People, Process and Planet
We’re advancing the science of sustainable production and consumption by developing a comprehensive, integrated approach to sustainability and resilience assessment.
The mission of the Sustainable and Resilient Economy (SRE) program is to address the key challenges of sustainable development by generating new knowledge and guiding solutions that enhance the efficiency of material and energy inputs, reduce adverse environmental and social impacts, and protect critical ecosystem functions and services.
Sustainability is generally understood as the capacity to supply adequate resources to meet present and future human needs, while resilience is the capacity to overcome destabilizing forces and adapt to change. Forward-looking communities and business enterprises have come to understand that strengthening resilience today is a prerequisite for achieving long-term sustainability in the future.
The scope of SRE is extremely broad. Our affiliated faculty are contributing to key knowledge domains related to the science of sustainability and resilience and developing holistic approaches that apply this knowledge to guide innovations in technologies, policies, and practices for both communities and enterprises from local to global scales. SRE fosters this work by building collaborative teams, attracting world-class faculty, and actively developing partnerships with industry and government.
Seven Cross-Cutting Knowledge Domains:
- Environment & Ecology
- Engineering & Technology
- Behavior & Decision Making
- Health & Well-Being
- Risk & Uncertainty
- Governance & Management
- Complex Systems
SRE’s holistic approach is being applied in five key research areas that correspond to cutting-edge applications in both the private and public sectors.
April 13, 2017
April 13, 2017
4:00pm - 5:30pm
Risk Communication, Assessment and Responses to...
April 19, 2017
April 19, 2017
2:30pm - 3:30pm
Provost's Lecture: Richard Florida
Special Issue Applying a New Theory of Sustainability
January 04, 2018
SRE affiliated faculty member Jeremy Brooks recently co-led a special issue in the journal Sustainability Science, entitled "Applying Cultural Evolution to Sustainability Challenges". Papers in the special issue use an evolutionary framework and apply a new theory of sustainability. Built on the science of cooperation, this theory seeks to how sustainable behaviors and institutions emerge and persist.
The special issue highlights case studies from around the world, including research on agricultural systems spanning rice irrigation in Bali, viticulture in California, and blueberry farming and lobster fishing in Maine. Other articles tackle forestry practices in Tanzania, the agricultural labor market in Dominica, and global climate change everywhere. Despite the diversity of contexts, researchers are finding common patterns and factors that influence the emergence of sustainable behaviors and institutions.
A multi-year, collaborative effort
The project is part of a five-year collaboration between Dr. Brooks, Dr. Tim Waring at the University of Maine, and several other collaborators whose research is featured in the special issue. This collaborative effort included a catalyst workshop at the University of Maine and a working group hosted by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESNYC) where participants refined this emerging theory to explain how and when human societies manage environmental resources sustainably.
When do sustainable behaviors emerge?
The authors suggest that sustainable resource use can emerge when the conditions for cooperation are encouraged. Waring, Brooks, and colleagues proposes that the conditions for the emergence sustainability involve:
- The presence of groups at the scale of the resource they manage
- A population of such groups
- Learning between groups
- High stakes for group failure
- Rules to support cooperation
More information about this evolutionary theory of sustainability can be found in a recent paper in Ecology and Society and throughout the special issue, found here: