Category Archives: Vulnerability

Building more resilient neighborhoods

Elena Bennett writes:
If, as Alex Steffen argued recently on World Changing, increasing neighborhood resilience is important, how can we go about ensuring that our communities are resilient as possible? Steffen writes, for example that, “Communities which have been designed to be walked and biked rather than driven can better withstand a disruption in the supply of gas.”

The Orion Grassroots Network has a new member, an informal organization that could increase neighborly communication, effectively making communities more resilient. The organization is called the Professional Porch Sitters.

The group was started by Claude Stephens (a.k.a. Crow Hollister) in Louisville, KY, who writes:

“There are no dues, no membership requirements, no mailings, no agenda, no committees, no worries. PPS believes that the radical act of sitting around sharing stories with no specific agenda is critical to building sustainable communities….To become a member you simply need to say you are a member and agree to sit around with friends and neighbors shooting the breeze as often as possible or practical. Preferably on a porch but that’s not critical…

Television and air-conditioning have moved far too many people off their porches and into their homes where they quickly become isolated from their communities. We believe that sometimes the most effective course of action is to sit down and relax while sipping lemonade and sharing stories.”

National Public Radio’s show All Things Considered recently had a story on the merits of porches which mentioned the Professional Porch Sitters in which they write:

“Porches, debate and democracy go together.”

You can find out more about starting your own chapter of the Professional Porch Sitters at the Orion Grassroots Network

Levin Asks What are the Fundamental Questions in Biology?

In PLoS Biology ecologist Simon Levin asks what are the Fundamental Questions in Biology. His essay introduces a new series of essays in PLoS Biology that are meant to pose questions that span biology. He argues that robustness, which to me seems pretty much the same as resilience, is at the heart of these questions. He writes:

At the core of this potential future shift in biological sciences is the recognition that all biological systems are what have come to be known as complex adaptive systems, in which macroscopic patterns reflect the collective dynamics of individual units at lower levels of organization and feed back to affect those more microscopic dynamics. Evolutionary changes operate on multiple levels and multiple scales: from cells, to organisms, to populations, to communities and the biosphere. As my Princeton colleague, Philip Anderson, wrote years ago, “more is different.” Although the details at lower levels govern the behavior at higher levels, understanding those details is not sufficient for understanding how macroscopic patterns emerge or how natural selection operates at lower levels to lead to those patterns. Where those patterns refer to properties of the organism, natural selection operates to modify the details, such as the rules that govern organismal development due to feedbacks from fitness differences among organisms. On the other hand, where those properties refer to those of the biosphere, there is no comparable process of natural selection choosing among competing biospheres. What properties arise are hence largely emergent, reflecting selective events at much lower levels of organization. This is the principal reason that our biosphere is in trouble. It also emphasizes the importance of understanding at what levels selection operates most strongly.The questions that biologists from diverse subdisciplines are asking have commonalities that make clear the continued existence of fundamental challenges that unify biology and that should form the core of much research in the decades to come. Some of these questions are as follows: What features convey robustness to systems? How different should we expect the robustness of different systems to be, depending on whether selection is operating primarily on the whole system or on its parts? How does robustness trade off against adaptability? How does natural selection deal with environmental noise and the consequent uncertainty at diverse scales? When does synchrony emerge, and what are its implications for robustness? When and how does cooperative behavior emerge, and can we derive lessons from evolutionary history to foster cooperation in a global commons?

These are among what we identify as fundamental questions in biology, cutting across subdisciplines and with the potential to reunify the subject. To encourage recognition of these challenges, PLoS Biology is publishing a series of brief discussion papers raising core issues and designed to be provocative (the first in the series is published today [DOI: 10.1371/journal.pbio.0040299]). Contributions to the Challenges Series are encouraged; ideas should be sent to

Biodiversity Loss Threatens Human Well-Being

Sandra Díaz, Joseph Fargione, Terry Chapin and David Tilman have nice a Millennium Ecosystem Assessment based review essay Biodiversity Loss Threatens Human Well-Being in PLOS Biology. The article summarizes current understanding of how biodiversity influences human wellbeing.

fig 1 plos biolHuman societies have been built on biodiversity. Many activities indispensable for human subsistence lead to biodiversity loss, and this trend is likely to continue in the future. We clearly benefit from the diversity of organisms that we have learned to use for medicines, food, fibers, and other renewable resources. In addition, biodiversity has always been an integral part of the human experience, and there are many moral reasons to preserve it for its own sake. What has been less recognized is that biodiversity also influences human well-being, including the access to water and basic materials for a satisfactory life, and security in the face of environmental change, through its effects on the ecosystem processes that lie at the core of the Earth’s most vital life support systems.

