Category Archives: General

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

Impacts of Geoengineering on Biodiversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity just released a report [PDF] put together by their Liaison Expert group on geo-engineering and biodiversity. The report – to which I have contributed as one of several lead authors – brings together peer-reviewed literature on expected impacts of a suite of geoengineering technologies, on biodiversity and ecosystem services. The last chapter also elaborates social, economical and ethical dimensions as they relate to the technologies’ impacts on biodiversity. Key messages include:

10. There is no single geoengineering approach that currently meets all three basic criteria for effectiveness, safety and affordability.  Different techniques are at different stages of development, mostly theoretical, and many are of doubtful effectiveness. Few, if any, of the approaches proposed above can be considered well-researched; for most, the practicalities of their implementation have yet to be investigated, and mechanisms for their governance are potentially problematic.  Early indications are that several of the techniques, both SRM [Solar Radiation Management, my addition] and CDR [Carbon Dioxide Removal, my addition], are unlikely to be effective at the global scale.
42. Geoengineering raises a number of questions regarding the distribution of resources and  impacts within and among societies and across time. Access to natural resources is needed for some geoengineering techniques. Competition for limited resources can be expected to increase if land-based CDR techniques emerge as a competing activity for land, water and energy use. The distribution of impacts (both positive and negative) of SRM geoengineering is unlikely to be uniform – neither are the impacts of climate change itself. (Section 6.3.4)

Sustainability in the Anthropocene: A Techno-Political Project (not a Scientific one)

This is a guest post by Thad Miller, Assistant Professor in Urban Civic Ecology and Sustainable Communities at Portland State University’s Toulan School of Urban Studies and Planning. You can visit his website here and follow him on Twitter at @Thad_Miller. This is the second post in a series on technology-Anthropocene-resilience. The first post about geoengineering and planetary stewardship, can be found here.

Scientists have declared that the Earth has entered a new epoch—one that is characterized by human impact on the planet’s biophysical processes. So, too, has the notion of the Anthropocene come to dominate discussions around sustainability and the environment in the lead up to Rio+20. One would have been hard pressed to find a single session in which it was not mentioned at last week’s Planet Under Pressure conference in London. Over the past year, we’ve reached a veritable discursive tipping point as an avalanche of papers on one aspect or another of the Anthropocene have hit major scientific journals (including this recent article in Science), the blogosphere, and the popular press. In short, if you haven’t heard of it, it is time to get out of your cozy Holocene cave.

Many of these discussions about the Anthropocene, particularly at Planet Under Pressure, have focused on what scientists know about the human impact on earth systems. For example, to what extent has human activity begun to push the Earth beyond certain “planetary boundaries” beyond which lies potential ecological catastrophe? (Quick aside: for a scathing—if not off-base, according to the moderator of this blog—critique of planetary boundaries see this guest post by Schellenberger and Nordhaus at Roger Pielke, Jr.’s blog).  While such questions may indeed be important, two critical themes are missing in discussions of the Anthropocene: technology and ethics.

The Anthropocene is not an era in which humans simply dominate the world, but an era in which humans engineer it. If there is one thing we humans do, it is building things. This is, of course, part of what got us into this mess (and, paradoxically, what has helped advance human well-being and development throughout much of the world over the last several centuries). We have literally constructed the Anthropocene. What we decide to make of the Anthropocene and make it more desirable (for humans and nonhumans alike) will in large part be influenced and enabled by technology. Yet, if technological innovation got us into this situation (albeit with many incredible benefits), why should we assume that it will get us out? (If, for instance, I was a betting man and I had to choose the more probable pathway to global food security—a sudden shift in the priorities and practices of our global political and economic institutions or technological advances in genetically modified crops and fertilization—I’d choose the latter.) I am not suggesting that we revert to technological fixes; rather, that we begin to think critically about the complex role of technology in both creating unintended consequences and providing sorely needed solutions. Perhaps it is hubris, but we must begin to merge humanity’s great technological project with an ethical one.

