Summer 2018: Sustainability Leadership

Class 1 (05/14/2018): Part 1: Introduction to the course; Part 2: Sustainability leadership; Part 3: Setting up the projects

Class 1 Slides

Prologue: Introduction to the course

The class is a Service Learning class, which implies that the students will work in small groups on real-world projects throughout the class. During each class, we will have a part that is related to the theory of sustainability leadership and relevant skills, and another part that relates to working on the projects. We have defined three “real-world challenges” related to the impacts of climate change, sea level rise, and human pressure on the Everglades National Park.

In the sustainability leadership part of each class, we will discuss a number of questions in the sustainability leadership part. Please, be prepared to participate in the discussion of these questions, which requires to read the listed documents prior to the class.

In the “real-world challenges” part of each class, the students will carry out research related to their challenge, prepare the fieldwork, and draft the research paper. During the fieldwork week, they will continue the research, prepare a presentation each, further develop the report, and collect material for a brief video (each student is required to prepare a 2-min video). After the fieldwork, the research paper will be finalized.

Part 1: Sustainability leadership

Defining sustainability leadership can be done by asking a number of questions.

  • What is leadership?
  • What is sustainability? Sustainability is an emerging characteristic of a dynamic system; it is not built into a system by design.
  • How can we define sustainability leadership: maintaining a system - impacting it - in a way that keeps positive futures open.
  • What systems are we referring to? We consider biological, social and economic systems, communities, including whatever technical support the community may have developed.
  • What is the underlying concept? We use the concept of a system being embedded in a life-support system, on which the system under consideration depends.
  • Do we have a core principle? Principle: sustainability emerges if we meet the needs of the community and its members, while safeguarding the life-support system on which the well-being of the current and future system's members depends.

Sustainability leadership requires an understanding of the challenges to sustainability and developing viable strategies to meet these challenges and maintain the community embedded in the life-support system. This requires:

  • Knowing the system, the members, the life-support system
  • Assessing a situation; reflect on own biases that could impact the assessment; understand the biases of others, of the community and the limitations these biases constitute for possible paths of the system.
  • Detect and understand threats, analyze vulnerabilities, assess risks
  • Have foresight - and interact with others about the desirable futures
  • Understand the decision making framework, know the stakeholders,
  • Work with the community to develop options
  • Implement options and critically assess their impact on the community and its life-support system.

Reading List

Mandatory readings:

Griggs et al. (2013)

Steffen et al. (2015)

Torres (2017) (Torres, P., 2017. It’s the end of the world and we know it: Scientists in many disciplines see apocalypse, soon. Salon.)

Miller (2013) (Miller, T. R., 2013. Constructing sustainability science: emerging perspectives and research trajectories, Sustainability science, 8(2), 279-293.)

Ward et al. (2017) (Ward, J., Chiveralls, K., Fioramonti, L., Sutton, P., Costanza, R., 2017. The decoupling delusion: rethinking growth and sustainability. The Conversation.)

Haque (2018) (Haque, U., 2018. Why capitalism is obsolete - and why humanity's future depends on what's next. Eudaimonia & Co., March 26, 2018.)

Additional Readings

Lu (2017) (Lu, D., 2017. We would need 1.7 Earths to make our consumption sustainable. Washington Post)

Ropeik (2015) (Ropeik, D., 2015. The Threat To Life On Earth Because Human Instinct is More Powerful Than Reason.)

Gee, B., 2011. Economic Crisis and the Normalcy Bias. See

Rockström et al. (2009)

Mercier and Sperber (2017) (Mercier, H., and Sperber, D., 2017. The Enigma of Reason. Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts. )

Biermann (2014) (Biermann, F., 2014. Earth System Governance: world politics in the anthropocene. Massachusetts Institute of Technology.)

Part 2: Setting up the projects

The three “real-world challenges” we will work on as part of the service learning are:

  1. Impacts of climate change and sea level rise on ecosystem services (ESS) in the Everglades National Park (ENP): Consider the ESS of the ENP, including their economic value, and assess how climate change and sea level rise might impact these ESS.
  2. Effects of sea level rise (SLR) on the part of the Florida Bay inside the ENP and mitigation and adaptation strategies for the American Crocodile: Assess the morphological and ecological changes future SLR may cause in the Florida Bay and evaluate the impacts on habitats of the American Crocodile. Develop adaptation strategies.
  3. Vulnerability assessments for ENP habitat(s): Assess the main vulnerabilities of selected ENP habitats and identify the main threats due to human activities. Consider realistic socio-economic scenarios and propose mitigation and adaptation strategies.

