Indiana University Professor Elinor Ostrom earned her Ph.D. in political science, won a Nobel Prize for Economic Sciences, and has a biologist’s love of restoring ecosystems. The multifaceted nature of her work has been part of her academic approach from the very beginning, and she believes that our ecosystems would benefit from a similar multidisciplinary approach.
Ostrom’s approach to restoring the world’s ecosystems will be evident when she addresses a plenary session at EcoSummit 2012 on the topic Tackling Climate Change from the Ground Up.
If she were given complete authority for restoring our ecosystems, Ostrom says one of the places she would start is on college campuses. “We’ve had a terrible problem in academia of silos,” says Ostrom. She says she would pay particular attention to the college training of pre-law students, who she says should have well-rounded backgrounds because lawyers often go on to leadership roles in politics and business. “We’re training them in very narrow routes…. They can make a big difference, so when they graduate and become public officials they (should) realize that there is a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.”
Ostrom says we also need to preserve indigenous communities to ensure the viability of unique ecosystems. “There are many indigenous communities around the world who have been told that they don’t have property rights to local systems anymore. And they have been kicked out. And there are a fair number of those systems that are deteriorating very rapidly because you kick out the people who have their livelihood and their existence in the area and you get strangers in who are looking to get a quick return and they take down the trees and do an immense amount of destruction. So one of (the first steps) is to get further recognition of the role of small-scale communities and indigenous rights in protecting those systems.”
In 2009, Ostrom became the only woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, which she shared with Oliver Williamson. She has dedicated her academic career to the study of mechanisms of cooperation in human societies. Her work debunked the common understanding at that time that populations dependent on common-pool resources eventually will overuse and destroy their surroundings. Her research showed that indigenous communities often develop systems that are less expensive, easier to maintain, and are more effective.
Ostrom will address the morning Plenary Session of EcoSummit 2012 on October 4, 2012. For more information about the conference program, please click here.
See other articles in the May 2012 newsletter:
- Ecological Sustainability: Restoring the Planet’s Ecosystem Services
- Welcome to Columbus
- Connecting a City to its Natural Treasures
- The Role of the Business Community in Restoring our Ecosystems