New Article: ‘Corporate Corruption of the Environment: Sustainability as a Process of Compromise’

Nyberg, D. & Wright, C. (2013). Corporate Corruption of the Environment: Sustainability as a Process of Compromise. The British Journal of Sociology. 64 (3): 1-20.

Abstract: A key response to environmental degradation, climate change and declining biodiversity has been the growing adoption of market principles in an effort to better value the social good of nature.Through concepts such as ‘natural capitalism’ and ‘corporate environmentalism’, nature is increasingly viewed as a domain of capitalist endeavour. In this article, we use convention theory and a pluralist understanding of social goods to investigate how the social good of the environment is usurped by the alternate social good of the market.Through analysis of interviews with sustainability managers and corporate documentation, we highlight how organizational actors employ compromise to temporally settle disputes between competing claims about environmental activities. Our findings contribute to an understanding of the processes of empirically grounded critique and the undertheorized concept of compromise between social goods. Rather than protecting the environment, the corporate promotion of sustainability facilitates the corruption of the social good of the environment and its conversion into a market commodity.

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New Article: ‘Experiences of Integrated Assessment of Climate Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation Modelling in London and Durban’

Walsh, C.L., Roberts, D., Dawson, R.J., Hall, J.W., Nickson, A., Hounsome, R. (2013). Experiences of Integrated Assessment of Climate Impacts, Adaptation and Mitigation Modelling in London and Durban. Environment and Urbanization.  DOI: 10.1177/0956247813501121

Abstract: The urgent need to reconfigure and transform urban areas to consume fewer resources, emit less pollution, minimize greenhouse gas production, protect natural ecosystems and increase the adaptive capacity to deal with climate risks is widely recognized. The implementation of improved sustainability measures in cities requires integrated thinking that encompasses a whole range of urban functions, often implying a major restructuring of urban energy systems, transport and the built environment, as well as a new approach to the planning and management of natural systems that service urban areas. Many local governments have a limited capacity to deal with such complex and interrelated problems, and this hampers their ability to deal with climate change. With these issues in mind, teams of scientists, practitioners and stakeholders in Durban (led by eThekwini Municipality) and London (led by the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) developed city-scale integrated assessment modelling tools that represent interactions between different urban functions and objectives by linking climate change issues to broader agendas such as spatial planning. This paper reviews each integrated assessment tool, and critically analyzes their effectiveness in terms of technical approach, extent to which they meet policy needs, role of stakeholders in model development and application, barriers to their uptake and the value of and effort required for integration. While these integrated assessment tools did not provide the detailed design information sought by some decision makers, importantly they have stimulated stakeholders to think strategically and hold cross-sectoral conversations around implementing sustainability measures. Despite the technical and institutional challenges associated with the development and uptake of an integrated assessment model, we conclude that they do contribute to the quest for urban sustainability.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Book: ‘Managing Adaptation to Climate Risk: Beyond Fragmented Responses’

O’Brien, B. & O’Keefe, P. (2013). Managing Adaptation to Climate Risk: Beyond Fragmented Responses. Routledge.

Climate change is the single largest threat to the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and sustainable development. Addressing climate risk is a challenge for all. This book calls for greater collaboration between climate communities and disaster development communities. In discussing this, the book will evaluate the approaches used by each community to reduce the adverse effects of climate change. One area that offers some promise for bringing together these communities is through the concept of resilience. This term is increasingly used in each community to describe a process that embeds capacity to respond to and cope with disruptive events. This emphasizes an approach that is more focused on pre-event planning and using strategies to build resilience to hazards in an adaptation framework. The book will conclude by evaluating the scope for a holistic approach where these communities can effectively contribute to building communities that are resilient to climate driven risks.

For more information click here.

 

New Report: “Environmental Guidance Note for Disaster Risk Reduction: Healthy Ecosystems for Human Security and Climate Change Adaptation”

Sudmeier-Rieux, K., Ash, N. and Murti, R. (2013). Environmental Guidance Note for Disaster Risk Reduction: Healthy Ecosystems for Human Security and Climate Change Adaptation. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN, 1-34.

