WPT University Place: Sustainability and Environmental Citizenship

WPT University Place: Sustainability and Environmental Citizenship


– All right, so,
I’m not a chemist, I can’t make anything light up, and I can’t blow anything up, which is much to
my consternation throughout my entire career. I would much prefer to be able to show you something
that spectacular. When Dr. Shakhashiri
asked me to speak here on the topic of sustainability,
I was flabbergasted. In part because
that term is either the most important term
of the 21st century or the most incoherent
and impossible to use. Or both. So what I’m gonna
try to do is express, in a really grounded example,
what sustainability is. I mean, defined as kind
of a normative objective, like, we want to be sustainable, that’s really about achieving
the needs of the present without compromising
the needs of the future. I mean, that’s good ethics. That’s a sound normative goal. It’s what most
people who believe in the stewardship of the
Earth want to practice, but it is sure easier
said than done. In other words, what
are we supposed to do if we want to achieve both
outcomes at the same time? Feed everybody. Keep the lights on.
Turn the lights on. 800,000,000 people in
Africa are going to have electricity
within the next decade. How they get it is a really,
really interesting question. These are people who currently
do not have electricity. They don’t have refrigerators.
They don’t have anything. So let me see if I can
think a little bit about what achieving the now and achieving the
future might look like. If I threw you out of
helicopter in southern India, hopefully you had a parachute, and dumped you in
the southern Ghats or the Western Ghats in the
southern part of the country, so it’s at the
southern tip of India. I’ll show you a map in a moment.
It’s hilly country up here. You can see it, about 900
meters, deeply forested. I drop ya in there.
What are you gonna see? You’re gonna wander around,
assuming you haven’t
broken you legs. You’re gonna slash your way
through the undergrowth, and you’re gonna find
lots of endemic species. You’re gonna find
trees and plants. You’re gonna feel like you’re
out, you know, in nature. That’s my colleague, Dr. Ashwini
Chhatre, here in the region. You’re gonna to see
a lot of wildlife, as I’m gonna show you,
you’re gonna hear birds. How many birders
do we have here? Anybody a birder?
Sort of? Usually these places
are packed with birders. Okay, well, you’d hear birds.
You wouldn’t know what they are. But you’d feel like,
you know, nature, right? If you were there at night
in the middle of a rainstorm, you would hear frogs, you
would hear amphibians. You would see all
kinds of wildlife. And you could wander for miles
seeing all this wildlife. But if you ever
looked at your feet, statistically, you are very
likely to see the following. Just as a random sample,
and what is that? Any guesses? That’s coffee. Thousands of square
kilometers of coffee. Thousands of square
kilometers of rubber. Thousands of square kilometers
of what is called areca nut, which you chew and you
get a little buzz off of. This is a export oriented,
capitalist economy. Driving onto the, you go to the store
and you buy coffee, you might have Indian
coffee in there. If you are driving on tires, you probably have Indian rubber. Hand-tapped Indian
rubber from south India. This is a booming economy. This is a growing economy. And yet, right, it’s
fecund with wildlife. That strikes me
as a core example of what you might
call sustainability. That is, in other words, something’s happening
in the present without, in theory,
compromising the future. The biodiversity of the Earth, the sustainability
of Earth’s systems. If you’ve got frogs,
quite frankly, it means you probably
have good water quality. It means you probably
have ecosystem services, as they’re called. That is, things that the
ecosystem, when it’s healthy, produces for wildlife, means
it’s producing for the Earth. All right? Sustainability in a
very grounded example. That is a hell of a lot more
useful than this definition. It’s one of my favorites, but this is classic
science writing. So, this is a definition
of sustainability science. And I only want you to look
at the words I’ve bolded. This is just my way of saying, “Yeah, there’s some clever
scientists who agree with me,” right? The three key words
are integration,
mitigate, and future. See those? Integration means, if you’re
thinking about sustainability, the needs of the present,
you’ve gotta think about what? I mean, think about
the Indian example. What do you have to think
about in the present? What are those folks
living down there in India thinking about? What’s that? Sorry. – [Audience] Food.
– Food. They have to put food
on the table. They’re either
growing it themselves or they’ve gotta sell
coffee to buy it. They’re thinking about food. What else are they
thinking about? They’re thinking about water. Some of these coffee
plantations are irrigated. They’re thinking about water. They are thinking
about the now, right? But that also means they’re
thinking about the economy. They’re thinking about what
they can bear on the market, right, when they
sell their coffee. They are thinking
about their family. They’re thinking about
the social relationships with their neighbors,
they’re thinking about how much they have
to pay their workers. In other words, if you’re gonna
think about sustainability, you have to be integrated. You need to be thinking
about economics. You need to be thinking
about social relationships. You need to be
thinkin’ about frogs. As it turns out,
none of these farmers actually give a damn
about frogs, sadly. But they protect
them accidentally. And we’re gonna come back
to that in just a minute. The point is it needs
to be integrated. To understand what’s
going on for the future, you have to do a lot. Am I too loud? He’s covering his
ears, I’m so concerned. Oh, okay, as long
as you’re all right. Two, mitigate. What does it mean to mitigate? It means that we know we
have a presence on the Earth, right, humanity has
a hand on the Earth that transforms Earth’s systems. There is no getting around it. When we’re done with
population growth, and I’m a little more
optimistic than Bassam here, we’ll be about 9,000,000,000
people on the Earth. That is nothin’ to sneeze at. Maybe 10,000,000,000. When growth stops at the
middle of this century. That’s still a lot
of people, right? You can’t not impact the Earth. Climate change is the
signature of human industry. Like it or not.
