” of course. On the same page, the authors list a whole set of “biotic” and “abiotic factors” which underpin connectivity: species movement, ocean transport of heat, changes in CO2 levels, and others. Based on a brief analysis of these “connectors” for terrestrial ecosystems, the authors conclude that the “lack of strong continental interconnectivity, probably induce relatively smooth changes at the global scale, without an expectation of marked tipping patterns”.

Am I the only one getting the feeling that something is missing here? What I find intriguing in the analysis, is the absence of a discussion of “social connectors” which are likely to connect ecosystems across the world. The interconnected degradation of marine systems through global markets and new technologies denoted “roving bandits” are well known, and I see no reason why scholars should ignore similar phenomena for terrestrial ecosystems.

GWSP Digital Water Atlas (2008). Map 34: Virtual Water 2 (V1.0). Available online at http://atlas.gwsp.org

For example, while forest ecosystems in different continents might have few biotic and abiotic intercontinental connections, it is known that successful conservation policies in one region or a country, tends to shift environmental externalities to other areas through global markets (a “displacement effect” elaborated Lambin and Meyfroidt 2011). The flows of “virtual water”, and the observation that decreasing fish stocks force people to extract more resources from wildlife and tropical forests in West Africa (Brashares et al. 2004) are two additional examples of how social connectivity is tightly related to interconnected environmental change (some of which is likely to be non-linear). Global change scientists are just starting to get to grips with these complex human-environmental connectors (Adger et al. 2006, Young et al. 2006), but surely these would have an impact on how we analytically assess the sort of intercontinental connectivity Brook and colleagues are trying to get at? Bluntly put: if we indeed have entered the Anthropocene, why is social connectivity through institutions, technology and globalized trade, not part of the analysis?

2. Global tipping points and fatalism

The article ends with an interesting statement: “Second, framing global change in the dichotomous terms implied by the notion of a global tipping point could lead to complacency on the ‘safe’ side of the point and fatalism about catastrophic or irrevocable effects on the other.”

Brook also argues (in an associated blogpost) that “Why does this matter? Well, one concern we have is that an undue focus on planetary tipping points may distract from the vast ecological transformations that have already occurred.”

I find both these claims surprising. Surely a discussion about “thresholds” of this sort lead to more multifaceted social perceptions and responses than simple dichotomies of doom-and-gloom, or distraction? Nuttal and Hulme (which are quoted to support the first quote on framings) are just two articles in a much richer and multidisciplinary body of literature (raging from formal theory, to social-psychological experiments and case based approaches) that elaborates social perceptions, framings and responses to threshold phenomena. A somewhat more nuanced and empirically based discussion on this last issue of social perceptions and responses, could have contributed in significant ways to a much-needed discussion.

WEF’s Risk Report and the misperception of environmental risks

World Economic Forum’s Global Risks 2013 report is an interesting, but one eyed view of the global risk landscape.

I think the main weakness is lack of consideration of how the financial, economic, and social systems that support the global elites at Davos are producing most of the risks that threaten those same systems.  Some of these systems are part of what sf writer Kim Stanley Robinson has called Gotterdammerung capitalismwhile others are what resilience researchers have called Holling’s pathology of management.  But in either case, assessing the symptomns, but not examining the causes is not particularly useful and a bit pathological.

However, I thought one interesting point in the report was the the assessment of expert risk assessment.  The report found a substantial difference between environmental experts view of risks versus that of experts in other sectors.

Unlike all over sectors environmental experts thought that environmental risks were substantially more likely and would have a bigger impact than other people.  While I don’t find this result surprising, I am a bit surprised that this is the only problem domain in which this is the case.  Because I don’t think there is a big difference between environmental experts and experts in other fields, I think this suggests there is something special about societies ability to detect or understand environmental problems.

Below is the relevant figure from the report.

The report writes:

The differences between environmental experts and their peers from other fields are striking – they assign higher impact and likelihood scores to all 10 risks in the environmental category, with most of these differences being statistically significant at the 5% level (see Appendix 2).

Also there are a number of societal risks where specialists are more alarmed than other respondents, such as rising rates of chronic diseases, unsustainable population growth or unman- aged migration. In the economic category, this pattern holds only for chronic fiscal imbalances. For most other risks in this category, as well as in the geopolitical and in the technological domains, there are few statistically significant differences.

On the other side of the equation, experts in economic issues worry less about the impact and likelihood of severe income disparity than non-experts. Similarly, technological experts worry less than non-experts about the likelihood and impact of unforeseen consequences of nanotechnology.

These findings raise interesting questions. Are economists more informed about economic issues than others, or are there ideological differences at play? Are the technological specialists more knowledgeable here, or does their excitement about new technologies dampen their risk perceptions? And where experts are more worried, does that mean that we should listen to them more, or do they just feel more strongly about their issue without knowing enough about other threats?

The Risks report asked about 6000 experts using an online survey from the “World Economic Forum’s communities, which comprise of top experts and high-level leaders from business, academia, NGOs, international organizations, the public sector and civil society.”  Who were male (7:3)   Their survey had about 1,200 responses which included about 230 environmental experts.

Two research positions at Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to work with SRC

Exciting job opportunities here in Stockholm at Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences to work with Stockholm Resilience Centre:

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is pleased to announce two positions as Early Career Academy Researcher, one for a scholar with a documented background in economics and one for a scholar with a documented background in research on social-ecological interactions. The positions will be part of the Family Erling Persson’s Academy Program on The Ecological Economics of Global Change, lead by Prof. Carl Folke.

Human wellbeing and the Earth system on which it depends are in transition. In a globalised world the economy, society, technology and the environment interact in novel and even unexpected ways. A key challenge is to foster development that is favourable and sustainable for current and future generations, taking into account and respecting the capacity of the biosphere to support such development. Research will address the complex, multi-scale dynamics of social–ecological systems, economic development and critical ecosystem services in the new global context. The dynamics include nonlinear thresholds that can lead to large, persistent changes but also transformations of human actions toward stewardship of social–ecological systems for global sustainability. Part of the program will focus on marine issues in this context.

The Ecological Economics of Global Change program aims to address such challenges and is searching for key collaborators to achieve this. The positions are two plus three years, with potential for continuation. We envision a early career researchers at the level of post-doc or similar. Documented experience from interdisciplinary collaboration is a bonus. The two Early Career Academy Researcher positions will be part of a team with two Academy Researchers, a visiting professor and two other early career researchers, which will form the core of the program.

The program provides a forum for researchers in economics and social-ecological systems to interact and develop joint research, seeking a deeper understanding of the interplay of social-ecological systems and economic development from local to global levels. There will be opportunity for researchers of the program to closely collaborate with the Academy’s Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics and the Stockholm Resilience Centre. A stimulating, trusting and friendly research environment in collaboration with diverse disciplines is provided, focusing on understanding the new global dynamics and the challenges towards sustainability.

The Academy is accepting applications from researchers with a PhD in economics and ecology or related disciplines. We are looking for open minded candidates with exceptional scholarly promise and a rigorous approach to problem solving. We value documented capacity to synthesize knowledge, analyze large data sets and build empirically grounded theory. The successful candidates must be team players who understand how their particular expertise fits within the greater global picture and can collaborate with other researchers in an open-minded and creative way. Salary will depend on the merits of the candidate. The program starts 1 January 2013 and the positions, which are full time, are to be filled as soon as possible for an initial period of two years.

Applicants should submit a single document containing a short letter of interest including a vision of research focus to further the understanding of social-ecological systems in the context of new global dynamics (1-2 page) and Curriculum Vitae including relevant publications (max 3 pages). In addition the applicants should ask a person of their choice to send a letter of recommendation.

Please submit the applications to Christina Leijonhufvud (chris@beijer.kva.se) by 20 February 2013.