Rockström et al. urge us to maintain a “safe operating space for humanity.” This seems like a reasonable place to start (though it does potentially mask important local and regional variations in what that space might look like, how it is determined and by whom). However, the question of what kind of world(s) we want to live in cannot be determined by scientific elites alone (also, those advocating global governance may want to take note of recent attacks by American Tea Party groups). It is a messy social and political task that must tackle a complex net of trade-offs between values—across both space and time, human and nonhuman. It is a task that challenges neat categories of artificial/natural or human/nonhuman and will force a rethinking of knee-jerk reactions against, for instance, technology by some traditional environmentalists. This is an issue that Emma Marris eloquently highlights in her book, Rambunctious Garden.

Our ability to navigate the Anthropocene will depend on our capacity to innovate; hopefully, with a strong dose of humility and guided by an open debate of what trajectory we ought to take. How, for example, can we harness humanity’s proficiency for technological innovation to pursue what Ruth DeFries, Erle Ellis and colleagues refer to as planetary opportunities (for full article, click here)? Both natural and social scientists in the resilience/sustainability community must begin, as Victor Galaz concludes in his earlier post, to more rigorously engage with values, politics and technology. One way to start is to make sure that there are at least a few engineers and humanists at the next Planet Under Pressure (or, better yet, Rio+20).

Thanks to Victor Galaz for inviting me to post on Resilience Science this week.

Can Geoengineering and Planetary stewardship be combined?

Should we deliberately intervene in the Earth system to counteract the negative impacts of climate change? Certainly not, if we ask prominent Earth system scholar Will Steffen. In a recent article published in Ambio , Steffen and colleagues argue that geoengineering and Planetary stewardship are opposing extremes because the former deal with “symptom treatment” rather than the reduction of anthropogenic pressures on the planet (Steffen et al. 2011:752).

In my view, this very much depends on what particular technology you focus on, and on what scale. In a recent article in Ecology and Society “Geo-engineering, Governance, and Social-Ecological Systems: Critical Issues and Joint Research Needs” , I argue that there is an interesting, and unexplored interface between some types of geoengineering technologies, and Planetary stewardship.

One important detail that tends to get lost in the public debate about geoengineering, is that the concept not only includes technologies that intend to counteract warming through the regulation of solar radiation (e.g. injection of stratospheric aerosols, cloud brightening), but also a suite of proposals that build on ecosystem-based approaches such as bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS), long-term storage of charcoal in soils (biochar), and reforestation and afforestation.

Once this wider spectrum of proposed and future technologies is acknowledged, a whole different set of poorly explored issues emerge.

Earth stewards could play a key role in various phases of geo-engineering research, ranging from theory and modeling, to technology development, and subscale field-testing. […] Two issues will prove critical. One is to secure that geo-engineering experiments explore technologies that not only address climate stresses, but could also bring multiple social-ecological benefits to communities. […] Second, participatory and co-management processes always play out within an institutional context. Hence, the creation of institutional mechanisms at the national or international level that support consultation, the disclosure of information, provide ombudsmen functions, and endorse integrated assessments of social-ecological dimensions will provide a critical underpinning for participatory processes (from mentioned article in Ecology and Society).

Is this really geoengineering? Well, if you follow the conventional definitions of the concept, I would argue that it is. But it is geoengineering in a different way. As Mark Stafford-Smith and Lynn Russell so elegantly summarizes it in a recent article in Carbon Management

Instead, the geoengineering debate should urgently be reframed as, “what combination of many smaller geoengineering options could be resilient, least harmful and yet effective in mitigating global environmental change?”

Time has come for the resilience community to think more creatively about technology, and seriously engage with the geoengineering debate.