By affecting the magnitude, pace, and temporal continuity by which energy and materials are circulated through ecosystems, biodiversity in the broad sense influences the provision of ecosystem services. The most dramatic changes in ecosystem services are likely to come from altered functional compositions of communities and from the loss, within the same trophic level, of locally abundant species rather than from the loss of already rare species. Based on the available evidence, we cannot define a level of biodiversity loss that is safe, and we still do not have satisfactory models to account for ecological surprises. Direct effects of drivers of biodiversity loss (eutrophication, burning, soil erosion and flooding, etc.) on ecosystem processes and services are often more dramatic than those mediated by biodiversity change. Nevertheless, there is compelling evidence that the tapestry of life, rather than responding passively to global environmental change, actively mediates changes in the Earth’s life-support systems. Its degradation is threatening the fulfillment of basic needs and aspiration of humanity as a whole, but especially, and most immediately, those of the most disadvantaged segments of society.

Neighborhood Resilience

On WorldChanging Alex Steffen writes the need to increase Neighbourhood resilience to shocks in Neighborhood Survivability:

Disasters, including big, system-disrupting disasters, are likely to become more common over the coming decades. Whether they are caused by “ordinary” system failures (like the North American blackout of 2003), terrorism, pandemic, climate change or global instabilities, we should all be prepared to live through times of shortages, service interruptions and danger.

Conventional thinking about disasters in the developed world revolves around seeing that people are prepared as individuals to survive for the short time it takes the authorities to respond to the emergency situation and restore normality. Almost no thought is given to changing the models for systems to make them substantially less brittle and more resilient.

But our planet is getting more dangerous (even uninsurable) and, as New Orleans has shown, recovery is not always rapid, even in wealthy countries. While individual preparedness and government response continue to be vital, perhaps we need to be putting a lot more thought into how we make the neighborhoods in which we live less vulnerable to disasters in the first place. Working with our neighbors and local government to increase the resilience of our communities might be one of the smartest moves we can make.

Ecological Engineering and New Orleans

Robert Costanza, William Mitsch, and John Day, three ecologists with long experience with wetlands, New Orleans, and ecological economics, have an editorial in the journal Ecological Engineering on Creating a sustainable and desirable New Orleans (pdf). Their arguement is a more ecological version of the vison of a new bright green city presented by Alan AtKisson in his post Dreaming a New New Orleans.

Costanza et al write:

The Federal government has pledged over US$ 100 billion for the New Orleans and Gulf coast region to be rebuilt after this terrible (but predictable) tragedy. The question is not if but how it should be rebuilt. What was there can simply be replaced, but this would merely be setting the pins up to be knocked down again by a future big hurricane, the destructive powers of which are increasing worldwide, probably due to global warming. In addition, sea level is rising and New Orleans continues to sink, making the city even more vulnerable over time.

What is needed is a new vision of a truly New Orleans—one that can provide a sustainable and high quality of life for all of its citizens while it works in partnership (not in futile opposi- tion) with the natural forces that shaped it. This New Orleans can serve as a metaphor and a model for the sustainable devel- opment of western industrial society more generally.

The built capital of New Orleans has been radically depleted and must be rebuilt. We can recreate the vulnerable and unsustainable city that was there, or we can reinvent New Orleans as a model of a sustainable and desirable city of the future. To do this, we need to redesign and restore not only the built infrastructure, but also the social, human, and natural capital of the region. How do we do this and what would a truly sustainable and desirable New Orleans look like? Here are some of the elements of a sustainable vision:

1. Let the water decide: Building a city below sea level is always a dangerous proposition. While parts of New Orleans are still at or above sea level, much of it had sunk well below sea level since the first quarter of the 20th century. It is not sustainable or desirable to rebuild these areas in the same way they were before. They should be either replaced with coastal wetlands which are allowed to trap sediments to rebuild the land (see below), or replaced with buildings that are adapted to occasional flooding (i.e., on pilings or floats). Wetlands inside the levees can help clean waters, store short-term flood waters, provide habitat for wildlife, and become an amenity for the city. Coastal wetlands outside the levees should be rebuilt so that the city has both wetlands and levees to protect the city.