Trade union representatives are Magnus Lundgren (SACO), 0046-8-673 95 25 and Peter Jacobsson (ST), 0046-8-673 97 92.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences is an independent organisation whose overall objective is to promote the sciences and strengthen their influence in society.

Resilience Alliance & the Integration of Social and Natural Science in Global Change Research

In a new paper Evolution of natural and social science interactions in global change research programs in PNAS (doi:10.1073/pnas.1107484110), Harold A. Mooney, Anantha Duraiappah, & Anne Larigauderie look back on the history of the integration of Social and Natural Science in global change research and relate this history, the barriers overcome, and the lessons learned to the development of the new global research programme on sustainability science – Future Earth.

The paper places the Beijer Intitute of Ecological Economics efforts build communication between ecologists and economists as very import.  They write:

Much of the mistrust between the ecologists and economists was minimized, because cooperation between these groups was increased through a series of workshops organized by the Beijer Institute of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences under the leadership of Karl-Göran Mäler in 1993 on the Swedish island of Askö. Many seminal papers on the interface between the environment and economics were crafted at these meetings.

The also value the role of the Resilience Alliance, which was also highly connected to the Beijer Institute:

A somewhat parallel approach to sustainability science to integrating social and natural sciences is embodied in the Resilience Alliance that was established in 1999 (http://www.resalliance. org/). This alliance is a network of scientists and institutions that uses a conceptual framework that was first articulated by C. S. Holling in 1986 (42) and updated in 2001 (43). This frame- work is built on the nature of hierarchies and cyclic properties of both ecosystems and social–ecological systems and their adaptive nature. Concrete examples of resilience approaches for sustaining ecosystems and societies in the face of change were clearly articulated in a book published in 2006 by Walker and Salt (44), and the basic principles were described in a textbook by Chapin et al. (45) in 2009. An important component of this framework is developing resilience in systems to avoid crossing over irreversible thresholds (regime shifts) that move systems into a less favorable state for society. Thus, the resilience approach is an important approach to sustainability and has the same goal as sustainability science, but it is built on an overarching theory that sustainability science per se lacks.

The also place a high importance of the contribution of Elinor Ostrom whom, they write:

What About Progress at the International Science Program Level Within Social Sciences?
One of the important contributions from the IHDP community over the past 10 y has been on environmental governance. The first thrust began with the work by Elinor Ostrom and col- leagues under the LUCC. The governance of the commons and the role of local communities in overseeing the use of local resources in contrast to government regulations and private market instruments were a central contribution by the IHDP community over these years. Following the governance of land resources, Oran Young and others began a 10-y study on global governance, bridging the local to global spectrum.

The paper also discusses the key role of geographers and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment in the integration of social and natural sciences, and assesses the post-normal, transdisciplinary research terrain that Future Earth must navigate.

Now the sustainability science community needs build on this success, but also better connect with communities of engineers, architects, planners, and designers so we can all figure out how to actually build a “Good” Anthropocene – or a future that is a good place for us all to live.

Seminar on Role of Design in Anthropocene @ Konstfack, Stockholm – updated

For readers near Stockholm. I’ll be speaking Jan 14th at a seminar on design in the Anthropocene at Konstfack, the University College of Arst, Crafts, and Design in Stockholm.

I’ll give a talk “Co-Creating the Anthropocene: What are some possible roles for design?”

The seminar announcement states:

What is the Anthropocene?
Scientists are beginning to call our current geological period “the human age”, in other words, “the Anthropocene”.
Excerpt from http://www.anthropocene.info/: “Every living thing affects its surroundings. But humanity is now influencing every aspect of the Earth on a scale akin to the great forces of nature.

There are now so many of us, using so many resources, that we’re disrupting the grand cycles of biology, chemistry and geology by which elements like carbon and nitrogen circulate between land, sea and atmosphere. We’re changing the way water moves around the globe as never before. Almost all the planet’s ecosystems bear the marks of our presence.
Our species’ whole recorded history has taken place in the geological period called the Holocene – the brief interval stretching back 10,000 years. But our collective actions have brought us into uncharted territory. A growing number of scientists think we’ve entered a new geological epoch that needs a new name – the Anthropocene. (…)”
What roles could design take and what insights arise in relation to this understanding?
Together with guest speakers, we at ID will be discussing this perspective on design during this important symposium.