Additional resources of interest:

Lynn M Russel et al. (2012). “Ecosystem Impacts of Geoengineering: A Review for Developing a Science Plan”, Ambio

STEPS Centre (2012). Biochar: “Triple Wins”, Livelihoods and Technological Promise, STEPS Working Paper [PDF]

Oxford Geoengineering Programme (Oxford University)

Stockholm Seminar with Jason Blackstock on Solar Geoengineering

Montpellier Panel – Growth with Resilience: Opportunities in African Agriculture

The Montpellier Panel, a group of experts from the fields of agriculture, sustainable development, trade, policy, and global development chaired by Gordon Conway from UK’s Imperial College, have a new report ‘Growth with Resilience: Opportunities in African Agriculture’. The report looks at how agriculture is connected to economic growth, food production, climate change and ecosystem services, but interestingly puts resilience at the centre of their approach.  They argue that that while there are many challenges to agriculture in Africa, there are an under appreciated set of opportunities.

The figure below summarizes their report’s strategy.

Gordon Conway has written an article for has a about the report.  He writes:

Developing resilient agriculture will require technologies and practices that build on agro-ecological knowledge and enable smallholder farmers to counter environmental degradation and climate change in ways that maintain sustainable agricultural growth.

Examples include various forms of mixed cropping that enable more efficient use and cycling of soil nutrients, conservation farming, microdosing of fertilisers and herbicides, and integrated pest management.

These are proven technologies that draw on ecological principles. Some build on traditional practices, with numerous examples working on a small scale. In Zambia, conservation farming, a system of minimum or no-till agriculture with crop rotations, has reduced water requirements by up to 30 per cent and used new drought-tolerant hybrids to produce up to five tons of maize per hectare — five times the average yield for Sub-Saharan Africa.

The imperative now is scaling up such systems to reach more farmers.

Another solution is to increase the use of modern plant and animal breeding methods, including biotechnology. These have been successful in providing resistance to various pests of maize, sorghum, cowpeas, groundnuts and cotton; to diseases of maize and bananas; and to livestock diseases.

These methods can help build resilience rapidly. We need to combine them with biotechnology-based improvements in yield through improved photosynthesis, nitrogen uptake, resistance to drought and other impacts of climate change.

Agro-ecology and modern breeding methods are not mutually exclusive. Building appropriate, improved crop varieties into ecological agricultural systems can boost both productivity and resilience.

Developing agriculture with resilience depends on science, technology and innovation; but there are no magic bullets. We need strong political leadership.

An excellent example is Ghana, where agricultural gross domestic product has risen by five per cent each year for the past decade and the millennium development goal of halving hunger by 2015 has already been achieved.This was largely due to the leadership of former president John Kufuor who gave agricultural development a high priority and created an enabling environment for the adoption of new technologies and other innovations.

Arctic Resilience Assessment research position at SRC

Stockholm Resilience Centre is looking for a researcher in Resilience in Arctic Social-Ecological Systems.  Applications are due Jan 23. The job ad states:

In a joint venture with the Stockholm Environmental Institute,  Stockholm Resilience Centre seeks a researcher to be scientific leader in an Arctic Resilience Report (ARR). The ARR has been approved as an Arctic Council project and is a priority for the Swedish chairmanship of the Arctic Council. The goal of the project is to better understand impacts and risks related to integrated processes of change in the Arctic with focus on the risk for rapid shifts in ecosystems services that affect human well-being. The ARR will furthermore explore strategies to build social-ecological resilience among Arctic communities.

The ARR includes activities until 2015. It is based on active engagement with stakeholders both in identifying valuable aspects of social-ecological systems in the Arctic and identifying drivers that affect them. This will be followed by an analysis of potential tipping points that can affect important ecosystems services and human well-being. An integral part of the assessment is also to identify policy and management options that may be needed for strengthening resilience, for adaptation, and for transformational change when this is necessary. The method for the project will build on and extend the approach developed in the Resilience Assessment workbook.