We are present on the Earth. How do we mitigate
that presence in a way that we can sustain
the future, right? That’s the second word, right? So, integrate, mitigate,
and the third one is future. That the sustainability
people are always thinkin’ about the future. All right, what
does that look like? In practice, most
sustainability experts talk about this as the
triple bottom line. It’s not a term I
particularly like. But you can see what
they’re trying to get at
with this diagram. If you look up here,
what you’re seeing is that you’re trying
to sustain economy. Whether or not you
need economic growth
is a debatable question, but you’re trying to
sustain the economy. These farmers aren’t going to
do things that make them poor, broke, or can’t send their
kids to school, right? They’re not stupid,
they’re smart. So they’re thinkin’
about the economy. At the same time, we
have to think about
environmental stewardship. If we blow all the water
resources in the now, we won’t have it
in the then, right? So you’re thinking about
environmental stewardship, but you’re also thinking
about social progress. This is a nation of more
than a billion people that have aspirations. They want access to the
science and technology that is their
human right, right? All three of those things. And we’d like to think that
if we could just get one, the other two would just
kind of sort themselves out. If we just saved the planet, why, everybody
would be developed. Or if we just built
the economy big enough, then the environment
would be saved. But the truth is,
it’s harder than that. There are trade-offs and
there are relationships. So what I’m gonna do with the
remainder of the time here is just show you a grounded
example, it’s all pictures, from India about what
those trade-offs look like. When you’re trying to
defend an economy, right, an export oriented economy
and, at the same time, you’re thinking
about biodiversity
and social progress. That is, the rights of working
people around the world. So we’ll go back to our example. And the example
takes place amidst, and this is the last
word I’ll throw at you, an era that many scientists,
including geologists, stratigraphers
most specifically, the people who study
the Earth’s strata, right, the layers
of rock and soil, they call this the Anthropocene. It’s a debated term. But it means a geologic era
that succeeds the Holocene, that comes after the Holocene, in which we simply admit
that the human footprint is actually in the
Earth’s geology. When did it start,
10,000 years ago? Did it start 200 years ago? Did it start in the 1950s
with nuclear weapons? These are debates
that stratigraphers are actually having
right now, right. They’re actually
debating in closed rooms whether or not to rename our
geologic era the Anthropocene. But my point about
putting this slide up is simply to say
that it is contested. Think about that. We’re trying to
sustain the future in a world that’s
actually changing. It’s like a moving target. That’s enormously difficult. It’s very,
intimidatingly difficult. We have climate change,
we have new ecosystems, we have altered geomorphology, we have altered biogeochemistry, and this causes lots of
very smart scientists to disagree with one another. In the bottom left,
we have a series of conservation
biologists who say the world is basically
coming to an end. (laughs) That we need to get people
off the land, in a sense. In the upper right, you have
a journalist, an Emma Maris, who has interviewed
other scientists, who says, actually,
you know what? We’re gardening the planet, we
might as well just admit it. We have this heavy hand. We should just make
responsible, creative choices. This is a very divisive debate. And it is the fundamental
question in sustainability. So let’s go to my case example that I’ll kind of close out
the conversation with here. And this comes from
National Science Foundation funded research that I’m
doing with my colleagues in India and around the country. And it’s a very simple question. If we go back to those
coffee plantations, we go back to those
rubber plantations, we’re gonna ask ourselves
a really simple question: is there nature there? Is there biodiversity? When do you get
that biodiversity? When is the landscape fecund
with all this wildlife, and when is it
basically a desert? Because if you go from one
coffee plantation to another to another, what
you’re going to find is some seem to be really
productive and some don’t. And if you’re interested
in sustainability, right, you’re interested in what it is that causes people
to manage the land in a way that produces all that
biodiversity for the future. Why do they do it? Why, ’cause like I said, there’s
not money in frogs, I can tell you.
There’s money in coffee. So that’s the project.
Pictures. This is a map here. I don’t think I’ve got
a laser pointer here. (someone speaks off mic) There’s one here? Is that this guy? (excited exclamation)
So the southern Ghats, this is the southern tip of
India, down here, like this. Pakistan is up here. Myanmar, Burma, is over here. This is the southwestern part. This is the Western Ghats. Those little brown
splotches that you see there are tiger reserves
or nature parks. What’s the one thing
you notice about this? Most of the land is
not in protected areas. Most of the land, right,
is owned by people. Private owners who grow
stuff for the market, right. Most of the landscape, and we’ve made a lot of new
parks in India, but frankly, in the end, what happens
outside the parks is more important than what
happens inside the parks. That’s true in the U.S.
It’s true in India. It’s true everywhere. That’s where sustainability
has to happen. We can’t make the entire
Earth a nature park, right. People have to live somewhere. Okay, so we’re out here
with our colleagues from the Wildlife
Conservation Society and the Center for
Wildlife Studies, and we’re just
tryin’ to figure out, in this particular region
in southwestern Karnataka, where we see wildlife. We wanted to do fauna,
it’s very hard to, this is like an animal
assembled by committee. It’s the strangest
lookin’ thing. We’re not counting these. We’re mostly counting
birds and frogs because they’re easier to find and because they are indicative
of ecosystem health, right. So if we’ve got lots of birds
and we’ve got lots of frogs, we know something’s
goin’ right. Something’s going
on sustainably. I won’t get down into
this except to say that it’s wet down here on the left
side and dry on the right, which is why 30% of the
biodiversity of southern Asia is right here in
this one region. So this is a, “Why rob banks?” Why rob banks? ‘Cause that’s
where the money is. Why count birds and
frogs down here? ‘Cause it’s where all the
biodiversity is, okay. So, we’re lookin’ for
it in the right place. This is what it looks
like at elevation. You see forest, you
see open grasslands. This is very human influenced.
It’s an Anthropocene landscape. People have totally remade
this landscape. And what do we see? Thousands of square
kilometers of coffee. Thousands of square
kilometers of rubber. And of areca nut. What’s really interesting,
like rubber, I had never gone, this is a new project for me. I didn’t know people
still grew rubber. 1/4 of the rubber
that you encounter is
actually hand-tapped in India or southeast Asia. It’s a remarkably
enormous global economy. This is what coffee looks like. The coffee’s growing
down under here. Here we have silver oak, which is actually not even
an indigenous species. Most of these land
holdings are really small. These are small producers,
they’re not poor, but they’re not like big
global corporations, right. This is mom and pop
operations, okay. Here’s what rubber looks
like, that’s hand-tapped. You can see they score
the side of the tree. And then the sap, right,
the latex, runs into these. It is flattened out, dried,
and then sold on a market. And this is a huge
global market. There are certain products
that can only be made with
hand-tapped rubber. So this is a big economy.