–update
The event will be recorded – when it is on the web I will post a link here.

Schedule of speakers

Monday, January 14 2013

09:00   Welcome and introduction/ Martin Avila, Bo Westerlund – Konstfack ID

09:20   Anthropocenic citizens need anthroposcenic imaginaries [and designs]/ Jakob von Heland – Filmmaker and consultant on human ecology and resilience.

09:50   Metadesign and Fashion – How can we mobilise design sensibilities for sustainable products, systems and paradigms? / Dr Mathilda Tham, Visiting Professor in Fashion and Sustainability Beckmans College of Design, Stockholm. Metadesign researcher, Goldsmiths University of London.

10:20   Coffee break

10:40   Co-Creating the Anthropocene: What are some possible roles for design?/ Garry Peterson, Professor in Environmental Sciences with key focus on resilience in social-ecological systems at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University.

11:10   Panel discussion

UPDATE #2:

Videos of the event are now online at Konstfack.

PhD studentship in Political Science at Stockholm University

Are you looking for a PhD studentship in political science, linked to the Stockholm Resilience Centre, and focusing on participation and learning in ecosystem management? Then have a look at the ad below. The student will be based at the Department of Political Science (Stockholm university), supervised by Andreas Duit, and will be embedded in a research team that consists of Lisen Schultz (systems ecologist at the SRC), Örjan Bodin (systems ecologist at the SRC), Cecilia Lundholm (educational scientist), Matthew Plowey (GIS student) and Simon West (PhD student in Natural Resource Management).

Applications are due on December 1st.

The Department of Political Science, Stockholm university, announces an externally funded PhD studentship in comparative ecosystem governance.

Project title
GLEAN — A Global Survey of Learning, Participation and Ecosystem Management (http://www.statsvet.su.se/English/Research/glean.htm)

Project description
The PhD-position is funded by the research programe GLEAN — A Global Survey of Learning, Participation and Ecosystem Management, which is financed by the National Science Council and directed by Associate Professor Andreas Duit.

The programme is hosted by the Department of Political Science in collaboration with Stockholm Resilience Centre and is carried out by a cross-disciplinary research team during the period 2012—2016.

The GLEAN project, in which the PhD project will be embedded, aims to analyse the effect of stakeholder participation in natural resource management programmes on outcomes in ecosystems and learning processes.

By combining a cross-national panel survey of BR-areas in 55 countries, longitudinal biodiversity mapping using satellite imagery, and context-sensitive field work in strategically selected cases studies, the contested role of stakeholder participation in natural resource management will be examined in with a much higher degree of precision and generalizability than previously possible.

Criteria for selection
Applications will be assessed based on the following criteria:
- analytical ability (scientific reports, papers, or degree project thesis)

- practical experience and knowledge related to the project

- knowledge of scientific theory and method

- personal references and gender equality aspects

Eligibility requirements
- completed academic degree at advanced level

- completed courses equivalent to 240 Swedish university credits (of which at least 60 credits at advanced level), or have acquired the equivalent knowledge in another way in Sweden or elsewhere. There are some regulations regarding transition.

For further information on eligibility criteria, application process etc please see http://www.stockholmresilience.org/21/about-us/vacancies/phd-studentship-in-political-science.html

Ocean acidification and resilience: a guest post from Beatrice Crona

This is a guest post from my colleague Beatrice Crona at the Stockholm Resilience Center.

During the past week I have spent my days wrapping my head around complex climate and ocean models during the Third symposium on Oceans in a High-CO2 World (23-27th Sept 2012) where I had been invited to give a plenary on ‘Governance in the context of ocean acidification’, based on work done together with my colleagues Victor Galaz, Henrik Österblom, Per Olsson, and Carl Folke as well as others at the Stockholm Resilience Center.