Introduction: This note was developed to provide guidance on the benefits of and ways to integrate environmental concerns into disaster risk reduction strategies (DRR) at the local and national levels. As recognised and outlined within the Hyogo Framework for Action priority 4: “Reduce the Underlying Risk Factors”, healthy ecosystems and environmental management are considered key actions in DRR. Although the field of disaster risk management has evolved to recognize the need for addressing sustainable development issues for reducing risk, the environmental dimension has not to date received adequate attention and practical guidance.

The questions we would like to answer with this guidance note are:
• What are healthy ecosystems and why do they matter to disaster risk reduction?
• How can ecosystems contribute to reducing disasters?
• What is ecosystem-based disaster risk reduction?
• How can we integrate ecosystem management and disaster risk management?

The rise in number and intensity of many extreme hydro-meteorological events is increasingly recognized as being the result of global and regional climate change. More broadly and importantly, the underlying risk factors of disasters are increasing: more people are living in vulnerable areas, such as low lying coastal areas, steep hillsides, flood plains, near cliffs, or in forested areas on the outskirts of cities – most often out of necessity, but sometimes out of choice. Environmental degradation is reducing the capacity of ecosystems to meet the needs of people for food and other products, and to protect them from hazards. The people affected by reoccurring disasters are often the most dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, and the appropriate management of ecosystems can play a critical role in their ability to prevent, cope with, and recover from disasters.

For more information click here.

New Article: “Securing Ocean Benefits for Society in the Face of Climate Change”

Ruckelshaus. M. et al. (2013). Securing Ocean Benefits for Society in the Face of Climate Change. Marine Policy. 40: 154-159.

Abstract: Benefits humans rely on from the ocean – marine ecosystem services – are increasingly vulnerable under future climate. This paper reviews how three valued services have, and will continue to, shift under climate change: (1) capture fisheries, (2) food from aquaculture, and (3) protection from coastal hazards such as storms and sea-level rise. Climate adaptation planning is just beginning for fisheries, aquaculture production, and risk mitigation for coastal erosion and inundation. A few examples are highlighted, showing the promise of considering multiple ecosystem services in developing approaches to adapt to sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and rising sea temperatures.

Ecosystem-based adaptation in fisheries and along coastlines and changes in aquaculture practices can improve resilience of species and habitats to future environmental challenges. Opportunities to use market incentives – such as compensation for services or nutrient trading schemes – are relatively untested in marine systems. Relocation of communities in response to rising sea levels illustrates the urgent need to manage human activities and investments in ecosystems to provide a sustainable flow of benefits in the face of future climate change.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Article: “Fishing in Muddy Waters: Exploring the Conditions for Effective Governance of Fisheries and Aquaculture”

Kalfagianni, A & Pattberg, P. (2013). Fishing in Muddy Waters: Exploring the Conditions for Effective Governance of Fisheries and Aquaculture. Marine Policy. 38: 124-132.

Abstract: Over the past fifteen years a number of transnational certification and labeling schemes have emerged with the aim to foster sustainable fisheries and aquaculture practices worldwide. Despite notable successes in the uptake and implementation of these standards, few measurable environmental improvements have been achieved on a global scale to date. This paper explores the conditions for effective governance taking into account external and internal attributes of the relevant rule-setting organizations. The analysis provided in this paper is situated in a broader debate regarding the effectiveness of transnational forms of governance and thereby contributes to recent efforts to build clearer theoretical propositions on the basis of more nuanced theoretically and empirically informed analyses.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Book: ‘Defensive Environmentalists and the Dynamics of Global Reform’

Rudel, T. (2013). Defensive Environmentalists and the Dynamics of Global Reform. Cambridge University Press.

Description: As global environmental changes become increasingly evident and efforts to respond to these changes fall short of expectations, questions about the circumstances that generate environmental reforms become more pressing. Defensive Environmentalists and the Dynamics of Global Reform answers these questions through a historical analysis of two processes that have contributed to environmental reforms, one in which people become defensive environmentalists concerned about environmental problems close to home and another in which people become altruistic environmentalists intent on alleviating global problems after experiencing catastrophic events such as hurricanes, droughts and fires. These focusing events make reform more urgent and convince people to become altruistic environmentalists. Bolstered by defensive environmentalists, the altruists gain strength in environmental politics and reforms occur.

For more information click here.