2. One should avoid abrupt boundaries between deepwater sys- tems and uplands. Gentle slopes with wetlands are the best division, and avoid putting humans, particularly those who have few resources to avoid hydrologic disasters, in harm’s way. Of course the abrupt boundaries of the levees are nec- essary, since wetlands alone cannot protect the city, but we need to use both as appropriate.

3. Restore natural capital: Coastal wetlands in Louisiana have been estimated to provide US$ 375/acres/yr (US $940/ha/yr—these and all subsequent figures have been converted to US$ 2004) in storm and flood protection services. Hurricane Katrina has shown this to be a large underestimate. Restoring Louisiana’s coastal wetlands and New Orleans levees has been estimated to cost US$ 25 billion. Had the original wetlands been intact and levees in better shape, a substantial portion of the US$ 100 billion plus damages from this hurri- cane probably could have been avoided. Prevention would have been much cheaper and more effective than recon- struction. In addition, the coastal wetlands provide other ecosystem services which when added to the storm pro- tection services have been estimated to be worth about US$ 5200/acres/yr (US$ 12,700/ha/yr). Restoring the 4800 km2 (480,000 ha) of wetlands lost prior to Katrina would thus restore US$ 6 billion/yr in lost ecosystem services, or US$ 200 billion in present value (at a 3% discount rate).

4. In order to do this we should use the resources of the Mississippi River to rebuild the coast, changing the current system that constrains the river between levees, and allow the resources of freshwater, sediments, and nutrients to flow into the deeper waters of the Gulf. Diversions of water, nutrients, and sediments from the Mississippi are a major component of the LCA plan. These planned diversions should be greatly expanded in order to allow more rapid restoration of the coastal wetlands. Levees are necessary in some locations, but where possible the levees should be breeched by structures in a controlled way to allow marsh rebuilding.

5. We should restore the built capital of New Orleans to the highest standards of high-performance green buildings and a car-limited urban environment with high mobility for everyone. New Orleans has abundant renewable energy sources in solar, wind, and water. What better message than to build a 21st-century sustainable city running on renewable energy on the rubble of a 20th century oil and gas production hub. In other words, New Orleans should be built higher, stronger, much more efficient, and designed to make extensive use of renewable energy. One can imag- ine a new pattern for the residential neighborhoods of New Orleans with strong, multistory, multifamily buildings surrounded by green space, each with enough water and fuel storage for several weeks, and operating principally on wind and solar energy.

6. We should rebuild the social capital of New Orleans to 21st-century standards of diversity, tolerance, fairness, and justice. New Orleans has suffered long enough with social capital dating from the 18th (or even the 15th) century. To do this the planning and implementation of the rebuilding must maximize participation by the entire community. This will certainly be difficult for a number of reasons, including the historical antecedents of racism and classcism in the region, and the fact that much of the population has been forcibly removed from the city. But it is absolutely essential if the goals of a sustainable and desirable future are to be achieved.

7. Finally, we should restore the Mississippi River Basin to min- imize coastal pollution and the threats of river flooding in New Orleans. Upstream changes in the 3 million km2 Mississippi drainage basin have significantly changed nutrient and sediment delivery patterns to the delta. Changes in farming practices in the drainage basin can improve not only the coastal restoration process, but also improve the nation’s agricultural economy by promoting sustainable farming practices in the entire basin.

Resilience networks in global environmental change science

In a new paper, Scholarly networks on resilience, vulnerability and adaptation within the human dimensions of global environmental change, Marco Janssen and others have analyzed the networks of co-authorships and citation among research on resilience, vulnerability, and adaptation in human dimensions of global change research. They analyzed co-authorship and citations among 2286 publications between 1967 and 2005 (3860 unique authors and 10,286 co-authors).

Janssen et al identified the most central scholars, publications, and journals in the knowledge domains of resilience, vulnerability and adaptation.

network of coauthorship

Figure 2 Co-author network of most productive and best connected authors with the strongest co-authorship relations. Circles denote author nodes and are labeled by the authors’ last name and first initials. The larger the node, the more publications. The darker the node, the more the co-authors. Black nodes refer to 50 or more co-authors, while white nodes refer to less than 10 co-authors. Edges represent co-authorship relations. The width of an edge represents the relative number of co-author relationships (Janssen et al 2006).