Ocean acidification is one of the nine planetary processes identified by Rockström et al (2009) as likely to reach critical thresholds and exhibit possibly nonlinear dynamics in the future if we do not curb anthropogenic to on our planet.  Approximately 25% of the CO2 that gets emitted into the atmosphere every year is absorbed by the oceans.  Simply put, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere reacts with ocean water creating carbonic acid. As a result the concentration of hydrogen ions increase while the concentration of carbonate ions decrease.

This symposium has summarized a number of disturbing trends. One of the key issues is that ocean acidification interacts with multiple other stressors to affect change to both individual organisms and whole ecosystems. One example is how ocean acidification will interact with global warming. Increased rates of acidification in colder regions will drive populations of species to migrate south, while increasing temperatures will simultaneous force populations to move north thus creating an ‘acidification/temperature sandwich’.

Much of the work presented at the symposium focuses on the impacts of different planctonic communities and the effects of ocean acidification on both physiology and calcification. Another big chunk of the work presented deals with trying to monitor these effects and their effects on ecosystem dynamics.

Beth Fulton of Australia’s CSIRO, used whole system models of both ecological and social components, showed interesting results of how ocean acidification is likely to affect fisheries in the future with likely ecological reorganizations that will impact communities and industries.

In fact, some fish and seafood industries are already feeling the effects. Since 2008 oyster hatcheries on the West coast of the US have seen some 70-80% reduction in hatchery success. This aquaculture sector represents a 100 million USD industry and ocean acidification clearly poses a real threat to both social and economic aspects of coastal communities.

Needless to say it is a gloomy story that emerges – The question is what can be done and I can’t help wonder what the resilience community can do to contribute to sustainable solutions?

Many of the ecosystem service on which millions of people depend are going to be affected but many of them also are also not easily valued with conventional methods. Resilience scholars are already addressing these issues but can we do more, or do it differently?

Governance clearly plays an important role. The ocean acidification issues is linked to climate change as the underlying cause is the same – increasing atmospheric CO2. But relying on climate change governance discussions to solve the issue may not be enough. While discussions for mitigating CO2 have also included reduction of other green house gases, such as methane, these measures will have no direct effect on ocean acidification. At the same time, several other planetary scale processes, like pollution, biodiversity loss, and nitrogen cycles, will create synergistic pressures on oceans. Understanding this and being able to recommend innovative ways of addressing the combined governance of these issue complexes is going to be necessary, and the resilience community can play an important role here- by understanding which governance structures can best address both incremental and non-linear change.

Finally, one of the key messages emerging from this meeting is the the urgency of the problem and the need for innovations to address both mitigation and adaptation at multiple levels. The X Prize Foundation is launching a competition for innovation as a way to speed up breakthrough technologies to advance ocean acidification understanding.  The formation of  multiple coalitions of willing actors – coming together to address the issue from different perspectives (from local to national to regional) – have been mentioned during the course of this meeting.   Studying these and understanding how, and under which conditions they can effectively promote innovation and diffusion of new ideas will be an important contribution.

This symposium is dominated by natural scientists. While sound science is obviously a key prerequisite for understanding the ocean acidification phenomena, transdisciplinary science is what will help us address the underlying causes. I leave this meeting with mixed feelings – downcast by the mounting pessimistic trends, but hopeful in that as a community resilience scholars have a big role to play by continuing to integrate natural and social science.

