Environmentalist Discusses Policy
Published: Friday, January 18, 2013
Updated: Friday, January 18, 2013 02:01
Robert Costanza, a leading ecological economist, spoke to students about the intersection of ecological and economic policy Wednesday.
Costanza, a professor of public policy at the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University, began by speaking about the correlation between human development and the environment.
“What we’re doing to the climate is moving it out of the regime of where we were for the rest of the history of the human race,” Costanza said.
Costanza said that the climate has changed rapidly within the last century, in areas such as biodiversity, the ozone layer and the amount of available resources.
“Often, [natural systems] get to points where they change quite rapidly … [and] the world we live in is a complex, non-linear, adaptive system,” Costanza said. “We do live on a finite planet. Because of these potential tipping points, we can start to identify what is the safe operating space.”
Costanza offered practical solutions, including a focus on well-being over gross domestic product, a fair distribution of wealth and a legal system based on common property rights rather than individual property rights.
Costanza was also critical of the methodologies the environmental movement currently uses, saying that environmental activists need to shift their focus from looming global crises to building a better world.
“It’s going to require breaking our addiction to this ‘growth at all costs’ paradigm,” Costanza said. “It’s going to be a longer-term process, perhaps, than we might hope for.”
Student reactions to the presentation were mixed.
“Overall, I thought it was very good,” Teresa Geruson (COL ’15) said. “One thing that rang true was the idea that people with a positive vision of the future are more likely to achieve that, and when people are told that something they’re doing is wrong, they’re more likely to keep doing that. At the same time, I also feel like he didn’t offer very concrete solutions.”