Janssen et al found that the number of publications in all domains increased rapidly between 1995 and 2005, while co-authorship increased from 1.5 authors to 2.5 authors per paper between the 1970s and early 2000s. Despite this increase in number of publications and co-authorship, the resilience knowledge domain is only weakly connected with the other two domains. However, overall there is an increasing number of cross citations and papers contributing to multiple knowledge domains.

The complete database of papers can be analyzed online, on Marco Janssen’s website. However, because this is the Resilience Science weblog, I’ve an image showing the citation network among the most cited papers on resilience (in human dimensions of global change) is shown below. Size corresponds to the number of citations.

Citations within resilience domain
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Urban ecology & the World Urban Forum – Planet of Slums?

In 1978 the first meeting of UN Habitat occurred in Vancouver. Thirty years later, Un Habitat’s World Urban Forum runs from June 19th-23rd 2006 in Vancouver. During the time between these meetings the world’s urban population has grown rapidly, in particular in developing countries. Both these trends can be seen in a last of the world’s biggest cities in 1975 and 2005.

Largest cities 1975 Population (Millions) Largest cities 2005 Population (Millions)
Tokyo, Japan 26.6 Tokyo, Japan 35.3
New York-Newark, USA 15.9 Mexico City, Mexico 19
Shanghai, China 11.4 New York-Newark, USA 18.5
Mexico City, Mexico 10.7 Mumbai, India 18.3
Osaka-Kobe, Japan 9.8 Sao Paulo, Brazil 18.3
Sao Paulo, Brazil 9.6 Delhi, India 15.3
Buenos Aires, Argentina 9.1 Calcutta, India 14.3
Los Angeles, USA 8.9 Buenos Aires, Argentina 13.3
Paris, France 8.6 Jakarta, Indonesia 13.2
Beijing, China 8.5 Shanghai, China 12.7

In 1975, 5 of the largest cities were in developing countries, in 2005, 80%. In 1978, about 1/3 of the world’s population lived in cities, today it is 2/3. Indeed most of the world’s net population growth in coming decades is expected to occur in developing world cities.

Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, Under-Secretary-General and executive director of UN-HABITAT, reviewing Mike Davis’ book Planet of Slums identifies the vulnerability of slums:

Slum dwellers are more vulnerable than most to hazards such as volcanos, floods, earthquakes, landslides, fires and road traffic accidents. Their health is constantly under threat from inadequate sanitation and low-quality drinking water. As Davis writes: “The most extreme health differentials are no longer between towns and countrysides, but between the urban middle classes and the urban poor.” This conclusion is echoed in the State of the World’s Cities report, which describes how the poor are forced to pay an “urban penalty” that encompasses poor health, early death and vulnerability to both natural and human-made disasters.

UN Habitat has released State of the World’s Cities Report 2006/7 (which annoyingly isn’t available on the web). From a BBC article Report reveals global slum crisis

Slum-dwellers who make up a third of the world’s urban population often live no better – if not worse – than rural people, a United Nations report says.

Worst hit is Sub-Saharan Africa where 72% of urban inhabitants live in slums rising to nearly 100% in some states.

Some states, the report notes, have already taken significant action to improve conditions, notably in Latin America where about 31% of urban people are classified as living in slums (figures for 2005) – down from 35% in 1990.

Of the urban population of South Asia, 57% live in slums though this is down on the 1990 figure of nearly 64%.

A slum is defined by UN Habitat as a place of residence lacking one or more of five things: durable housing, sufficient living area, access to improved water, access to sanitation and secure tenure.

Slums have existed in what is now the developed world since the Industrial Revolution and 6% of its current urban population also fall under Habitat’s definition.

However, the growth in slums is unprecedented, Habitat finds, and the nature of the problem has also changed.

Dr Tibaijuka told journalists that urbanisation in itself was not the problem as it drove both national output and rural development.

“History has shown that urbanisation cannot be reversed,” she continued.

“People move to the cities not because they will be better off but because they expect to be better off.”

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has a set of resources – Slum Cities – on the state of urbanization in the developing world, including articles on Bombay, Cairo, and an interview with Mike Davis, along with a good set of internet links. They are also have a variety of special coverage of WUF.