Remembering Elinor Ostrom 1933 – 2012

Lin Ostrom will have a lasting effect, not only on those who were privileged to know her. The following comments from friends and colleagues in the RA community have several common themes and one doesn’t have to read far to gain a sense of her legacy. More reflections will be added here in the coming days. I hope reading them brings a small measure of comfort.
——————————————

Lin showed us how someone with extraordinary intellectual power and the highest international recognition can also be a kind, friendly, and supportive human to all. Thank you, Lin, for teaching us so much, in so many ways.
Gary Kofinas

The words that I have most frequently heard when someone describes Lin: energetic, enthusiastic, tireless, and insightful. We can clearly add many more – kind, caring, collaborative, and so on. I’d like to focus on something else, something that always brings a smile to my face. In discussions with many others, I’ve heard mention of this, but I’ve never seen it written…it’s the Sounds of Lin. She chuckled, chortled, cackled, laughed with great mirth, and commented enthusiastically. Her discussions of lab experiments and “cheap talk” often came with a rejoinder about “scumbuckets”. Her frustrated sighs during presentations gave pause to many orators. Her “oohs and aahs” in the middle of formal presentations – both her own and others – always brought a smile to my face. She added more lively sound effects – whams, pows, umphs – than anyone that I know, and her grad students and colleagues just ate it up. One of my fondest memories was going to a hotel gym to get a short run in before a conference. The TV was blaring sports highlights. A few minutes later Lin came in. She started exercising and watching the highlights too. Soon every dunk, goal, or home run was emphasized with a wham, pow, or umph from our little gym too. The memory still makes me smile.
Mike Schoon

Lin’s departure is a great loss to everyone conducting trasnsdisciplinary environmental science, but hopefully we will be able to carry her ideas and determination forward. When I was preparing a speech in honour of Lin’s Nobel prize I spoke to many colleagues and one of the fundamental contributions of Lin’s work which emerged was that it created a platform for transdisciplinary academic research. Many ‘young’ academics said that coming into contact with Lin’s work early on in their careers was crucial for the development of their research. In many ways her work served to legitimize efforts of those seeking to address environmental issues in the field of political science. But it also inspired others, outside the political sciences. Furthermore, despite her many engagements and her high academic standing, Lin always has time to chat to students and offer friendly and sometimes critical but always constructive advise. She also served as a wonderful female role model for all of us (more or less) young women in academic settings.
Another of Lin’s great contributions to research on natural resource management was her use of multiple methods. Although not the only one, she has been very prominent in employing and promoting a multi-method approach to understanding issues of resource management. This has open the eyes of many young scientists from across the natural and social sciences to the value of this approach – and it is one of the important contributions of Lin’s work to our group here at Stockholm Resilience Centre. It has also opened the eyes of many ecologists to the fact that social values, such as social relations and trust-building are in fact very important for understanding resource management outcomes. In summary – Lin has had a tremendous, and fundamental, impact on natural resource management research as we know it today.
Beatrice Crona

Among the many profound lessons that Lin taught by example was that humility is a basic ingredient in human cooperation.
Xavier Basurto

It is rare to find a person, whose achievements were as notable as Lin’s, as interested in others as Lin was. One of my fondest memories of Lin was at the Mock Court that the RAYS organized in Gabriola. She entered into the spirit of the event unreservedly, her eyes shining, her face alight, giving her all in a playful yet deeply serious manner. She always wanted to help and loved to watch young scholars developing their arguments and their expertise. I also remember several personal conversations with her; her life was not always an easy one, and yet she was so glad to be alive, so grateful for the opportunities that had come her way. How rare to find such a spirit of humility and glad grace in someone who had every right to be arrogant and proud! I will miss that enlightening mind and that joyous spirit, very much. We were all lucky to have her with us.
Frances Westley

Lin you are an extraordinary role model and forward thinking individual. You have inspired so many of us to take the bold step into interdisciplinary science. You have also shown us the importance of living life and loving what you do.
Emily Boyd

Her scientific brilliance and analytical sharpness was combined with true curiosity and lack of prestige. In our interactions, she challenged me to think harder, i.e. to be more clear in defining my research questions and to better link theories, methods and data with these questions while simultaneously greatly inspired me to do so. In short, she helped me to be a better scientist, and I will always be grateful to her for that. Her passing is a great loss.
Örjan Bodin

Lin exemplified the very best in the fabulous effectiveness of brilliant curmudgeons in driving attention to the neglected.
Ken Wilson, Christensen