And this is areca nut. There’s a nut, it’s a
palm, it grows way up here. You cut it down,
you grind it up. And you chew it, and you
get a little head buzz. It’s a big business. Okay. This is the science part. Our question is very simple. When you see biodiversity,
what are farmers doing? What are they doing? And if you see
farmers doing stuff that produces biodiversity,
why do they do it? Is it because they get
good farm gate prices? Is is because they’re
in cooperatives? What makes people do the
things that we desire if we wanna see sustainability? Right, knowing that
there’s no money in frogs, why would you have frogs then? What would produce that effect? And to find that out, it
means you have to sample hundreds and hundreds and
hundreds of plantations all throughout the southern
part of this country. And it is a pain in the butt. We have bird count points where you go out
into the forest, you get a random spot,
and then you develop a series of orthogonal spots or sampling sites
inside the plantation. And you stand there for three
days in a row at dawn and dusk and you listen and
you count the birds. And the people who do this
are incredibly talented. We have 11 volunteers
and six interns. Hundreds of people apply to join
this science project, actually. And then they have to take a
test to identify the birds. And they all say they’re
really good at birds. And most of them just
do not pass the test. I couldn’t pass this test. To get into this club,
you’ve got to be able to identify hundred of
birds species by ear. It’s quite remarkable. And then also take other
kinds of measurements on the landscape to control
for various variables. The point is, did we find birds? You better believe it. We found enormous biodiversity in these fully
productive landscapes. Birds, for those of
you who do like birds, the southern Ghats is a
great place to take a week. And just go up to one of
these coffee plantations. Get yourself into a
hammock with a bird book and a camera and
a glass of wine. And you’re good, you
know, for days on end. We’re seeing a lot
of endemic species, but also migratory species. So, all these really
important Asian species that migrate all the way from
Siberia down to Sri Lanka are passing through coffee
and rubber and areca. And they need it, it’s habitat. They are thriving, not in
spite of what people are doing, but because certain people
are doing something. What are they doing,
what are they doing? It’s a great question,
it’s a science question. You gotta go find out,
it’s an empirical question. More birds.
Lots of ’em. The Asian paradise flycatcher.
Just fabulously beautiful birds. Are we seeing lots of species?
Yes. Rubber is among the–
And this was quite a surprise, we figured this
would be a desert. We are seeing, in
a highly productive industrial landscape,
lots of species. And rubber also produced
the highest number
of migrant species. So those flying birds
that come down from Asia all the way to there,
depending, in other words, at least on whatever habitat
is being created artificially. And this is like science stuff. But the key, what these
diagrams show you is that different types of birds like
different types of landscapes. So if they eat fruits,
they like certain places. And if they like bugs, they
like different kinds of places. The point here is these
are guilds of birds. This is biodiversity.
This is conservation biology. But usually, where do you
do conservation biology if you’re a
conservation biologist? Where do you do it, if you’re,
like, a science person? A woman or man who studies
conservation biology. Where do you go? Where do you think you go? You go to wilderness. You go to the last five places
with a fence around them. What’s crazy here is that we’ve
got conservation biologists out marching around in areas that are really
fully anthropogenic, created by humanity. And then amphibian
sampling, much harder. It has to be done in
the middle of the night. It has to be done
during the rainy season. And it has to be done
in coffee plantations that are like 45 degree slopes. And that is why we
have graduate students. (audience laughter) These guys are really
good, all right. And they are out there
all night, all season, tromping around in the mud,
and they’re listening, right. They’re identifying
these species by ear that when they find them,
they turn over the leaf and they give us a
photographic record of the diversity they see. And what are we seeing? We are seeing gliding frogs. We are seeing weirdly adapted
endemic species. We are seeing south Asia’s
smallest frog, right. Teeming in these ponds,
where, as it turns out, there’s very few
pesticides that are used. That turns out to be
the big kicker here. We are seeing a frog here that was actually
rediscovered in 2000. This was considered extinct,
and we were finding them
in large numbers. Where?
Again, in a human-made world. And finally, this
is our prized frog. This was new to science in 2008. We didn’t discover it, but
somebody else did in 2008, and it’s critically
endangered species. And we’re finding it where? Not out in the wilderness. We’re finding it in a
sustainably managed landscape. All right? So, what are people doing
that produces this effect? I’ll tell you that the
main thing that predicts whether you’re going
to have bird diversity is the
diversity of your trees. Some places have much
more thick canopy. Others have much
more open canopy. Both of these are coffee
plantations, right. Some places have lots of
different tree species. And some plantations have
just basically a monoculture. That means one type
of tree species. This, again, is silver oak
imported by the British during the colonial era. This is gonna give you
more birds than this, according to our study, right. We think that’s a statistically
defensible claim, all right. And then whether you have these
weird kind of ground covers also makes a big difference
for frogs and stuff. So farmers are making decisions
that are producing wildlife, but they’re not doing
it to produce wildlife. So why the heck
are they doing it? I’m coming to the end here. To answer that, you
can’t count frogs. Sustainability science
is integrated science. So that means we have to
talk to actual people. And we talked to 1,000
plantation owners and asked them why the
heck they do what they do. And I can tell you the one thing that did not predict whether
people had biodiversity or not is their education level. This guy has got a master’s
degree in agronomy. This guy does not have a
grade school education. And there’s
everything in between. And some of them are
producing biodiversity and some of them aren’t. And education doesn’t
seem to be the reason. So, what is going on? Why, when, in particular, are they opening up the canopy, which is bad for birds, or
reducing the diversity of trees, which is bad for
birds, for example? Our prediction was farm
gate prices, the economy. So, again, sustainability
science can’t just be about the sociology of the farmers. And it can’t just
be about the birds. It can’t be about the frogs. We’d have to actually
understand the coffee economy. What is this? This shows two different
kinds of coffee. Arabica is the expensive
coffee that you get when you’re at Starbucks. Robusta coffee is the stuff
that you get in instant coffee. There’s a real
quality difference. This stuff is easy to produce. And it’s produced
in large quantities. This is much fussier, requires
more tree species diversity. It’s harder to make. If the price of arabica
coffee goes down far enough, this is what this
diagram is telling you, it’s in my interest