Rebuilding New Orleans: Don’t build on quicksand

Down to Earth points to a Washington Post editorial (June 7th) that writes:

… the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers admitted responsibility for much of the destruction of New Orleans. … As the Corps’ own inquiry found, the agency committed numerous mistakes of design: Its network of pumps, walls and levees was “a system in name only”; it failed to take into account the gradual sinking of the local soil; it closed its ears when people pointed out these problems. The result was a national tragedy.

…the New Orleans disaster has illustrated the folly of building flood defenses for vulnerable low land: Some of the worst-hit areas would not have been developed in the first place if the Corps hadn’t decided to build “protections” for them. Encouraging the Army Corps of Engineers to build Category 5 defenses for all of Louisiana, including parts that are sparsely populated for good reason, would not merely cost billions that would be better spent on defending urban areas. It would encourage settlement of more flood-prone land and set the stage for the next tragedy.

On Down to Earth, Daniel Collins comments on how this behaviour falls into the pathology of natural resource management:

The engineering that the Corps offers provides residents and residents-to-be with a false sense of security. There is an implicit belief that since we have re-worked nature as much as we have in the past, or that we have been given dominion over the Earth, that we can continue in the same vein without limit. Modern societies endeavour to isolate themselves from the vagaries of the environment. What that has given us is a higher quality of living, offset by disasters like Katrina. Hurricanes will continue to roll into Louisiana, with or without global warming; New Orleans will continue to sink; and eventually the Mississippi will transfer its discharge into the Atchafalaya.

Building buffers against nature is a sound strategy, but it should be supplemented by building into society a degree of resilience and flexibility. Part of this is the ability (strength even?) to impose limits on building in unsafe regions. This may constrain liberties, but Katrina constrained the ultimate liberty of at least 1,800 people.

Future Oceans: Warming Up, Rising High, Turning Sour

The world’s oceans are warming, rising, and acidifing due to human action. The German Advisory Council on Global Change (WBGU) on May 31 2006 released a new report on climate change and the world’s oceans, The Future Oceans: Warming Up, Rising High, Turning Sour, that synthesizes current knowledge on climate change and oceans. They state that climate change in combination with over-fishing is threatening already depleted fish stocks. Sea-level rise is exposing coastal regions to mounting flood and hurricane risks. They argue that to keep the impacts on human wellbeing within manageable limits it is necessary to both increase coastal and ocean resilience and reduce the amount of future global warming and ocean acidification. The WBGU recommends that societies act to:

Limit acidification and temperature rise
Adaptation measures can only succeed if sea-level rise, ocean warming and ocean acidification are limited to tolerable levels. The only way to do this is through aggressive climate protection policies. WBGU has already recommended previously that the rise in global mean temperature be limited to a maximum of 2 degrees Celsius above the pre-industrial level. Ocean conservation is a further reason for imposing this limit. Furthermore, in order to restrain acidification it is essential to reduce not only emissions of the overall basket of greenhouse gases, but also to ensure that carbon dioxide emissions in particular are sufficiently abated. It follows in WBGU’s view that global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions will need to be approximately halved by 2050 from 1990 levels.

Strengthen the resilience of marine ecosystems
To strengthen the resilience of marine ecosystems to elevated seawater temperatures and acidification, it is essential to manage marine resources sustainably. In particular, over-fishing must be stopped. In addition, WBGU recommends designating at least 20–30 per cent of the global marine area as conservation zones. The international community has already adopted goals in this regard, for instance at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg. These must now be implemented, and the regulatory gap for the high seas closed by adopting an appropriate international agreement.

Develop new strategies for coastal protection
About every fifth person lives within 30 kilometres of the sea. Many of these people are put at immediate risk by sea-level rise and hurricanes. Coastal protection is thus becoming a key challenge for society, not least in financial terms. National and international strategies for mitigation and adaptation need to be further developed and harmonized. This includes plans for a managed retreat from endangered areas. In developing countries, financing needs to be secured by means of both existing and innovative financing instruments such as micro-insurance.

Give legal certainty to refugees from sea-level rise
At present, international law neither establishes a commitment to receive people who are forced to leave coastal areas or islands because of climate change, nor is the cost question resolved. Over the long term, a quota system is conceivable, under which states would have to adopt responsibility for refugees in line with their greenhouse gas emissions. This will require formal international agreements and the establishment of dedicated funds for international compensation payments.