For all three challenges, the time window to be considered should be on the order of 30 to 80 years (2050 to 2100). It will be important to link the three challenges together. Thus, (1) will provide information ESS in Florida Bay to (2). (2) will provide information on morphology changes in Florida Bay due to sea level rise to (1) and (3) and also provide scenarios for the American Crocodile population to thee two groups. (3) will provide socio-economic impact scenarios to (1) so that their relative importance can be compared to climate change and sea level rise impacts.

The students will form three groups of three students around these challenges. It is required to apply the adaptation science approach to the topic. It will be important to distribute the chapters between the students. All students will contribute to all chapters, but individual students will be leading each chapter. Initially, each group will exchange thoughts on how to collect relevant information. Each group will assess how they want to approach the topic and distribute the work among the group members.

In this first class, we will constitute three groups with three students each. In each group, the students will decide on responsibilities for the various chapters of the project reports. Each report has six chapters, and each student will be responsible for two of these chapters.

Reading List

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (2016)

Management of Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Species and Their Habitats. Version 1. Florida Fish and Wildlife Service. Available at html.

Peninsular Florida LCC (2017)

Everglades Map

Class 2 (05/16/2018): Part 1: Wicked problems, participatory modeling, and conceptual models. Part 2: Initiating the research

Class slides

Part 1: Wicked problems, participatory modeling and conceptual models

Many sustainability-related problems are “wicked problems”, i.e., social or cultural problems that are difficult or impossible to solve. These problems constitute a class of problems that defy solution, even with our most sophisticated analytical tools. They have the following characteristics: (1) There is no agreed-upon statement of the problem; in fact, there is broad disagreement on what ‘the problem’ is. (2) Because a definitive statement of the problem is lacking, the search for solutions is open ended. Different groups of stakeholders champion alternative and competing solutions. They often frame the problem in a way that favors their preferred solution. (3) Addressing the problem is complex because resource and political constraints are constantly changing. (4) Constraints also change because numerous interested parties come and go, often change their minds, change the rules by which the problem must be addressed, or fail to communicate.

The problems are also wicked for four reasons: (1) incomplete or contradictory knowledge, (2) the large number of people and opinions involved, (3) the often very large economic burden required to address the challenge, and (4) the interconnected nature of these problems with other problems.

There are different approaches to address wicked problems. Participatory modeling is a means to develop a conceptual model that could help to explore scenarios towards a common goal of a group or community.

Conceptual models, often in form of stock and flow models, provide a basis to explore and understand the processes in a complex system.

Reading List

Mandatory Readings

Kolko (2012)

Roberts (2000)

Barreteau et al. (2003)

Guyot and Honiden (2006)

Köhler et al., 2018

For conceptual stock and flow models, see

Part 2: Initiating the research

Steve Traxler, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, will provide background information on the three challenges addressed in the service learning.

The students will start to discuss the system associated with each of the challenges and draft goal statements. An initial concept of how different stakeholder groups are impacting the system will be discussed. This will define the wicked problem that their challenge represents.

Reading List


Class 3 (05/21/2018): Part 1: Decisions, biases, and the creation of knowledge. Part 2: Conceptual models

Class slides

Part 1: Decisions, biases, and the creation of knowledge

The goal is to understand how world views of neighborhood, parents, schools, etc. create a very personal bias, community and cultural biases, and how these biases impact the reflections we have of the world, and how they often direct our decisions and even the creation of knowledge. With respect to personal bias, the aim is to understand how world views of neighborhood, parents, schools, etc. create a very personal bias.

Our perceptions of reality are reflections of the “real world”, the thing by itself, and these reflections are impacted by individual, group, and cultural biases and preconceptions. The deviations of our reflections from the “thing itself” as well as our biases direct our deliberations, limit options for decision, and even guide the creation of knowledge. Particularly when dealing with complexity and threads, awareness of the own biases and those of others can help to reduce their impacts and open avenues to evidence-based deliberations and problem assessments.

Realize that communities at different levels have biases in how they see the world inside and outside the cultural context. Biases are necessary to find a way to live in the complex world and to deal with knowledge gaps. There are many ways of living in the Earth's life-support system and many of them are sustainable - but many others are not. Cultural biases keep a society often from understanding the laws and messages of nature, and this can threaten the community. Biases also have a significant impact on how we see threats and what we consider hazards.