as a coffee grower to just abandon arabica and say, “To hell with it, I’m
gonna grow robusta.” And what would that mean? Now I don’t have to keep the
diversity of tree species, now the canopy can open
up, and what happens? My biodiversity goes down. So they’re responding
to markets. That’s the one thing. And the second
thing they told us, and this is the key finding,
and I’m almost done, the second thing they told us is workers these days
are too damn lazy. Back in my father’s day when my father owned
this plantation, workers would work 12 hours
without a cigarette break and they wouldn’t complain. And now, you know, they
want cigarette breaks. They want electricity
in their homes. They want healthcare, you know. They wanna be human
beings, in other words. And they’ve got the power,
for the first time in history, to walk away from
those plantation owners if those plantation owners
don’t deliver the goods. That is, they can just walk, which means these
workers are getting, in other words,
higher wages, right. There’s a labor economy
which determines whether or not you can
have biodiversity of trees, which determines whether
or not your plantation is, essentially,
sustainable for the future. So this is my last question. How is it that workers today can walk away from a
plantation in India, when they couldn’t in
the last generation? When those guys fathers
ran the plantation? How can they do it now that
they couldn’t do it before? It’s a great mystery to me,
and I was quite surprised when we learned what it was. Let’s think about
supply and demand. Think about economics. Got a guess? How can they command
a higher wage? – [Audience] There’s
not as many of them? – There’s not as many of them. In fact… Labor, and this
gives you a sense of what labor looks like
on some of these farms, this guy will go up here
in the morning at 8:00 AM. He’ll harvest, and he won’t
come down until 3:00 PM. So, he just goes from tree to
tree cutting down areca nut. And it cuts down, this
guy bags it down here, and she works her tail off
to kind of process it
and then move it along. This is labor demanding stuff. This is back-breaking
work, right? But look, through all of
the southern part of India, which is where we are, the fertility rate,
that’s the average number of children that a woman
has in their lifetime, has fallen underneath two. It’s been underneath two
for over a generation. If your fertility rate
is under two on average, what’s happening
to the population? It’s declining, it’s declining. It’s happening, it’s
happening in our lifetime. And it means we’re running,
stick with me on this, we’re running out
of workers in India. This is the most
counterintuitive finding
I’ve ever seen in my life. Now, some of it is that
they’re moving to cities. Fast urbanization is going on. Some of it is that they’re
going to the Gulf states to take higher paying
work in places like the United Arab Emirates and
other places that need labor. But some of it is, you
know what, there’s just not as many this generation
as there was before. Something big is
happening, right. So let’s walk through,
as I conclude, what we kind of learned
about sustainability. If we’re thinking about the
future, preserving biodiversity, preserving water resources,
using fewer chemicals, right. We’re thinking about
the future, all right. That depends on
the farm economics of people involved in a
global capitalist economy, like the decisions they make. And those decisions
are predicated on things they can’t control,
like the price of coffee and the price of labor. And those things are
in turn controlled by global forces that
are so mysterious and almost optimistic in the
case of population decline, that sustainability science, that is to predict or
control the future, really means we think about
some big fundamental drivers that drive a lot of what
happens in the world. We can tell those farmers,
“Don’t do that, that’s bad,” or, “Go do that, that’s good.” But a lot of their decisions
are situated within a cycle of vast churning global drama. And part of it is the
decline of population, which I think is one of the
most interesting things I’ve, and let me tell you somethin’, I did not see it coming until
it came up in the surveys and until we looked
at labor prices. And that’s why you do science. ‘Cause you don’t know
before you start. And when you do,
the light goes on. And you say the future
of the planet, right, rests in the hands of what
those poor people want. Where they want to move. What they want to
achieve in their lives. So, if there’s a lesson for
sustainability, if I close, the lesson for sustainability
is the future of the planet sits in the hands of a large
number of very poor people who want to have
a dignified life. And the conditions under
which they do or do not get it will determine how
the economy functions. Which will determine how
people perform on the land, what kinds of land uses,
agriculture, mining, other kinds of practices. And those things will determine
the number of species, the rate of climate change. All the things that we
think of as fundamental to sustaining the
future are in the hands of the aspiring global poor. Which is either really good
news or really bad news. And I’m glad I’m just
young enough to be, I think I’m gonna be alive
when population growth ends. And I wonder what
it’s gonna look like. So those are my remarks,
and I will take Q and A. – [Shakhashiri] Paul, thank you. (audience applause) – Is that okay? Was that all right for time?
I tried to hustle it. – [Shakhashiri]
We have a microphone. So we will take the
microphone to the person who is going to make a comment. And let me start by
asking a question. – [Paul] Please. – [Shakhashiri] So the fertility
rates that you showed were localized. – Well, they’re by state. So the stats that you’re
seeing there are by state. So you can see the northern
part of the country… – [Shakhashiri] Is different.
– [Paul] …where I worked for a
long time has much higher rates. Bahar, for example, which is just about the
poorest state in the country. – [Shakhashiri] Right,
so the rationale for the people moving
up north is what, why– – [Paul] Well,
they’re not moving. So just to be clear,
the fertility rate
is natural growth. So this is the number of
kids people are having. That’s regardless of migration. So, in other words,
these numbers, when you go between 1.5 and two, which is the entire southern
part of the country, that is fertility choices made
by women and their families. People are not having two kids.
Now, why is that? And there’s a
science for this too. It’s because the
opportunity costs are higher to have kids, because you can be
in the workforce. When women have the
opportunity to work, they tend to have fewer kids. This is just how it
is, it’s a global fact. When women are educated,
they tend to have fewer kids. It’s a statistical, It’s one of the cleanest,
like, R-squareds that exists in national
income accounting. Fertility rates go down
with women’s education even in poor countries. You educate women, you
have the availability of rural healthcare so that
there’s lower infant mortality, so babies don’t die, and
you know what you get? Fewer kids. So that what you’re seeing in
India here is that the south, generally speaking, has
better rural healthcare. It has higher rates of literacy in the female population,
more women in the workforce. Hell, if you go out in
Kerala in the morning, let’s say that you
want to see elephants,
which is awesome, by the way, you should go to Kerala
to see elephants. You get up in the morning and
you say to your hotel person,
“I want to go see elephants.” Who is the hotel person?
