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Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong 1 Key concepts in political ecology Media, Politics and the Environment (CCGL 9012) Week.

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Presentation on theme: "Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong 1 Key concepts in political ecology Media, Politics and the Environment (CCGL 9012) Week."— Presentation transcript:

1 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong 1 Key concepts in political ecology Media, Politics and the Environment (CCGL 9012) Week 2

2 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong 2 Sustainable development SD: Humanity has the ability to make development sustainable -- to ensure that it meets the needs of the present without comprimising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (1987:8). Origins: Report by Brundtland Commission (World Commission on Environment and Development, 1987) UN report to concile environmental and development issues (environmental damage, population, peace and security, social justice both within and across generations) that had been competitive or antagonistic

3 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong 3 In essence, SD is a process of change in which exploitation of resources, the direction of investment, the orientation of technological development, and industrial change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations” (1987:46). Deeper history: resource management concept in maximum sustainable yield (fishery, forest, game animals that can be sustained indefinitely) Intelligent operation of natural systems and human systems in combination

4 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong 4 What are the needs of future generations? Problems with the concept of SD Elasticity of concept: different meanings and interpretations Environmentalists: intrinsic notions of nature are missing Developing countries: stress on global redistribution Western countries: developing countries cannot follow same path of industrialization Business: sustained economic growth + ”green-painting” Contestation over essence of SD

5 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong 5 Sustainability: summary Central concept in environmental discourses + bandwagon effect Actors: many agents at many levels, international (IGO + global civil society) and subnational (NGO) SD never an accomplished fact, except in small hunter- gatherer and agricultural societies with low level of economic and technological development

6 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong 6 Discourse: no limits to growth, capitalist economy (competition de-emphasized though), anthropocentric, ”think globally, act locally”, self-conscious improvement, open-ended learning of humankind (like lifetime learning), progress in the environmental era Real life results? Small compared to liberalization of global trade and capital

7 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Ecological footprint: concept EF measures human demand on the Earth's ecosystems Compares human demand with the Earth’s ecological capacity to regenerate Calculates the amount of biologically productive land and sea area needed to regenerate the resources a human population consumes, and to absorb waste and make it harmless EF make possible to estimate how much of the Earth (or how many Earths) it would take to support humanity with a given consumption rate 7

8 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong For 2006, humanity's total ecological footprint was estimated at 1.4 planet Earths Humanity uses ecological services 1.4 times as fast as Earth can renew them EF calculated every year (three year lag due to availability of statistics) Methods of measurement differ Calculation standards are emerging to make results more comparable and consistent 8

9 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Ecological footprint: origins Originator of academic concept of EF William Rees (environmental policy/sustainability expert, University of British Columbia, Canada), 1992 Co-developer of EF concept and calculation method Mathis Wackernagel (currently President of Global Footprint Network) Rees first formulation: "appropriated carrying capacity" Rees: term EF "inspired by a computer technician who praised his new computer's small footprint on the desk” Wackernagel and Rees book Our Ecological Footprint: Reducing Human Impact on the Earth

10 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong EF compares human demand on nature with the biosphere's ability to regenerate resources and provide services New EF: the methods are converging Footprint 2.0 (2003 by a team of researchers) Footprint 2.0 theoretical and methodological improvements to the standard EF approach Include the entire surface of the Earth in biocapacity estimates, allocate space for other (non-human) species, change the basis of equivalence factors from agricultural land to net primary productivity (NPP), and change the carbon component of the footprint, based on global carbon models Well received by teachers, researchers, and advocacy organizations 10

11 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Ecological footprint: methods EF assesses biologically productive land and marine area required to produce the resources a population consumes, and absorb the corresponding waste, using present technology Biological capacity or biocapacity: capacity of ecosystems to produce useful biological materials and to absorb waste materials generated by humans, using current technologies. Biocapacity is usually expressed in units of global hectares Global hectare: the average productivity of biologically productive land and water in a given year A global hectare of cropland, would occupy a smaller physical area than the much less productive marshland 11

12 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Biologically productive land and water: the land and water (both marine and inland waters) area that supports photosynthetic activity and biomass accumulation used by humans. Non-productive areas not included. Biomass not of use to humans is also not included. The total biologically productive area on land and water was approximately 13.4 billion hectares in 2005 on the planet Biological capacity available per person: There were 13.4 billion hectares of biologically productive area on land and water in Dividing by the number of people alive in that year, 6.5 billion, gives 2.1 global hectares per person. This assumes no land is set aside for other species that consume the same biological material as humans.global hectares ary/ - biologicallyproductivelandandwater ary/ - biologicallyproductivelandandwater 12

13 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Ecological footprint: uses Per capita EF is a means of comparing consumption and lifestyles Checking this against nature's ability to provide for this consumption Goal: altering personal behavior EF informs the public and policy makers by examining to what extent a nation uses more or less than is available within its territory 13