Use carbon dioxide storage only as a transitional solution
To mitigate emissions, carbon dioxide can be captured in energy-generating facilities and then stored in geological formations on land or under the sea floor. Direct injection into the deep sea is a further option under debate, but this lacks permanence and harbours a risk of ecological damage in the deep sea. WBGU therefore recommends prohibiting the injection of carbon dioxide into seawater in general. In contrast, storing carbon dioxide in geological formations under the sea floor can present a transitional solution for climate protection, complementing more sustainable approaches such as enhancing energy efficiency and expanding renewable energies. Permits should only be granted, however, if such storage is environmentally sound and is secure for at least 10,000 years.

Ecology and Development: the MA & MDGs

Strategy for Sust Dev - Sachs & Reid Science 2006 The economist Jeffrey Sachs, the director the development oriented Millennium Project, and the ecologist Walt Reid, former director of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment have written a joint policy forum in Science (May 19, 2006) Investments Toward Sustainable Development. They note that both projects have broad agreement about the need to integrate ecology and poverty alleviation.  They recommend that the world invest in ecological infrastructure in poor countries and establish a periodic assessment of the benefits that people obtains from ecosystems. They write:

The United Nations (U.N.) Millennium Project and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment highlighted the centrality of environmental management for poverty reduction and general well-being. Each report emphasized the unsustainability of our current trajectory. Millions of people die each year because of their poverty and extreme vulnerability to droughts, crop failure, lack of safe drinking water, and other environmentally related ills. The desperation of the poor and heedlessness of the rich also exact a toll on future well-being in terms of habitat destruction, species extinction, and climate change.

The goal of the Millennium Project is to develop and to promote practical plans for achieving the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for ending poverty, eradicating hunger, achieving universal primary education, improving health, and restoring a healthy environment. The MA, in turn, examined the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and analyzed options for conserving ecosystems while enhancing their contributions to people. The MA and the Millennium Project reached strikingly parallel conclusions:

  1. Environmental degradation is a major barrier to the achievement of the MDGs. The MA examined 24 ecosystem services (the benefits people obtain from ecosystems) and found that productivity of only 4 had been enhanced over the last 50 years, whereas 15 (including capture fisheries, water purification, natural hazard regulation, and regional climate regulation) had been degraded. More than 70% of the 1.1 billion poor people surviving on less than $1 per day live in rural areas, where they are directly dependent on ecosystem services.
  2. Investing in environmental assets and management are vital to cost-effective and equitable strategies to achieve national goals for relief from poverty, hunger, and disease. For example, investments in improved agricultural practices to reduce water pollution can boost coastal fishing industry. Wetlands protection can meet needs of rural communities while avoiding costs of expensive flood control infrastructure. Yet these investments are often overlooked.
  3. Reaching environmental goals requires progress in eradicating poverty. More coherent and bolder poverty reduction strategies could ease environmental stresses by slowing population growth and enabling the poor to invest long term in their environment.

We recommend the following measures in 2006. First, we call on the rich donor countries to establish a Millennium Ecosystem Fund to give poor countries the wherewithal to incorporate environmental sustainability into national development strategies. The fund would support work that focuses on how poverty reduction can enhance environmental conservation (e.g., by giving farmers alternatives to slash and burn) and how environmental sustainability can support poverty reduction (e.g., watershed management to maintain clean water supplies). It would also support national ecosystem service assessments to help decision-makers factor the economic and health consequences of changes in ecosystem services into their planning choices.

The fund would initially need roughly $200 million over 5 years. It would enable universities and scientists in dozens of the poorest countries to incorporate the science of environmental sustainability into poverty reduction strategies. The programs would generate evidence for countries to use in setting priorities for national development and environmental investments.

Second, the United Nations should establish a cycle of global assessments modeled on the MA and similar to the climate change reports produced at 4- to 5-year intervals by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The MA and IPCC cost roughly $20 million, and each mobilized in-kind contributions of that magnitude. A global network of respected ecologists, economists, and social scientists working to bring scientific knowledge to decision-makers and to the public can clarify the state of scientific knowledge, help to mobilize needed research, and defeat the obfuscation led by vested interests.