Who actually takes your order? It’s a woman. You go out, you get in
a cab, probably a man, maybe a woman driver, but
they get you out to the park, Somebody takes your
money, who is it? It’s a woman.
You get in the boat. They fire up the motor.
This is in Kerala, right. And who’s drivin’ the boat? It’s a woman. So you can go the whole day
and see only women at work. Whereas, up in Rajasthan, where
I worked for 20 years prior, you could go all day without
seeing a woman, right. It is a remarkable difference. It’s a natural
experiment, right. This is sustainability science. What’s happening
is a revolution. A fertility revolution
around the world. Indonesia, throughout
all of Asia, it already happened
in Latin America, populations are declining
in rates of growth. These populations are
actually declining in overall population. That’s before we
talk about migration. One of our big mysteries,
to answer your question with our biggest
question, is why the heck aren’t people from Bahar
rushing down in here to the coffee plantations
to pick up the labor burden? We haven’t figured that out yet. People don’t want
to pick coffee? Back-breaking work. And hard to automate. Next question, go ahead. – [Audience] I have a question. Can you give us an example, take us to a different
part of the world here, during this biodiversity, but is not nearby very valuable
agricultural product? And because of those factors, you don’t have the
same conditions where labor is so high priced. – [Paul] That’s a great point. – [Audience] Because
this is a very (mumbles). – Well, what I say about the
example, it’s a great point. So I concede half the point. The point is this, right: this is a very specific
kind of economy. This is agroforestry. There is about a hundred
or a thousand times as much land under
agroforestry around the world than there is in national parks. That’s my answer. In other words, you want
to save biodiversity, after parks, your
next best shot? Agroforestry and you
find it in west Africa and you find it in
southeast Africa and you find it
throughout Latin America and you find it throughout
Central America. You find it throughout
parts of the Amazon. In other words, right,
it’s the frontier. It’s a godsend, right. Is it everywhere? Is an Iowa cornfield as
biodiverse as these places? No, of course not. But how much of
this is out there? So much, so much. And if you consider
how much money and time is put into
protected areas just in India, to say nothing of China, when it could actually be
put in trying to maintain and support biodiversity
in working landscapes that are actually
generating an income, why, it seems like
money poorly spent. So my point here is not
to say that these are, it depends on how
you look at it. The glass is quite half full.
There’s a lot of agroforest. Now, if we go beyond agroforest, because that’s
what this is about and this is what
we’re publishing on, there’s also biodiversity
to be found in cities. There’s biodiversity to be found even at the edges
of Iowa cornfields. In the corners in central
pivot agriculture, a huge amount of work is
going in now to maintaining or restoring pollinators, right. The interstices of
the Anthropocene,
those little spaces between what is clearly,
like, pounded by humans and what is wild, which
is hardly anything left, those spaces in between
which are funky and lively and diverse but obviously
influenced by people, those are countless,
that’s the future. That’s the Earth. When there’s 10,000,000,000
people on the Earth, it is gonna be a
lightly used planet. Like it or not. I’d like to
think we’d all go back to 2,000,000,000
people, but we’re not. But we’re going to
stop growing around 10. for all the reasons
I just showed you. (someone speaks off mic) Yeah, well, it depends
on who you cite. And demographers, you know, are
pretty good at what they do, but prediction is really
difficult, as they say famously, especially when it
comes to the future. So, who is that who said that?
Somebody smart. I want to think it’s Yogi Berra, but I think it was
actually a scientist. Anyway. Niels Bohr, actually, I think. Go ahead. – [Audience] Do land access
issues impact the study? – [Paul] Do they what?
I’m sorry. – [Audience] Do land access
issues impact the study? – So, land change in this area,
and that’s really important in Latin America, you
know, in this area, by the way, great question,
and we were curious ourselves, So what we’ve done
is we’ve gone back and taken a look at how
much land has changed hands, whether there’s
consolidation, in other words, stuff like that, over
the last 30 years, and there’s none. If you got your
hands on this land right when the British left, let’s say you had one
hectare, I mean a tiny area, two hectares, you
didn’t let it go. You didn’t let it go. Somebody in the family is
still managing that land. So what I would say is that
everybody who had access to the land continues to
have access to the land. There hasn’t been a lot of
putting people off the land. That is not true in West Africa. That’s not true
in Latin America. That would become a much bigger
deal in a different context. But the remarkable
thing about this place is how stable it is in
terms of land holdings. And it has to do with their
ability to make a living and to diversify
their livelihoods. I’ll give you a
good case example. Almost everybody here keeps
what’s called a homestay, which basically is
a bed and breakfast. You can be a little owner or you
can be a big plantation owner, but you’re always gonna
make a few more bucks if somebody comes out,
sits in that hammock, has that glass of wine,
photographs those birds. That’s worth as much
as rubber, right? That’s worth as much as coffee. Who were all the people
sitting in those hammocks? Let’s just get into a
little more sustainability. It doesn’t answer your
question, but I’m riffin’ here. Who sits in those hammocks?
Who are the tourists? – [Audience] Yeah, I
understand that one of the biggest forces going on
in the world is urbanization. And I’m not quite getting how that force toward cities is going to deal
with sustainability. – Great question. So, in this context, and
I’ll be quite specific about, I’m wanna say
something very specific and I’m wanna say
something very general, because it’s the most
important question. In this case, urbanization
rate in Karnataka is about 35%. So, in other words,
35% of the population lives in something
defined as a city, which means a lot of people
still live out on the landscape. And, in fact, if we get to
about 10,000,000,000 people, you can do this on the
back of an envelope, and you’ve got about, let’s say we do 80%
urbanization globally, which would be optimistic,
I mean, if you like cities. That’s a high rate, but
let’s say you get to 80%. The same number of people
living in rural areas now will be living
in rural areas then, because it’s 20% of
a much larger number. So, that’s the first answer
to the question is that what happens in the countryside
really still matters, right. There is a more general
point, and that’s this: much of the income that’s
coming in onto these landscapes that allows them
to be sustainable,
when they can be sustainable, is coming, as I
mentioned, from tourists. Who are those tourists,
to answer my own question? They are middle class Indians working in the
software industry. Urbanization has provided
an economic engine which has flown money
back to the countryside, which has allowed
certain kinds of choices which can be sustainable. And, if I can make a more
abstract global argument, I think it’s pretty clear
that an 80% urbanization rate is good for global
sustainability. Cities are more efficient
users of energy. Not suburban areas. Cities, real cities. Bangalore, New York, Chengdu. They are more efficient
users of energy. They are cosmopolitan and
filled with innovation. They allow transportation
that is not, let’s say, driving
around in a car. Urbanization is the best
sustainability news we’ve got. By putting 10,000,000,000
people in the countryside, would be very worrisome. But if you had 8,000,000,000
of them in a city, and you had production going
on and some kind of balance and some protected areas
and some coffee plantations, the future doesn’t
have to be awful. It doesn’t have to be Soylent
Green, right. (chuckles) You know, urbanization
can be good. Bangalore is a really
interesting case. That’s been a very
effectively urbanized, well, it’s not a
very well run city. I’m going to be on TV, right? Bangalore is a
very well run city. (audience laughter) I have to be invited back.