14 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong To what extent the nation's lifestyle could be replicable worldwide? EF can educate people about carrying capacity and over-consumption Can also be applied to an activity such as manufacturing a product or driving of a car EF in Hong Kong, China, US? EF within HKU? 14

15 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Global inequalities vs. environmental justice EF: current lifestyles are not sustainable Global comparison: inequalities of resource use on the planet In 2006, average biologically productive area per person worldwide cca. 1.8 global hectares (gha) per capita. US footprint per capita was 9.0 gha Switzerland 5.6 gha per person China 1.8 gha per person WWF claims EF has exceeded the biocapacity (the available supply of natural resources) of the planet by 20%. 15

16 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong EF measures and sustainability NGO websites allow estimation of one's EF EF widely used around the globe as an indicator of environmental sustainability EF to explore the sustainability of individual lifestyles, goods and services, organizations, industry sectors, neighborhoods, cities, regions and nations Since 2006, EF standards exist that detail calculation procedures Ecological Footprint Standards 2009, Global Footprint Network 16

17 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong EF accounting method at the national level is described in the Living Planet Report (WWF and GFN)Living Planet Report Differences in the methodology used by various EF studies Examples: how sea area should be counted, how to account for fossil fuels, how to account for nuclear power (many studies simply consider it to have the same ecological footprint as fossil fuels), which data sources used, how space for biodiversity should be included, and how imports/exports should be accounted for 17

18 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong EF criticisms and debates Complete review commissioned by the Directorate-General for the Environment (European Commission) in June 2008 provides most updated independent assessment of the method Directorate-General for the Environment (European Commission) 18

19 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Criticism 1: Parasitic cities? Calculating EF for densely populated areas, such as a city or small country with a comparatively large population — e.g. New York and Singapore respectively —perception as "parasitic" These communities have little intrinsic biocapacity Critics: dubious characterization since mechanized rural farmers in developed nations may easily consume more resources than urban inhabitants, due to transportation 19

20 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Criticism 2: Trade issues EF an argument for autarchy? EF denies the benefits of trade? EF can only be applied globally? 20

21 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Criticism 3: Pro-Monocultures? Replacing woodlands or tropical forests with monoculture forests or plantations may improve EF EF rewards the replacement of original ecosystems with high-productivity agricultural monocultures by assigning a higher biocapacity to such regions? If organic farming yields lower than those with conventional methods larger EF 21

22 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Criticism 4: Nuclear power Nuclear power: pre-2008 treated same manner as coal power Carbon dioxide per KW-Hr of produced power differs Problems of nuclear vs. fossil fuel waste? 22

23 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong WHO: “3 million people are killed worldwide by outdoor air pollution annually from vehicles and industrial emissions, and 1.6 million indoors through using solid fuel." (BBC report 2004) Alex Kirby (13 December 2004,). "Pollution: A life and death issue". BBC News. Last accessed "Pollution: A life and death issue"BBC News Coal power plant releases 100 times as much radiation as a nuclear power plant of the same wattage. Alex Gabbard. "Coal Combustion: Nuclear Resource or Danger". Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 34/text/colmain.html. Last accessed "Coal Combustion: Nuclear Resource or Danger" 34/text/colmain.html Fossil fuel waste causes global warming, which leads to hurricanes, flooding, and other weather changes 23

24 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Counter-arguments Limits of EF Don’t use EF as only metric Complement with other indicators, e.g., on biodiversity Living Planet Report complements the biennial Footprint calculations with the Living Planet Index of biodiversity Living Planet Report Modified EF that takes biodiversity into account in Australia - cite_note-26 (Manfred Lenzen and Shauna Murray)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecological_footprint - cite_note-26 24

25 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong EF calculators Personal calculators otprint otprint Personal, school and event calculators Interactive site with global rankings and listings Calculator for kids 25

26 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong Overuse of resources vs. "rights of future generations" ure_generations ure_generations od1E7275.pdf od1E7275.pdf 26

27 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong The Tragedy of Commons Concept by Garrett Hardin 1968 Many rational individuals want to use available commons This leads to overuse and tragedy of commons In the long run, this is no one’s interest Tension between individual self-interest and community interest 27

28 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong The Tragedy of Commons: examples Pastureland and herdsmen Herdsmen: as many animals as possible Rational individual calculation: personal gain maximization ALL THINK THIS WAY Community loss: each animal degrades the common land Result: less grass, no grass, erosion, weed domination National parks: overuse by visitors vs. limitation of entry 28

29 Journalism and Media Studies Centre, The University of Hong Kong The Tragedy of Commons: applications Pollution of the commons: sewage, chemicals, radioactive, heat Individual rationality to let out pollutants as cleaning is expensive Result: the common land, water, air is polluted In the long run, no one’s interest Solutions: regulation (law, positive and negative taxes) 29


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