Reading List

Mandatory Readings:

View: “How Not to Be Ignorant About the World” by Hans and Ola Rosling

Kolbert (2017) (Kolbert, E., 2017. Why Facts Don’t Change Our Minds - New discoveries about the human mind show the limitations of reason. The New Yorker)

White (2011) (White, M. D., 2011. Why Did We Evolve the Ability to Reason? To Argue! The final step in human evolution is — the lawyer? Psychology Today)

Lee and Lebowitz (2015). See See also the Wikipedia article on cognitive distortions.

Additional Readings:

Christian (2013) (Christian, S.E., 2013. Cognitive Biases and Errors as Cause - and Journalistic Best Practices as Effect, Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 28, 160—174, DOI: 10.1080/08900523.2013.794674)

Hutson (2017) (Hutson, M., 2017. Living a Lie: We Deceive Ourselves to Better Deceive Others. Scientific American).

Lukianoff and Haidt (2015) (Lukianoff, G. and Haidt, J., 2015. The Coddling of the American Mind. The Atlantic, September 2015)

Jensen (2016) (Jensen, R., 2016. The coddling of the capitalist, white-supremacist, patriarchal american mind.

Part 2: Conceptual models

The students in each group will discuss their personal reflections of the challenge that their group is focusing on and analyze how their cognitive biases may impact these reflections. They will further detail the system each group is going to consider and define the issue that requires some form of adaptation. They will also discuss how cognitive biases might impact the reflections different stakeholder groups might have oef the issue.

The students will develop conceptual models for each of the three challenges. At the end of the class, each group should have a sketch of the conceptual model for the system they are considering, as well as a refined goal statement and a detailed sketch ]of how different stakeholder groups are impacting the system.

Reading List

Potschin-Young et al. (2018).

Class 4 (05/23/2018): Part 1: Systems theory — the Earth's life-support system. Part 2: Hazards

Class slides

Part 1: Systems theory — the Earth's life-support system

Systems theory provides a transdisciplinary approach to understand the behavior of a complex entity. “A system is a cohesive conglomeration of interrelated and interdependent parts that is either natural or man-made. Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal boundaries, surrounded and influenced by its environment, described by its structure and purpose or nature and expressed in its functioning. In terms of its effects, a system can be more than the sum of its parts if it expresses synergy or emergent behavior. Changing one part of the system usually affects other parts and the whole system, with predictable patterns of behavior. For systems that are self-learning and self-adapting, the positive growth and adaptation depend upon how well the system is adjusted with its environment. Some systems function mainly to support other systems by aiding in the maintenance of the other system to prevent failure. The goal of systems theory is systematically discovering a system's dynamics, constraints, conditions and elucidating principles (purpose, measure, methods, tools, etc.) that can be discerned and applied to systems at every level of nesting.” (Wikipedia, 2018)

The concept of system of system allows to couple systems in various ways and to address complexity and levels of systems.

In the context of sustainability leadership, systems theory provides a basis to vitualizes the entity under consideration as a collection of interrelated parts bound together to operate sustainably. Each part can be considered as a system interacting with the other systems. The relationships between the parts are as important as the parts themselves. The whole of the system of interrelated systems (ecosystem, human community, humans and built environment embedded into the non-human environment) creates an environment that operates as the Earth's life-support system. This planetary system is interrelated with is extraterrestrial environment.

From a system-point of view, the Earth's life-support system is in a transition to a high-energy state, with potential severe changes in meteorological and hydrological hazards. This transition is caused by a single-species high-energy pulse and is associated with recent rapid climate change. The projected trajectory of the system includes more rapid climate change and a large sea level rise during the next centuries unparalleled by all changes experienced by civilization. This change in the overall state of the planetray system will have impacts on all systems within this system of systems.

An important concept for system observations is that of Essential Variables.

Reading List

Mandatory Readings

Academic Room, 2013. Systems Theory. html.

Kissling et al. (2018).

IPBES (2018)

Additional Readings

Barnosky et al., 2012

Hansen et al., 2016

Part 2: Hazards

In each group, work on identifying the hazards that could impact the system the group is considering. Take a time horizon of at least 50 years and up to 100 years.

Reading List

Mandatory Readings

Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact Technical Ad hoc Work Group. April 2011. A Unified Sea Level Rise Projection for Southeast Florida. A document prepared for the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Change Compact Steering Committee. 27 p. pdf.