It’s not a very well run city. It’s not especially sustainable,
but it certainly could be. So urbanization is our
biggest opportunity. I think liveable
cities is probably the most important
part of sustainability. Having said that, these species are not
going to live in cities. Those frogs, those birds, they
need something like nature. And if the nature
happens to be coffee that is consumed by urban people who pump the money back
into the rural economy in something that
looks like a tradeoff, you can sustain rural
biodiversity and
urban biodiversity. Foxes and– There’s foxes runnin’
through my yard, crazy. So my answer is: urbanization
has been a boogieman for the environmental
movement since 1965, and it’s a mistake. Cities are part of
the sustainability
ticket to the future. Both because of their efficiency and because of their
relationship to the
countryside, right. Because they flow resources
back to working people that allow them to
maintain landscapes that are not totally
destroyed, right. You need a diverse economy. Does that–
– [Audience] Yes, thank you. – [Paul] Yeah, it’s a great,
it’s an important question. I’m not an urbanist, so that’s why you’re not
seeing enough cities. We’ll bring one in. I have colleagues. Way smarter than me.
Anything else? – [Shakhashiri] Yeah, I
have another question. We have time. – [Paul] That’s why I try to
talk fast. – [Shakhashiri] We
have lots of time. I’m beginning to see your
point about the effect locally in the
southern part of India. I’m beginning to see that point. – [Paul] Indonesia,
Bangladesh is falling now. – [Shakhashiri] Yeah?
– [Paul] Oh, yeah. – [Shakhashiri] What I’m
trying to think about is… What do those of us who are enjoying this
expensive coffee. – [Paul] Citizenship. – [Shakhashiri] Yeah.
– [Paul] That’s your question. – [Shakhashiri] What do, other than continuing to
buy this expensive coffee, hopefully some of the
money will go back there, what, is that it? – Well, I think there’s
several things, right? So I think that’s true. So one of the things that
might work in this case, right, has to do with getting rents on the
coffee, so to speak, land rents that can pay for the
environmental externalities. Which means getting more money
for your coffee, basically. And then agreeing
to grow it in a way that produces frogs, right? That’s like shade-grown
coffee, fair trade coffee, all those markets that
wealthy Americans pay for even though they
are not quite sure what they’re getting for
their money. I mean, come on. Do you really know
what you’re getting when you’re getting
fair trade coffee? No, you don’t. But that’s one part of it,
is responsible consumption. I don’t favor that. I think what we’re
really talking about here is about making and
establishing policy. Powerful people, wealthy
people, should establish policy that produce the effects
that are desired, which means rural
healthcare, you know. People in Uttar Pradesh are
not making the kinds of demands on rural healthcare
that they could, right? Rural healthcare drives
down the fertility rate. Rural healthcare keeps
people on the land in a way that is
more sustainable. It lowers costs, household
costs that can be put back into a farm
operation that’s sustainable. There are policy measures that
are pretty common sensical. Better healthcare,
better education. In other words, if you’re
an environmentalist, let’s put it this way,
you should spend less time trying to save tigers
in those tiny parks, there, I’ve said it, and more time building
health clinics. That’s what I would say. It’s about a certain low
number of dollars that we have as people who were concerned
about the sustainable future of the Earth and where
we put those few chips, and I think they should
be put on the rural poor. I think that’s where your
best bet is, you know? And the problem is, and now
I’ll be bold, historically, and people who do describe
themselves as environmentalists, are terrified of the rural poor. They’re gonna want TVs like me. They’re gonna want
air conditioning. They’re gonna want
all these things, and they’re going to
destroy the Earth. It’s white people scared
of the brown masses. And I am saying that you
invest in those people. You give them electricity,
you work with them to provide the kind of
energy that’s not coal, and you will get a
sustainable future. Because these folks
are not going away, and they have the right
to make those demands. And that’s not anathema
to a sustainable future to work with the rural poor. And Malthus, if it was ever
true, it’s coming to an end. I’m an anti-Malthusian on
this, we differ a little bit. But I will say that even
if you’re a Malthusian, look at these numbers. The world is changing even now. It’s good news. – [Shakhashiri] I like good
news; I’m not a gloom
and doom person. (Paul and audience laugh) But I want to learn what responsible
action should be taken, not only individually,
but collectively. – We should be thinking
about development. And we should be thinking
about urbanization. The question that came from
up here on urbanization was really crucial. – [Audience] Okay. It looks like on your map
there about half of India, half of it, the area is… Through world population
increase, what fraction of the population
of India is in– – [Paul] Is within that?
– [Audience] Yes. – Right. So the highest
density populations and the most people fall
in the Gangetic Plain where some of the
highest growth is. So there’s no question
that this is growth on a higher number than
this is lack of growth on a lower number. So, in other words, this is
a declining number over time, but it’s a smaller number. It’s a direct answer
to your question. It’s a smaller number
than what we see up here. But this is gonna tip too. Like, this is coming. These states weren’t negative
growth states 20 years ago. Kerala maybe, none of the rest.
It’s all new. So it’s just a
question of how quickly these things transition,
which is why we can’t pick whether it’s 9,000,000,000
or 10,000,000,000, right. That’s why it’s hard to
come up with that number. Because we don’t know how
fast states in the north are gonna behave like
states in the south. And that’s true in Indonesia.