Elinor Ostrom’s work challenged a cultural myth that remains as one of our biggest challenges as a species to learning to live sustainably, and the influence of this contribution will continue to be revealed and realized for decades if not centuries. She is an icon.
My condolences to all feeling this loss,
Philip A Loring

It is difficult for me to write a personal reflection about Lin Ostrom because I am so devastated by the news of her passing that it will take me a long time to recover. I can only speak of her in the present tense. Many others will speak to the brilliance of her scientific work and the profound impact it has had, and will continue to have, on so many branches of science. I want to speak to how Lin is the most amazing person I have ever met. For example Lin visited the University of Wisconsin arriving in the morning of October 5, 2011 and leaving at the ungodly hour of 5:45 am on October 7. The very intense schedule of activities would have completely exhausted any other scientist, but not Lin. I bet that even the bleary-eyed taxi driver who took her to the airport ended up wide awake and simply entranced at the end of the drive. I am sure that the large number of people who experienced her visit were thrilled to be a part of it. As another example, I was part of a group that worked on articles for a special feature collection for PNAS in 2007 that was organized by Lin. Working under her direction was one of the best experiences of my life. Her generosity to everyone that I’ve seen in my experiences with her is unmatched. I don’t know of any words that can describe how special she is.
Buz Brock

Elinor’s rare brand of kind compassion and scholarship endured until her last days. In her final commentary “Green from the Grassroots”, published on-line on 12 June 2012, she wrote: “sustainability at local and national levels must add up to global sustainability”and “time is the natural resource in shortest supply”. Her influence stretched far beyond her own country. Her work for example contributed the emergence of many of the community wildlife management programmes in Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, which catalyzed a number of innovative natural resource management policies throughout southern Africa. This ultimately changed the lives of tens of thousands of rural people and might one day become the basis for sustainable land reform in the region.
Christo Fabricius

As many others have noted, she was a wise and inspirational scholar and colleague, who brought forward and helped shape many important ideas. Personally, I always appreciated her unbounded enthusiasm and thoughtfulness not just for her work, but for life in general.
Phil Taylor

What so many of us aspire to, Lin achieved: to make our home in the universe a better place. I am grateful for the transforming insights she developed and shared, the people she equipped to continue exploring the path she opened up, and the trust, inspiration and constructive questions she brought to every encounter with students and colleagues. Lin has left us, but her imprint will continue to grow.
Lisen Schultz

My most cherished memory is of breakfast with Lin at the Gabriola meeting. We sat with two RAYS – PhD students – and Lin listened intently and asked about their research. She was so genuinely interested and attentive to what they were doing. Her generosity of spirit and commitment to mentoring new researches was so evident. A towering intellect and a true inspiration, who really has changed how we think, I feel so privileged to have known her.
Kate Brown

When I started my PhD, my supervisor gave me “Governing the commons” to read. And I think it really shaped 20 years of my academic and private life. Elinor Ostrom’s legacy goes far beyond her major academic contribution on Common Pool Resources and Socio-Ecosystem. Her constant willingness to challenge predefined boundaries or established methods constitutes such a Fountain of Youth. She has always been serious about paying attention to any idea, whoever it was coming from: a colleague, a farmer, a student… Her optimism and interest to put to the front all the arrangements that make social life easier changed our ways of doing research, building on the distributed innovation capacity across the world. Let’s keep such kind and open-minded attitude in our further works…
Olivier Barreteau

We can thank Lin for investing so much thought, time and resources in building and guiding a large cohort of successors to continue her quest for understanding, using and protecting our precious commons. Even so we are bereaved by the loss of her intellect, imagination, drive and compassion.
Nick Abel


Lin Ostrom at Gabriola Island, 2009. Photo by Garry Peterson.