Caffrey, M. A., Beavers, R. L., Hoffman, C. H., 2018. Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge Projections for the National Park Service Natural Resource Report Series NPS/NRSS/NRR—2018/1648, pdf, local pdf.

Additional Readings

IPCC, 2013: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp. Available at AR5. Extract information/projections for Florida.

Pachauri, R. K., Allen, M. R., Barros, V. R. et al., 2014. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II, and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), IPCC.

U.S. Climate Change Research Program, 2007. Our Changing Planet - The U.S. Climate Change Science Program for Fiscal Year 2008, U.S. Climate Change Research Program, Washington, D.C., A report by the U.S. Climate Change Research Program and the Subcommittee on Global Change Research, and a Supplement to the President's Budget for Fiscal Year 2008. Available at

Boesch, D.F., Atkinson, L.P., Boicourt, W.C., Boon, J.D., Cahoon, D.R., Dalrymple, R.A., Ezer, T., Horton, B.P., Johnson, Z.P., Kopp, R.E., Li, M., Moss, R.H., Parris, A., Sommerfield, C.K.}, 2013. Updating Maryland's Sea-level Rise Projections, Special Report of the Scientific and Technical Working Group to the Maryland Climate Change Commission, 22 pp., University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Cambridge, MD.

Gesch, D. B., Gutierrez, B. T., Gill, S. K., 2009. Coastal Elevations. In Titus, J. G., Anderson, K. E., Cahoon, D. R., Gesch, D. B., Gill, S. K., Gutierrez, B. T., Thieler, E. R., Williams, S J. (eds.): "Coastal Sensitivity to Sea Level Rise: A Focus on the {Mid-Atlantic Region", U.S. Climate Change Science Program, Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.1, 25-42.

National Research Council, 2013. Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises. National Research Council, Washington, D.C., 2013. Committee on Understanding and Monitoring Abrupt Climate Change and Its Impacts; Board on Atmospheric Sciences and Climate; Division on Earth and Life Studies.

Sanford, T., Frumhoff, P. C., Luers, A., Gulledge, J., 2014. The climate policy narrative for a dangerously warming world, Nature Climate Change, 4, 164-166.

Church, J. A., Clark, P. U., Cazenave, A., Gregory, J. M., Jevrejeva, S., Levermann, A., Merrifield, M. A., Milne, G. A., Nerem, R. S., Nunn, P. D., Payne, A. J., Pfeffer, W. T., Stammer, D., Unnikrishnan, A. S., 2013. Sea Level Change, In Stocker, T. F.,Qin, D., Plattner, G.-K., Tignor, M., Allen, S.K., Boschung, J., Nauels, A., Xia, Y., Bex, V., Midgley, P. M. (eds.): Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA., pages 1137-1217.

Werners, S. E. et al. Thresholds, tipping and turning points for sustainability under climate change. Curr. Opin. Env. Sustain. 5, 334–340 (2013).

Sweet, W. V., Kopp, R. E., Weaver, C. P., Obeysekera, J., Horton, R. M., Thieler, E. R., Zervas, C., 2017. Global and Regional Sea Level Rise Scenarios for the United States. NOAA Technical Report NOS CO-OPS 083. pdf.

Flavelle, C., 2017. The Nightmare Scenario for Florida’s Coastal Homeowners - Demand and financing could collapse before the sea consumes a single house. Bloomberg. html.

Dangendorf, S., Marcos, M., Wöppelmann, G., Conrad, C. P., Frederikse, S., Riva, R., 2017. Reassessment of 20th century global mean sea level rise. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1616007114. html.

Class 5 (05/30/2018): Part 1: Risk assessments. Part 2: Vulnerabilities

Class slides

Part 1: Risk assessments

Risk assessments are a tool to better understand potential threats that could lead to loss of property, livelihood and lives, and lead to an undesirable future.

Analyze how risk is managed, understood, ignored in different cultures and how physical laws are integrated in risk assessments.

Reading List

Mandatory Readings

Paul Smith: Gaining a Better Understanding of How to Cope with Extreme Low Probability and High Impact Shock Events — And What About Sea Level Rise? Presentation at 3RC Event, September 16, 2015. pdf.

