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Session 12– 11.29.2010 Metrics for sustainable development (Speaker: Steve Polasky)

In this session we will discuss the issue of measuring whether society is on a sustainable development path. The notion of inclusive wealth as laid out by Dasgupta in various chapters and Arrow et al. (2004, 2010) provides an elegant and succinct definition of what it means to be sustainable. But can inclusive wealth be measured? We will discuss how to measure inclusive wealth and the problems with actually trying to do so. We will also discuss whether there are other useful approaches to measuring sustainability. Important topics that come up with measurement are issues of how to measure welfare changes, aggregation (can multiple of different aspects of sustainability be combined into a single measure), uncertainty (how do we measure the present value of the flow of future services given an uncertain future), and equity (does sustainable development mean that aggregate welfare is non-declining. or that everyone has non-declining welfare, or that all people achieve a certain standard or living?).

Speaker Bio: Stephen Polasky
Stephen Polasky is Fesler-Lampert Professor of Ecological/Environmental Economics in the Department of Agricultural Economics at the University of Minnesota. He received a PhD in Economics from the University of Michigan in 1986. He previously held faculty positions in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at Oregon State University (1993-1999) and the Department of Economics at Boston College (1986-1993). Dr. Polasky was the senior staff economist for environment and resources for the President’s Council of Economic Advisers 1998-1999. He is currently serving as co-leader for mapping and valuing ecosystem services for the Natural Capital Project and co-leader of the BioSustainability core project for DIVERSITAS as well as on US EPA’s Science Advisory Board, the Board of Directors for the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, and the Board of Directors and the Science Council of The Nature Conservancy. He is a University Fellow at Resources for the Future, a Research Fellow at the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, a Research Associate in the Environmental & Energy Economics Program at the National Bureau of Economic Research, and a Resident Fellow at the Institute on the Environment at the University of Minnesota. He was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009 and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 2007. His research interests include ecosystem services, natural capital, biodiversity conservation, endangered species policy, integrating ecological and economic analysis, renewable energy, environmental regulation, and common property resources. His papers have been published in Biological Conservation, Ecological Applications, Journal of Economics Perspectives, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, International Economic Review, Land Economics, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science and other journals. He has served as co-editor and associate editor for the Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, as associate editor for International Journal of Business and Economics, and is currently serving as an associate editor for Conservation Letters and Ecology and Society.
Required reading from the Sustainability Science book
Here is the original draft of the Metrics chapter from the book, plus a just-completed up-date of the application of the method to a number of national development trajectories (Arrow et al., 2010). I suggest that you read the chapter until you come to the "application", then shift to the Arrow paper.
Supplemental readings from the Reader
1) Munasinghe, Mohan (Lead Author); Munasinghe Institute for Sustainable Development (Content Partner); Cutler J. Cleveland (Topic Editor). 2007. Prospects and status of millennium development goals. In Encyclopedia of Earth, eds. Cutler J. Cleveland. Washington, D.C.: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment. [Published in the Encyclopedia of Earth February 10, 2007; Retrieved February 25, 2009]. 2) Parris, T. M., and R. W. Kates. 2003. Characterizing and measuring sustainable development. Annual Review of Environment and Resources 28:559-586. 3) Daily, G. C., T. Soderqvist, S. Aniyar, K. Arrow, P. Dasgupta, P. R. Ehrlich, C. Folke, A. Jansson, B.-O. Jansson, N. Kautsky, S. Levin, J. Lubchenco, K.-G. Maler, D. Simpson, D. Starrett, D. Tilman, and B. Walker. 2000. The value of nature and the nature of value. Science 289(5478):395-396.
Supplemental readings from moderators/discussants Luis Garcia Barrios and Omar Masera
1- Speelman et al. 2007- This article sumarizes 10 years of applying a sustainability evaluation framework to 28 study cases in Latin America. 2- Garcia-Barrios et al. 2008- This article describes the simulation tool used to explore the consequences of decisions taken by different stakeholders on sustainability. This simulation tool will be used in the hands on workshop planned for december 3.
Video Recording: Metrics for sustainable development