2023 Study Abroad Progam in Florence/Pisa, Italy

If you are a rising senior or graduate student at Virginia Tech and are looking for a unique sustainability-related study abroad experience, please find me on the Drillfield on Wednesday (September 21) to learn more about the planned 2023 Florence-Pisa program in Italy or signup for the information session that will be held from 3-4pm on Friday, October 14.

If you are unable to attend the study abroad fair or information session, please complete this simple form to be kept informed of program updates.

Recording of SPIA Seminar with Dr. Tiziano Distefano

Please find below a recording of Dr. Tiziano Distefano’s SPIA Seminar that explores how the Ecological Macroeconomics (EM) and Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) developed for Italy and France could be adapted to study the US economy.

SPIA Seminar (9/16, 12-1pm)

What is the relationship between climate change and increasing inequality? How can a different paradigm and representation of the world help advance a more sustainable future?

In this seminar, Dr. Tiziano Distefano (an Assistant Professor at the University of Florence) will explore how Ecological Macroeconomics (EM) and Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs) can be used to merge diverse knowledge, data, and methodologies to address complex environmental problems and their connections with the socio-economic system. Dr. Distefano will present his EM-IAM research focused on Italy and France, and will discuss how this analysis approach could be applied to the US.

When: September 16, 12-1pm (EST)

Location: Room 111, Architecture Annex

Zoom: Register here

USAID LASER PULSE Article on Kenya Project

USAID LASER PULSE just released the following article on our research project in Kenya. The article includes a short video showing the AgUnity blockchain app being used by project participants along the African Indigenous Vegetable (AIV) supply chain.

Study Abroad Program in Pisa, Italy

Next summer, I will be co-running a study abroad program in Pisa, Italy, with colleagues Prof. Nicholas Ashford (MIT), Dr. Tiziano Distefano (University of Pisa), and Prof. Tommaso Luzzati (University of Pisa), from June 10-22, 2022.

We will be holding an information session about the program for students at VT and MIT from 10-11am on November 4, 2021. Please register here to join the session.

Sustainable Transitions in Employment, Economic Welfare, and the Environment

This unique program will provide students with a transdisciplinary perspective on sustainable development and is intended for rising seniors and graduate students interested in planning, policy, economics, business, innovation, environmental studies, and law. The program will explore the many dimensions of sustainability and how national, multinational, and international political and legal mechanisms can be used to further a transition towards sustainable development. 

The program has three unique learning environments.

The first section of the program will consist of a summer school based at the University of Pisa, Italy, which will run in parallel with two other summer schools led by the Center for Politics, Ontologies, and Ecologies (POE) and the European Society for Ecological Economics. Given the proximity of the summer schools, joint sessions will be held where the faculty engaged with each program will share their research with students from the other programs. These sessions will enrich the content of each program and provide an opportunity for intercultural exchange between students (and faculty).   

The second section of the program will consist of students attending the 14th Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics (ESEE), which will be hosted by the University of Pisa. 

During the third and final section of the program, students will travel to the Apuan Alps (close to Pisa in Italy), where they will share what they learned from the summer school and ESEE conference and discuss/debate future economic/societal transformation strategies. This final reflection will take place in the mountains, where group discussions will be held outside (weather permitting), and students will have the opportunity to hike in the Italian Alps.  

New Paper: The Complex Relationship between Capacity and Infrastructure Project Delivery

The second paper from Dr. Yehyun An’s award-winning PhD research has been published in a special issue of Sustainability focused on Achieving Sustainable and Resilient Urban Development: Effective Governance, Policy, and Practice. This qualitative paper enriches the quantitative findings captured in our World Development paper.

The paper focuses on how the concept of capacity development was applied to one of India’s largest urban infrastructure programs – the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). While the Indian government considered a lack of capacity to be the main problem in project delivery, there is little evidence that explains the relationships between capacity and project delivery. This case study presents the findings from 58 interviews with project engineers, managers, and administrators about the hurdles they experienced at each stage of project delivery and seeks to understand these hurdles through the lens of capacity development. The study identifies the influence of capacity factors on project delivery and the converse influence of project performance and outcomes on capacity development. Ultimately, this study reveals the complex two-way interactions between capacity and project delivery.

“This Is USG” Video Podcast on Community Wealth Building

Earlier this week, I had the pleasure of talking with Prof. Anne Khademian, the Executive Director of the Universities at Shady Grove (USG), about a wide range of topics related to USG’s new strategic planning process. Our conversation covers why I decided to travel to the USA (over 20 years ago!) to study in the Technology and Policy Program at MIT, and how my subsequent research on sustainable development and binary economics/inclusive capitalism, led me to the emerging movement of Community Wealth Building (CWB).

Book Chapter – Completing the Cycle

A new co-authored book chapter – with Prof. Shyam Ranganathan – entitled “Completing the Cycle: An Inclusive Capitalism Approach Linking Sustainable Consumption and Production,” has just been published in Sustainable Consumption and Production, Volume I: Challenges and Development.

Abstract

In this chapter, we present an inclusive capitalism approach, which completes the environmental-production-income and distribution-consumption cycle by treating sustainable consumption and production as two sides of the same coin. There are two divides that our approach to inclusive capitalism bridges—one between income earned from capital ownership and from wages, and the other between the human production of goods and services and the impact these activities have on the environment. We analyse different mechanisms to bridge these divides and show that our proposal—broadening the distribution of capital ownership using future earnings of capital and directing this income towards sustainable production and consumption—presents a holistic solution to growing environmental problems and income inequality. In addition, we also achieve the politically desirable goal of participatory economic life through this mechanism.

New Paper on “Addressing Inequality”

Our new paper entitled “Addressing Inequality: The First Step Beyond COVID-19 and Towards Sustainability” is now available. I will provide the story behind this paper in a subsequent post.

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted billions of lives across the world and has revealed and worsened the social and economic inequalities that have emerged over the past several decades. As governments consider public health and economic strategies to respond to the crisis, it is critical they also address the weaknesses of their economic and social systems that inhibited their ability to respond comprehensively to the pandemic. These same weaknesses have also undermined efforts to advance equality and sustainability. This paper explores over 30 interventions across the following nine categories of change that hold the potential to address inequality, provide all citizens with access to essential goods and services, and advance progress towards sustainability: (1) Income and wealth transfers to facilitate an equitable increase in purchasing power/disposable income; (2) broadening worker and citizen ownership of the means of production and supply of services, allowing corporate profit-taking to be more equitably distributed; (3) changes in the supply of essential goods and services for more citizens; (4) changes in the demand for more sustainable goods and services desired by people; (5) stabilizing and securing employment and the workforce; (6) reducing the disproportionate power of corporations and the very wealthy on the market and political system through the expansion and enforcement of antitrust law such that the dominance of a few firms in critical sectors no longer prevails; (7) government provision of essential goods and services such as education, healthcare, housing, food, and mobility; (8) a reallocation of government spending between military operations and domestic social needs; and (9) suspending or restructuring debt from emerging and developing countries. Any interventions that focus on growing the economy must also be accompanied by those that offset the resulting compromises to health, safety, and the environment from increasing unsustainable consumption. This paper compares and identifies the interventions that should be considered as an important foundational first step in moving beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and towards sustainability. In this regard, it provides a comprehensive set of strategies that could advance progress towards a component of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 10 to reduce inequality within countries. However, the candidate interventions are also contrasted with all 17 SDGs to reveal potential problem areas/tradeoffs that may need careful attention.