Ripple et al. (2017)

Union of Concerned Scientists, 1992

Additional Readings

Berger, A., Brown, C., Kousky, C., Zeckhauser, R., 2011. The Challenge of degraded environments: How common biases impair effective Policy, Risk Analysis, 31(9) 1423-1433. pdf.

Rusbridger, A., 2015. Climate change: why the Guardian is putting threat to Earth front and centre. The Guardian. March 6, 2015, see html

Anderson, J., 2017. The psychology of why 94 deaths from terrorism are scarier than 301,797 deaths from guns. Quarz, html

Simonetta, J., 2016. The Other Side of the Global Crisis: Entropy and the Collapse of Civilizations. See here

The threat of terrorism:

Bouzar, D., Escaping Radicalism. Scientific American Mind, May/June 2016, 41-43.

Dutton, K., Abrams, D., 2016. Extinguishing the threat. Scientific American Mind, May/June 2016, 44-49.

Reicher, S. D., Haslam, S. A., 2016. Fueling Extremes. Scientific American Mind, May/June 2016, 35-39.

Lewandowsky, S., June 21, 2016. Why is populism popular? A psychologist explains.

Part 2: Vulnerabilities

Analyze the vulnerabilities of your system.

Reading List

Plag, H.-P., Jules-Plag, S., 2013. Sea-Level Rise and Coastal Ecosystems. In Pielke Sr., R. A., Seastedt, T., Suding, K. (eds.): Vulnerability of Ecosystems to Climate, Volume 4 of: Climate Vulnerability: Understanding and Addressing Threats to Essential Resources, 163-184, Elsevier. DOI: 10.1016/B978-0-12-384703-4.00105-2.

Shellenbarger Jones, A., Bosch, C., Strange, E., 2009. Vulnerable Species: the Effects of Sea-Level Rise on Coastal Habitats. In Titus, J. G. et al. (eds.): "Coastal Sensitivity to Sea-Level Rise: A Focus on the Mid-Atlantic Region", U.S. Climate Change Science Program Synthesis and Assessment Product 4.1, 73-83.

Karl, T. R., Melillo, J. M., Peterson, T. C. (eds.), 2009. Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States, Cambridge University Press.

Kelly, P. M., Adger, W. N., 2000. Theory and practice in assessing vulnerability to climate change and facilitation adaptation, Climatic Change, 47, 325-352.

EEA (2017)

Class 6 (06/04/2018): Part 1: Evidence-based leadership. Part 2: Foresight

Class slides

Part 1: Evidence-based leadership

For evidence-based management and leadership, it is important to realize that facts tend to be incomplete, often outdated, wrong, misinterpreted. It is important to understand the role of paradigms and immutable truths in the interpretation of facts. For the assessment of trends, understanding the problems of inductions, the meaning of Black Swans, possible surprises, is highly relevant. With sustainability being an emerging property of a system, monitoring the system and identifying its trajectory provides a basis to decide on the necessity of interventions. These interventions can oppose the system's current development to prevent undesired futures or utilize the system processes to direct it into a more desirable futures.

Reading List

Mandatory Readings

Capra, F., 1996. The Web of Life. Random House Publishers. Read chapters 1 and 2. The PDF is also available in the workspace library.

Kirchhoff, C.J., Lemos, M.C., Dessai, S., 2013. Actionable knowledge for environmental decision making: Broadening the usability of climate science, Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 38, 393-414. pdf.

London, J., 1908. To Build a Fire. See or A quote: “The trouble with him was that he was without imagination. He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances. Fifty degrees below zero meant eighty-odd degrees of frost. Such fact impressed him as being cold and uncomfortable, and that was all. It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man's frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him to the conjectural field of immortality and man's place in the universe.

Plag, H.-P., 2016. Knowledge Must Translate into Action - “They had all the Knowledge ...” Column 12 in “On The Edge.” ApoGeo, 31(2), 8-10, Spring 2016,

Additional reading:

Boyle, M., 2017. Environmentalism used to be about defending the wild – not any more. The Guardian, May 22, 2017. html.

Taleb, N. N., 2010. The Black Swan: Second Edition: The Impact of the Highly Improbable Fragility. Random House Publishing Group.

Kilby, B., 2015. A Psychologist Explains Why People Don't Give a Shit About Climate Change. Vice, Posted on June 9, 2015, html.

McBrayer, J. P., 2015. Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts. New York Times, March 2, 2015, html.

Cock, J., 2011. How the term “scientist” came to be. Posted on February 16, 2011 at

Part 2: Foresight

Develop foresight and possible scenarios for the future of the system under consideration.