New Article: ‘Emergence of Global Adaptive Governance for Stewardship of Regional Marine Resources’

Österblom, H. and Folke, C. (2013). Emergence of Global Adaptive Governance for Stewardship of Regional Marine Resources. Ecology and Society. 18(2): 1-13.

Abstract: Overfishing has historically caused widespread stock collapses in the Southern Ocean. Until recently, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing threatened to result in the collapse of some of the few remaining valuable fish stocks in the region and vulnerable seabird populations. Currently, this unsustainable fishing has been reduced to less than 10% of former levels. We describe and analyze the emergence of the social-ecological governance system that made it possible to curb the fisheries crisis. For this purpose, we investigated the interplay between actors, social networks, organizations, and institutions in relation to environmental outcomes. We drew on a diversity of methods, including qualitative interviews, quantitative social network and survey data, and literature reviews. We found that the crisis triggered action of an informal group of actors over time, which led to a new organization (ISOFISH) that connected two independent networks (nongovermental organizations and the fishing industry), and later (COLTO) linked to an international body and convention (CCAMLR). The emergence of the global adaptive governance systems for stewardship of a regional marine resource took place over a 15-year period. We describe in detail the emergence process and illustrate the usefulness of analyzing four features of governance and understanding socialecological processes, thereby describing structures and functions, and their link to tangible environmental outcomes.

Available for download with subscription here.

New Article: ‘Translating disaster resilience into spatial planning practice in South Africa: Challenges and champions’

Van Niekerk, W. (2013). Translating disaster resilience into spatial planning practice in South Africa: Challenges and champions.  Jàmbá: Journal of Disaster Risk Studies. 5 (1): 1-6.

Abstract: It is highly likely that hazards and extreme climatic events will occur more frequently in the future and will become more severe – increasing the vulnerability and risk of millions of poor urbanites in developing countries. Disaster resilience aims to reduce disaster losses by equipping cities to withstand, absorb, adapt to or recover from external shocks. This paper questions whether disaster resilience is likely to be taken up in spatial planning practices in South Africa, given its immediate developmental priorities and challenges. In South Africa, issues of development take precedence over issues of sustainability, environmental management and disaster reduction. This is illustrated by the priority given to ‘servicing’ settlements compared to the opportunities offered by ‘transforming’ spaces through post-apartheid spatial planning. The City of Durban’s quest in adapting to climate change demonstrates hypothetically that if disaster resilience were to be presented as an issue distinct from what urban planners are already doing, then planners would see it as insignificant as compared to addressing the many developmental backlogs and challenges. If, however, it is regarded as a means to secure a city’s development path whilst simultaneously addressing sustainability, then disaster resilience is more likely to be translated into spatial planning practices in South Africa.

Available for download with subscription here.

Table of Contents Alert: Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 6

See below for some of the articles that were published in the latest volume of Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions

Sustainability for wellbeing
Timothy O’Riordan
Abstract: I consider the record of failure of the current arrangements of capitalism to deliver sustainability: the failure to anticipate tipping points; the over-optimism of business to deliver sustainability; the immorality of markets; and the increasing loss of public trust in democracy. I consider how to resurrect the meaning and definition of sustainability for the emerging age of human wellbeing and betterment. It is possible that the manner in which our governing institutions function actually contributes to the acceleration and intensity of critical thresholds. I discuss the relationship between international, national and local levels of governing to bring about a transition in the coming decade. I review the conditions to promote citizenship opportunities for otherwise unemployed young people and consider the prospects for the success of such initiatives at the local level. These are not perfectly connected solutions: but they are relevant ingredients for any transition to sustainability.

Economic crisis, long waves and the sustainability transition: An African perspective
Mark Swilling
Abstract: To make sense of the global crisis and a possible transition, many re-interpret the past as a set of successive long-term development cycles that could repeat in future. At the same time environmental pressures have resulted in the notion of a green economy. It is argued that the current global economic crisis simultaneously marks the end of the post-WWII long-term development cycle, the mid-point of the information age and  potentially the start of a new era of sustainable development. It must be recognised that only certain futures are being imagined with Africa’s options largely ignored. As African growth rates rise as demand for its resources increase, it is necessary to question whether Africa is appropriately positioned to take advantage of the next long-term development. The new discourse of ‘resource nationalism’ is promising, but only if governance modalities can be found that can transcend the resource curse.

Read more.

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