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Workshop UOC: “The challenge of sustainability across scales and dimensions”

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Jornada sobre els reptes en qüestió de sostenibilitat, que tindrà lloc a la seu de la UOC de Barcelona de l’Avinguda Tibidabo 39, el vinent 29 de març, a partir de les 15.15h. 

En cas de voler assistir-hi, cal escriure a slo_piano@uoc.edu abans del 22 de març.


Young-researchers Workshop The challenge of sustainability across scales and dimensions

The event aims to tackle some of the most prominent challenges in the sustainability domain across geographical scales and biophysical dimensions (e.g. water, energy and food). Five young researchers will showcase their pieces of work with the aim to shed light on the ubiquitous clashes across socioeconomic and environmental dimensions. Some of the most pressing challenges our society is facing in the domain of sustainability will be mapped. The workshop will seek to debunk ongoing myths and to foster dialogue across methodologies formalism and epistemology.

Below the list of contributions and their presenters:

Decoupling at a glance: Counter evidence from outsourcing

Decoupling is fast becoming a central component of the post-2015 development agenda grounded in the United Nations’ (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). _Decoupling at its simplest is reducing the amount of resources used to produce economic growth and delinking economic development from environmental deterioration’ (UNEP 2011). Nevertheless, decoupling indicators are characterized by simplicity (e.g. intensity of carbon emissions or energy use), which can sometimes be misleading.

Indeed, most pressures on the environment are the result of multiple factors. Scientific evidence for decoupling, usually in the form of intensity indicators, is further limited by three facts: (i) growth in GDP is increasingly driven by a ballooning finance sector, (ii) GDP and energy consumption are correlated, (iii) tertiarization shifts energy consumption abroad and re-imports it as embodied energy in products.

Therefore, the question of whether the EU is actually decoupling, or simply outsourcing its energy and GHG intensive industries, is not a simple one to address. The socio-ecological metabolism perspective highlights some important blind spots in conventional thinking that deserve much closer attention in order to better inform policy-making. 

Maddalena Ripa (PhD 2014, Università Partenope di Napoli) is a researcher working on the H2020 Project MAGIC (Moving Towards Adaptive Governance in Complexity: Informing Nexus Security) at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB). Her current work focuses on interfacing at different scales energy and societal metabolism with policy-making, thus contributing to co-production of knowledge on energy security, low-carbon transition, sustainable development and climate change mitigation. 

The accountability of success and failure stories: the case of the REDD+ ISA-Carbon Program, in the state of Acre, Brazil

The United Nations Program for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) gathers a lot of support and a lot of criticism, and a broad literature has developed on measurement, reporting and benefit sharing of REDD+.

This paper asks, in what way do the multiple assessments of REDD+ affect the accountability of forest governance? Which types of knowledge are privileged, and which types of knowledge are silenced in the assessments of REDD+? The paper contributes to the current discussion by presenting a multi-scale analysis of the jurisdictional REDD+ experiment in the State of Acre, Brazil, which is considered a success case of the REDD+ program.

Results show that the technical, quantitative, mathematically-modelled science of climate change is vastly different from the local knowledge emerging from the local scale of project implementation. Hence, while REDD+ may be accountable to the publics of the Global North, local initiatives have to be translated and have to translate the social, political and economic interests of rubber-tappers, rural communities and local politicians.

“Success” and “failure” assessments are as much the result of the type of knowledge that is mobilized as of material impacts of REDD+. 

Francisco Bidone is a Ph.D candidate at the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). He holds a Msc. in Economic and Environmental Engineering at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (COPPE – UFRJ). His research includes environmental policy-making, natural resources governance systems and the integrated assessment of societal environment metabolism as well as the integration of qualitative research and policy analysis with quantitative analytical methods.

The dilemma between ecological sustainability and food self-sufficiency in the Galápagos Islands

In this study, we used the Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MuSIASEM) approach to create a food system characterization of the Galápagos Islands. The aim of the study is to identify the current situation of the food system and identify its vulnerabilities.

The potential of MuSIASEM is that it provides an accounting system that facilitates the understanding of the biophysical, social and economic factors involved in food production. Thus, MuSIASEM provides a useful characterization to develop plans for sustainable development.

The results show that the low profitability of agriculture has been caused by its abandonment, leading to greater food dependency on continental Ecuador (about 83% of the food is imported from the mainland).The invasive species threatening endemic species and a significant increase in food prices are also contributors when compared to production on the mainland. 

Juan Cadillo (PhD 2015, Environmental Science and Technology – Autonomous University of Barcelona) is a biologist currently working as postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA) of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB). His research interest include the role of the nexus between food-water-energy in the socio-economic development of society. He is presently working on the application of the Multi-Scale Integrated Analysis of Societal and Ecosystem Metabolism (MUSIASEM) methodology to food production and consumption in Europe. 

Can we predict future irrigated areas?

Projecting the extension of irrigation is a major concern for scholars and policy-makers due to the relevance of irrigated agriculture for future food security and environmental sustainability. Current projections to 2050 range between 240-450 Million hectares (). A key question is: does this relatively small range of possible extensions reflect our high predictive capacity of irrigated areas, or just a neglect of its uncertainties?

In the workshop we will argue that the correct answer is the second. We will show that, once the main uncertainties of the projection are taken into account, the possible extension of irrigation spans one order of magnitude (300-1150 Mha).. This uncertainty is mostly irreducible as it derives from the interaction between population-related parameters, the model structure and our ignorance as to what the current extension of irrigation is.

These results have important implications for the robustness of our current policies on irrigated agriculture, water security and environmental conservation. In the workshop we will briefly discuss the most relevant ones, and explain why it is important to study the size of agrarian systems to guarantee human and environmental welfare. 

Arnald Puy (PhD 2012, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona) studies intensive agrarian systems, such as terraced fields and irrigated agriculture, both from a long-term a present-day perspective. He is currently working at the Free University of Brussels after holding a Humboldt Research Fellowship in the University of Cologne (Germany, 2014-2015) and a Marie Curie IEF in the University of Haifa (Israel, 2015-2017). 

Impredicative scientific representation of European agricultural metabolism

The reductionist camp proposes that non-contestable quantifications derived from predicative system representations are the most desirable form of scientific result. Predicativity, however, demands the elimination of semantics in favor of pure syntax, an assumption which proves highly problematic when analyzing living systems. In contrast, the literature around impredicative scientific representation can frequently lead to the question So what?.

In this contribution, an impredicative representation of the European agricultural metabolism, both diagnostic and anticipatory, is presented. The accounting framework at this representation’s foundation is explained along with some of its many value propositions.

In particular, the framework’s predisposition for biophysical profiling, its ability to wrestle different flavors of uncertainty (including perception, anticipation, effect and implementation sources) and its ability to mitigate category mistakes are deliberated. 

Ansel Renner is a PhD candidate at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona. He holds a BA&Sc degree in geography, environment and mathematics from McGill University and an MSc in ecological economics from the Universitat Autonòma de Barcelona. His research interests revolve predominantly around interactive operationalizations of complex systems theory (in particular the camp of relational analysis) and hierarchy theory. 

Registration is mandatory.

Please register by sending an e-mail to slo_piano@uoc.educontaining i) your full name; ii) your affiliation by Friday 22 March.♦

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