Reading List

Seligman, M. E. P., Tierney, J., 2017. We aren't built to live in the moment. New York Times, html.

Class 7 (06/04/2018): Part 1: Scenario-based planning. Part 2: Decision making

Class slides

Part 1: Scenario-based planning

How can we develop foresight and explore possible futures within the framework of system thinking? A system of systems view on the Earth system and the embedded anthroposphere provides a theoretical framework to research the nature of feedback loops and their role for future developments in the earth system. Scenario-based simulations can be used to explore possible the future and provide guidance for the development of interventions that bring the system closer to desirable futures.

Reading List

Carpenter et al., 2005

Köhler et al. (2018) (Köhler, J., de Haan, F., Holtz, G., Kubeczko, K., Moallemi, E., Papachristos, G., Chappin, E. J. L., 2018. Modelling Sustainability Transitions: An Assessment of Approaches and Challenges. Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, 21(1), html, DOI: 10.18564/jasss.3629.)

Part 2: Decision making

Reading List

Class 8 (06/18/2018): Part 1: Governance for sustainability. Part 2: Options

Class slides

Part 1: Governance for sustainability

The unsustainability of our modern civilization is mainly a result of the mainstream economic model that can be traced back to Adam Smith's work published in the late 18th century. Based on his work, the purpose of economy is the creation of human wealth, while no value is being attached to the preservation of a healthy planetary life-support system. Economic thinking focusing on the creation of more human wealth impacts most decisions made at all levels of governance. Conservation very often has to fit into this economic thinking.

Can sustainability emerge out of a society that disregards non-human wealth, discounts the future and makes decisions mainly based on economic considerations? What other governance is needed to have sustainability as an emergent property?

Why are current governance structures to a large extent decoupled from the risk perception of a large fraction of scientists, non-governmental organizations, and leading thinkers that indicates that our civilization is facing major existential threats? What governance structures would be need to address these global threats?

Reading List

Jackson (2009)

Utting (2016)

Union of Concerned Scientists (1992)

Ripple et al. (2017)

Part 2: Options

Reading List

Class 9 (06/20/2018): Part 1: Ethics and Morality of Conservation - or not to Conserve. Part 2: Recommendations

Class slides

Part 1: Ethics and Morality of Conservation - or not to Conserve

An important classical work on ethics related to conservation is Aldo Leopold's book A Sand County Almanac and sketches here and there first published in 1949, in which he explores a “land ethics” (see as a basis for conservation.

However, today very often, the need and options for conservation are discussed in an economic setting with economic arguments playing an important role in decisions of whether and what to conserve. The question has to be raised whether sustainability can emerge in the current mainstream economic thinking and what ethical and moral problems arise if economic thinking is applied to decision making in conservation.

It also has to be asked whether economic thinking as a basis for conservation planning is ethical within the prevailing ethical frameworks. Can we ethically justify that we give priority to those other species that are of benefit for us and provide ecosystem services we value?

Reading List

Mandatory Readings

Leopold (1949).

Machlis and Jarvis (2018).

Hiron et al. (2018).

Lane, M., 2017. A new professional ethics for sustainable prosperity. Center for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), html, pdf.

Davies, W., 2017. Moral Economies of the Future - The Utopian Impulse of Sustainable Prosperity. Center for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), Working Paper No 5, pdf.

Additional Readings

Agence France-Press, 2018. Giant African baobab trees die suddenly after thousands of years. The Guardian, June 11, 2018. html.

Jackson, T., 2016. Beyond consumer capitalism - Foundation for a sustainable prosperity. Center for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity (CUSP), Working Paper No 2, pdf.

Binswanger, H. C., 1998. The Challenge of Faust. Science, 281(5377), 640-641, DOI: 10.1126/science.281.5377.640, html. Local pdf.

Bernstein, S., 2017. How a Math Formula Could Decide the Fate of Endangered U.S. Species. Feds consider "conservation triage" that would let some animals go extinct to save funds for protecting others. Scientific American, html.

Hartl, B., 2017. Wyoming Governor Attacks Endangered Species Act. Common Dreams, html.

Ferry (2017) (Ferry, D., 2017. It’s Time to Let Certain Animals Go Extinct. Outside online.)

Part 2: Recommendations

It will be important to ensure that the recommendations for the three challenges are tangible and point towards more desirable futures.

Reading List