It’s true in Malaysia. Hell, in Singapore, the
government has a whole campaign co-sponsored by a candy
company to get people on their Independence
National Night to go get with it. You see what I’m saying? They have advertisements
on television. They are worried that their
population is getting too small. Isn’t that crazy? The world’s crazy. Stuff is happening around us that 1973 just is not ready for. – [Audience] I have
another question. – [Paul] Please. – [Audience] Could you tell
us about some more details about farmers who came
to the realization that biodiversity was
very good for their crops, and how that
information is shared from one part of an
agriculture area of the world to another part…? – Great question. So I’m gonna answer the
second question first. I’ll give you a
grounded example. There’s something called
the honeybee network, and the honeybee network is
south-south technology transfer. So they don’t bother talking
to Americans or Europeans. They just talk to each other. So, East Africans are
touring farms in Gujarat, and Gujaratis are visiting
coffee farms in Central America. So there are networks globally, and information technology has, I think, aided this enormously, which is about sharing
best practices, coming up with clever solutions, learning about how to create
cooperatives, for example, and other kinds of
institutional solutions. So, there’s a lot of
south-south knowledge transfer. But to answer the
first question, none of these people
think that biodiversity is good for them, except
maybe because of tourism. For the most part,
what they are doing is simply responding to
labor and crop markets. And when labor and the
crop markets are right based on their land size, they accidentally make
biodiversity friendly decisions. So, if we’re interested, this is another lesson
about sustainability. Waiting for everybody to agree
with you to save the Earth is a huge waste of time.
(audience laughter) It makes much more sense to say if this person is making
decisions that produce a diversity of trees
which produce the
biodiversity we want, then we should either
subsidize them to do it or figure out how to kind
of mess with the economy in a way that kind
of encourages that. It takes some tinkering. You get your hands
on the levers. One of the tests
we’re running now is, are farmers who are in
cooperatives more likely to have tree diversity for
whatever economic reasons, and therefore bird diversity? And if that’s true, then
what you would want to do as an environmental
citizen is encourage, subsidize or work
with cooperatives. But we don’t know, that’s
still an empirical question. That test is still being run.
So there’s two answers. One is south-south learning
is vibrant right now. And I would say, coming back to the urban
question on sustainability, the greatest network of
learners right now are mayors. Which has nothing to
do with my coffee case. Mayors are talking
to each other. The mayor of Seattle is
talking to mayors in China about what the heck,
’cause it’s a practical problem. How do you deal
with sea level rise? How do you maintain
a shipping grid? You know, with an electricity,
a limit to your electricity. So there’s a lot of
learning going on, it’s just not at the sort
of national, federal, you know, the failure
of climate negotiations at the national scale has
been matched by the success of climate activities by
mayors, county government. I mean, the decentralization
of this decision-making is quite remarkable
and quite effective. – [Audience] Are you the
only person in the room that
knows this? (audience laughter) We never heard this. – [Paul] I will connect you to the Mayors Climate
Protection Agreement in which a majority of
Americans live in cities signed, where mayors signed the Mayors
Climate Protection Agreement. Now, some of these people,
it’s just green washing. It’s like, oh, yeah, I’m green. And you know, the city just
goes on doing stupid stuff. But a lot of these cities are
making really good decisions because if they don’t,
they’re screwed. You know, when somebody like
Mayor Bloomberg comes out and says, “I think sea level
rise is going to be a problem and we might want to think
about restoring wetlands,” (makes wacky vocalization) that’s quite a
revelation, right? Coming out of that
storm sequence. My point here is that people, this is happening. It’s not happening enough,
it needs to happen more. Environmental
citizenship is about directing those
kinds of changes. But I think it comes out of,
now I’m just gonna be on TV, get myself into more trouble. I think it has to do with a
history of environmentalism in the environmental community. I describe myself as
an environmentalist. It’s not what I do for a living.
I am a scientist. But I worry about the Earth,
and I think that my brothers and sisters in this
movement have depended upon waiting for the national
government to do something that’s gonna be a centralized
solution all the time. And I think that is necessary, but insufficient to the project. Oh, now I’m getting
myself into trouble. I like mayors, my
bet’s on mayors. There should be a global
parliament of mayors. And they should just
get together and say, “Here are a bunch of things
I’m doing in a city that work. What are you doing?” And they could all agree to
do it, it’d be revolutionary. – [Shakhashiri] Let me
see if I can get you in some more trouble. (audience laughter) And I’m cautious in
asking this question. – [Paul] I’ll be
cautious in answering. – [Shakhashiri] Be bold. It’s up to you. So, are there other
crops around the world that can now,
what’s the right word, benefit from this approach? And what about crops
around the world that are economically lucrative, but not good for our health? – Not good for our health. So, there’s a big question, and it’s bigger
than my knowledge. So I have to admit you’ve
hit the edge of my ignorance. Which is vast.
(audience laughter) But I would say that central Wisconsin potatoes are a very interesting crop. So, what makes them interesting? Well, we could talk
about how awful they are. For a moment, let’s talk
about how awful they are. Knowing potato growers around
the state who are really, really thoughtful, smart
people and I like them a lot and they are feeding the world
and all the rest of that. High capacity bore wells, right? You know, drawing on the water
resources very, very heavily. Big problem with potatoes. It is a high input
crop, you know, in terms of
nutrients, pesticides. You know, it’s a dirty crop.
It can be a dirty crop. But one of the things that
they’ve gotten better at in central Wisconsin is
doing the kinds of things that I was just talking about. Using those corners where
central pivot doesn’t touch to produce all kinds
of biodiversity. They’re doing all these things. The problem is they can’t
get a premium for it. Why is that? Even though they’re
producing biodiversity. Let’s say these farmers
who are producing potatoes, just like our coffee growers, and they’re producing
biodiversity at the field edges along with some forest remnants,
restoring some of their prairie, why can’t they get
a revenue for that? And the answer is
because it’s not organic. So once again environmentalism
defeats itself, right? I understand what
organic is, right. Organic is no inputs
for seven years. These potato growers are
not gonna hit that mark, but they might be
producing more biodiversity than an organic farm. How can we pay them for
those ecosystem services? How can we get them to do it? And so they tried working with
the University of Wisconsin for a brand in this area. I believe it’s Nature Grown.