Work Tasks
You will be the scientific leader of the ARR and work closely with the project leader and other staff at the Stockholm Resilience Centre and Stockholm Environment Institute and also with international networks, including the “Resilience Alliance”. Roles and responsibilities of the ARR Scientific Leader include:

  • Provide the scientific leadership in developing and carrying out the resilience assessment in the ARR.
  • Initiate and support different project activities under the ARR, and lead the method development for the resilience assessment.
  • Be the lead person in synthesizing insights and in structuring the interim and final reports of the ARR, and function as one of the lead authors.
  • Together with the ARR Project Leader, establish knowledge partnerships (international research networks, interactions with Arctic Council working groups and core programs, and engagement with key stakeholder groups) required in the assessment work.
  • Work closely with the Project Leader and the rest of the project team on all matters, including raising additional funds.
  • Start establishing an Arctic research group at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, together with the centre leadership.


  • Mid-level to senior academic experience in resilience research and integrated assessments.
  • Experience from research on social-ecological systems and resilience.
  • Research experience from the Arctic region.
  • Experience from policy oriented assessments/studies and participatory research processes.
  • Experience or familiarity with the Arctic Council.

Conditions of Employment
Employment is part-time to full-time (50-100 %), depending on the applicant and to be negotiated individually. Fixed-term contract of one year, subject to renewal up to four years in total. Access immediately. Stockholm University administers individual wages, therefore, please indicate salary requirement.

For more details see the full position announcement.

Three social science and sustainability positions at ASU

While Stockholm is looking for one professor in the environmental social sciences, ASU is looking for 3 social scientists working on sustainability.  The job ad is below and applications are due in early January:

The School of Sustainability at Arizona State University invites applications for up to three tenure track faculty positions at the assistant or associate professor level

The School of Sustainability at Arizona State University invites applications for up to three faculty positions either at the tenure-track assistant professor level or tenured associate professor level. The appointment is in an innovative interdisciplinary academic program in sustainability (see Applicants must be committed to a research and education program in sustainability and will teach both undergraduate and graduate courses, seek external funding on their own initiative or as part of a team, conduct interdisciplinary sustainability research, publish in sustainability journals in their area of specialization, as well as perform appropriate university, professional, and community service.

The School of Sustainability is the first of its kind: a comprehensive degree-granting program with a transdisciplinary focus on finding real-world solutions to environmental, economic, and social challenges. Established in 2007, the School is part of the Global Institute of Sustainability. Our mission is to bring together multiple disciplines and leaders to create and share knowledge, train a new generation of scholars and practitioners, and develop practical solutions to some of the most pressing environmental, economic, and social challenges of sustainability, especially as they relate to urban areas. The School of Sustainability takes a transdisciplinary approach in its curriculum, addressing a broad spectrum of global challenges, including: energy, materials, and technology; water quality and scarcity; international development; ecosystems; social transformations; food and food systems; and policy and governance.

Successful candidates must have an earned doctorate at the time of appointment in the humanities, sciences, or social sciences, and must demonstrate that sustainability is the core organizing principle in their research, scholarship, and teaching. They must also demonstrate: experience working effectively in interdisciplinary teams; a record of excellence in teaching and other educational activities; a strong record of scholarly achievement and publications appropriate to rank; strong communication skills; and evidence of potential to secure research funding appropriate to rank.

Special emphasis will be placed on candidates who demonstrate rigorous qualitative or quantitative methodological expertise relevant to sustainability scholarship (for example, the analysis of complex adaptive systems, assessment techniques, decision and policy analysis, or participatory [action] research); experience with engaging diverse communities in research practice and problem-solving; research interests at the international level (including collaborative work with partners in developing countries) and innovative approaches to education.

To review and apply to this position, please visit and search for the position under the Global Institute of Sustainability. The initial application deadline is January 8, 2012. Applications will continue to be accepted and reviewed weekly thereafter until the search is closed. Applicants must submit a cover letter that addresses the criteria described above, current curriculum vita, statement of teaching philosophy, and the names, phone numbers addresses, and e-mail addresses of three references. Only electronic applications will be accepted. A background check is required for employment. Arizona State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer. The School of Sustainability actively encourages diversity among its applicants and workforce.