We read Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” during my undergraduate program in Environmental Studies and it shaped so many careers of fellow students. I am proud to be part of Lin’s legacy in expanding my own students’ frames of reference towards collaboration as a solution. My favorite moment with Lin was on Gabriola Island, where she eagerly took on the role of cross-examiner, slamming her arm down on her desk and taking those of us “on trial” to task for our use of loose definitions. What a brilliant way to learn, and what a wonderful and generous person she was.
Chanda Meek

I remember at Gabriola Island not knowing who the speaker was, and listening rapt. On introduction Lin Ostrom was warm and delightful. What a privilege to have met and listened to her.
Tally Palmer

I, too, have a vivid and intense memory of Lin on Gabriola Island where I met her for the first time. I was in awe of her towering intellect and impressed by her academic leadership. But Lin was also so surprisingly down-to-earth and invited me to join her for lunch. We sat merrily talking about how to make more nudges in the world, and if and how to really determine whether the fish we eat was sustainable or not. Such curiosity and generosity of spirit. A huge loss.
Gail Whiteman

June 2011, Montpellier, at the end of Elinor Ostrom’s conference.
Last question – “Professor Ostrom, can your Nobel Prize make a difference for a better world?”.
Lin’s answer – “That depends more on the young people in this audience than on me. Frankly I’m 77. I’m still working I’m still teaching, I’m still writing but there is only a few more years that I’m going to be really productive and in this audience are young people that have 50 years ahead of them, at least, some maybe 25 but you’ve got lots of future time and if you work together, trying to think how to cross disciplines, how to use multiple methods, how to take on these sorts of things. Is there a problem near where you were born and raised ? is there something near here that you could be studying ? and where could you be doing a one-year overseas ? Go and really get into this. And we have the chance of making a huge difference over time.”

Political Ecology and Resilience

posterI will be participating in a public discussion Resilience and Political Ecology at Upssala University April 27th in a moderated discussion with Prof. Alf Hornborg a professor of Human Ecology at Lund University, which will be moderated by Eva Friman from the Uppsala Centre for Sustainable Development, Uppsala University

The discussion will be Friday 27 April 2012, 14.15-17.00,  Hambergssalen, Geocentrum, Villavägen 16, Uppsala University. More information is on the DevNet website here and here.

Alf Hornburg and I previously had an online discussion on this blog where I tried to understand and respond to his critique of resilience, based on a review Victor Galaz had of a recent paper of his.  I expect that the discussion will be interesting and I hope that there will be some fruitful discussion.

While the discussion has been framed by the organizers as a debate, I do not see political ecology and resilience as opposed.  Indeed, I wrote a 1999 paper in Ecological Economics -Political ecology and ecological resilience: An integration of human and ecological dynamics - (doi:10.1016/S0921-8009(00)00217-2) that suggested some ways I thought ideas from political ecology could be included in resilience thinking.  While resilience researchers have long argued that issues of power need to be included in resilience thinking there hasn’t been a mass movement towards their integration, but there have been a fair number of researchers how have attempted to explicitly combine aspects of political ecology and resilience thinking.

For people that are interested in thinking I’ve stated a group on Mendeley to share papers that attempt to integrate resilience and political ecological theory and methods.  Right now there are about 30 papers in there, but I expect there are a number that have been missed, and I hope Resilience Science readers can add them to the group.

I haven’t carefully read all the papers in the Mendeley group, but three papers that I found particularly interesting are:

  • Karl S Zimmerer’s 2011 The landscape technology of spate irrigation amid development changes: Assembling the links to resources, livelihoods, and agrobiodiversity-food in the Bolivian Andes.  Global Environmental Change 21(3) 917-934. doi:  10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.04.002,
  • McSweeney and Coomes 2001 Climate-related disaster opens a window of opportunity for rural poor in northeastern Honduras<.  PNAS 108(13)  5203-5208.doi:  10.1073/pnas.1014123108
  • Turner and Robbins 2008 Land-Change Science and Political Ecology: Similarities, Differences, and Implications for Sustainability Science.  Annual Review of Environment and Resources 33(1) 295-316. DOI: 10.1146/annurev.environ.33.022207.104943

Conceptual diagram from Turner and Robbins