Tag Archives: policy

Incorporating Ecosystem Services in International Policy

Researchers from PBL in the Netherlands and IISD in Canada have a released a new report Prospects for Mainstreaming Ecosystem Goods and Services in International Policies, which can be downloaded from the PBL website PDF 2.1 MB.  The report argues that the incorporation of ecosystem services (which they call ecosystem goods and services)  into international policy could reduce poverty.  Some of their findings:

Integrating Ecosystem Goods and Services (EGS) into various international policy domains conveys significant opportunities to contribute to reducing poverty while improving EGS delivery at the local level. Mainstreaming (integration) EGS can become an important element of natural resource and biodiversity policies.

Although most management decisions affecting ecosystem services are made at a local level, these local decisions are conditioned by national and international policies. International policy domains  – including development assistance, trade, climate, and the policies of international financial institutions – provide clear opportunities to mainstream EGS in ways that can support poverty

Positive poverty reduction and EGS outcomes cannot be taken for granted; in many cases trade offs between decreasing poverty and EGS delivery will occur. A major challenge is to ensure that loss of EGS at least results in sustainable improvements in social or economic development of the poor.
Consistent policies across scales and policy domains based on analysis of the local situation are necessary to minimize these trade offs and prevent loose-loose situations.

Building Resilience in Ontario – more than metaphor or arcane concept

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario’s latest annual report entitled “Building Resilience”. This was a pleasant surprise. Off the top, the Commissioner’s report credits Buzz Holling and the ecological origins of resilience and offers the example of forest fire regimes in Northern Ontario and the systems’ inherent capacity for renewal. Further on the report applies resilience thinking to specific issues including biodiversity conservation and implications of a new MNR (Ministry of Natural Resources) biofibre policy to burn forestry “wastes” for fuel:

“Transforming waste to energy and revenue certainly is attractive from a short-term efficiency standpoint. But there are long-term cycles in play too. An appreciation of resilience dynamics would encourage managers to think hard about the long-term ecosystem functions of these “wastes,” including their role as reserve capital, held in store for the next generation. If nutrient-rich branches, needles and leaves are increasingly harvested rather than left on the forest floor to decompose, what will be the consequences for nutrient cycling? What increased stresses may this place on forest soil fertility, on communities of soil micro-organisms and on future forests?”

Inadvertently, the report also amused with its initial introduction of resilience as an “arcane concept that has lurked in the dank halls of ecological academia for almost four decades”. I’d prefer to think of it as a concept that has been simmering. At any rate, resilience thinking appears to be finding a place in Ontario.

The spring issue of Alternatives journal, Canada’s national environmental magazine, echoes the title “Building Resilience” and offers both a “Hardcore Guide to Resilience” and an interview with Buzz Holling. In addition a piece by Andrew McMurry on “The Rhetoric of Resilience” offers some insight from a linguistic perspective on why perhaps the term itself might be resonating so strongly at this particular point in time:

“Resilience answers nicely to the real and rhetorical exigence. To be sure, resilience is in one sense merely the capacity of systems to absorb stress and maintain or even repair themselves. But resilience is also metaphor that embodies a number of characteristics that Aristotle required of all good figures of speech: it is active, primordial, concise and appropriate.

Resilience implies action, as in “building resilience”. To be resilient suggests an inner toughness: the strength, as its etymology tells us, to “jump back” to a previous state. Sustainability, by contrast, suggests a defensive posture: a desire to stay the same, to resist change, without the attractive ability to push back against change and win out. Resilience also connotes a measure of risk, while sustainability suggests that systems are set: they simply need to be cared for and so carried forward. Resilience acknowledges that risk is a constant, and that systems are always in a struggle against dissipation. If the seas are always calm and the weather mild, you don’t need to be resilient. But in this world, you must be resilient to survive.”

A report from Copenhagen

Climate change blues: how scientists cope a report from the recent Research Congress on Climate Change in Copenhagen:

Being a climate scientist these days is not for the faint of heart, as arguably no other area of research yields a sharper contrast between “eureka!” moments, and the sometimes terrifying implications of those discoveries for the future of the planet.

“Science is exciting when you make such findings,” said Konrad Steffen, who heads the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) in Boulder, Colorado.

“But if you stop and look at the implications of what is coming down the road for humanity, it is rather scary. I have kids in college — what do they have to look forward to in 50 years?”

And that’s not the worst of it, said top researchers gathered here last week for a climate change conference which heard, among other bits of bad news, that global sea levels are set to rise at least twice as fast over the next century as previously thought, putting hundreds of millions of people at risk.

What haunts scientists most, many said, is the feeling that — despite an overwhelming consensus on the science — they are not able to convey to a wider public just how close Earth is to climate catastrophe.

That audience includes world leaders who have pledged to craft, by year’s end, a global climate treaty to slash the world’s output of dangerous greenhouse gases.

It’s as if scientists know a bomb will go off, but can’t find the right words to warn the people who might be able to defuse it.