The Poorest People On the Most Sensitive Ecosystems
About the Event:
The Poorest People Occupy the Most Sensitive Ecosystems. The statement is clearly imperfect as the world’s very poorest are often city dwellers and many sensitive ecosystems are in the hands of the top global income quintile or inhabited by almost no one at all. Yet the slogan is true enough; many low-income persons make a living in whole or part from the resource systems over which they are stewards.
A latent thesis from the 1970s through 2010 held that large resource rents from systems invariably induce ecological deterioration and eventual compromise of an ecological system. Many ‘double benefit’ program targeted modest economic gains of small landholders and producers on sensitive lands while realizing at times impressive ecological benefits as restoration of prevention. Yet over time, many of those programs were unsustainable. Income increases by families and the general economy outstripped the attractiveness of these gains and the motivation to maintain beneficial environmental and ecological practices.
This work argues the greatest gains to realize resilient ecological-economic systems where the natural system is inhabited by many persons is to improve local incomes substantially derived from the management of those resources. This goal is not intrinsically flawed by a ‘more money, more destruction’ axiom. Rather the current structure of international trade works against this outcome. Opening trade so that niche producers can satisfy niche markets globally promises the highest returns to resources. Most of the obstacles are political: global, national and local; yet many opportunities are economically infeasible. This work suggests how policy reform can be structured, the economic and ecological benefits and the types of research needed to support these adaptive and resilient ecological-economic systems.
About the Speaker:
Michael Farmer grew up on a farm in Ohio and both parents were secondary school math teachers. He received his doctorate at Ohio State University in Environmental and Natural Resource Economics in 1993. He specializes in long run land use change - a process of searching for high impact long run gains from relatively modest reforms today. This has led to work with regional and multi-national water management disputes, urban zoning and the structure of agricultural insurance programs. Michael has worked for more than a year in China and in 11 other countries. He is currently engaged in a long term agroforestry program in Sabah, Malaysia working with small holders on the restoration of their montane hillsides with a tree canopy through crops that generate high value in niche developed economy markets.