Something like that. Anybody familiar with this? The problem is that people
don’t understand it. It’s not organic,
it’s too complicated. It’s got biodiversity, but
it’s kind of industrial. It’s very hard to market
stuff like this, right? Innovation that isn’t
nice and clean, you know, that makes easy sense to
people, is very hard to sell. So my point is everything
I said about coffee is true about every crop. You could have more
biodiverse all kinds of stuff. You could always have more. Are there crops we
should do away with? Are there bad incentives? Yeah. Right? The ethanol incentive. The ethanol incentive, he
says to the camera, has actually resulted,
in the last few years, in the elimination of a
lot of prairie and wetlands that were put in through
the conservation, through federal
conservation investments throughout the 1990s and 2000s. All that stuff that was
moving forward fell backwards, because we’re working
across purposes. On the one hand, the federal
government’s paying people to take corn out and bring,
you know, wild nature back in places that aren’t
very productive. On the other hand,
they’re subsidizing corn, which takes land into production
that was out in wetlands and had the tile stopped
up and all of that. So, you got the government
working across purposes. So my point about that is all crops could be
more sustainable. They have to be. There will be
10,000,000,000 people. We will have to eat.
We will have to have energy. It’s gonna have to happen. But I’m sure there’s
a better way to do it. And that’s what
sustainability science is. It’s is a rigorous
look at where you can squeeze those margins,
make those trade-offs in ways that are sensible. But it’s not gonna happen
without government action, even federal government action. It’s not gonna happen
without local action. It’s not gonna happen
without people demanding that those things happen. But what you can’t demand is that we’re all gonna
go back into a cave. You know, it’s just
not gonna happen. And you’re welcome to, but I
think it’s somewhat offensive to ask somebody in
India to do that. So that’s the one thing
that’s off the table. You can’t ask for that. What’s left then is the
fountain of human ingenuity and creativity and
new social networks and good regulation
and stuff like that. Now just get over the
whole, like, hobbit thing. Right?
That’s all. I know, hobbits are awesome. Go ahead. – [Audience] You said
earlier that the population was probably going to
top off at 10,000,000, but is the USA being, like, iconically sustainable? In, like, the population growth? Is it contributing
much to the total? – So much to say about that, all of it a little
contradictory. So let me give you
the glass half full and the glass half empty. The bad news is this. Population growth in the
United States is higher, fertility rates are
higher in this county than they are in southern India. And we use a whole
lot more stuff than people in southern India. We have an energy
intensive lifestyle, right, that is driving climate change
and doing all that stuff that we all agree is bad. So, before I told anybody
in India to do this or that, I would probably start
with a lot of questions about consumption and
lifestyle and whatever else. So that’s the glass half-empty.
And the answer is yes. The United States
is contributing to
global climate change through the destruction
of ecosystems. Yeah, sure, all wealthy
countries do so far, right? Now the glass half full. Energy and material
intensity of the US economy is declining at an
incredible rate. In other words, many of us
in this room are old enough to remember my 1972 Dodge
Dart Swinger Special. It’s a car.
(audience laughter) It weighed a ton, right. And on average a car produces
about as much carbon dioxide or about as much greenhouse
gases as its weight annually. Just for the record. That’s just a back of the
envelope kind of calculation. Those cars are
getting a lot lighter. I mean, the amount of stuff
that it takes to be an American is less now than ever before. Water use per capita is down. One of the big jumps
it made in the 1990s, it went like (imitates
whooshing), like that. Where did that come from?
Smaller toilet tanks. I mean, it’s not rocket surgery. So we’ve made a lot of progress in dematerializing
the American lifestyle and the American economy
through innovation,
through technology. That doesn’t mean we
don’t have a problem. We do. But it’s an interesting trend,
and we’ve got to bank on it. It takes something like
four times less energy to live to be 72,
globally, than it used to. It’s kind of an odd statistic,
but I got it from a recent paper and I think it’s
an interesting one. That people are living longer
and they’re using less energy over the course of their
lifetimes to get there. That’s not a bad thing.
I would like to make 72. I’m probably not gonna
make it much longer. My grandfather was 101. Yeah, but on the other side
of the family, bad genes. Anyway, I’m off-topic. My point is people
are living longer and they’re using less
stuff to get there, right. We can dematerialize
the economy. That is a good news trend
in intensive countries like northern Europe
and the United States. That’s where that
dematerialization is
the strongest signal. It’s happening more
there than elsewhere. And if you’d like to write me, I can actually provide
some very good papers and statistics on
dematerialization,
which is fascinating. I mean, if you’re
really optimistic, like suddenly we just
won’t need anything, we’ll just live on,
like, we’ll be like, live on air or
somethin’, I don’t know. Where’s it all going? I’m flabbergasted. Technology keeps me humble. – [Audience] I was
wondering, in southwest India, how it’s doing with
providing electricity or solar power, water. I keep reading about, hearing
about various projects to bring into parts of India
different kinds of power. – Yeah, it’s actually, each of
those is a different problem. I’m going to go all the
way back to my water map. But at the very beginning,
what you noticed about the natural
distribution of rainfall in India, in this part of India even, is it’s really
dramatically uneven, right? So what we’re lookin’ at here, I’m almost there, sorry. This is a good map for that. Here we go. Is that you’ve got,
in these areas here, this is just natural condition. Now, these will change
with climate change and changes in the monsoon
over the next century. God only knows
what’s gonna happen. But for the moment,
historically, over 250 centimeters
along the coast, what happens is the monsoon
seasonally comes up here, blasts down here, spends itself on the
west side of the hills, and by the time it gets
over here and goes north it’s kind of dumped a
lot of its moisture. So this is a water
deficit place, right? And this is a water
surplus place. That’s the state of
Kerala down here. This is the state
of Karnataka here. But the most wealthy people, all those software engineers
who are living very, I see them. They’re on BMW motorcycles
in leather coats and giant cameras on their back, and they’re going into the
countryside to photograph birds. Those people all live here in in what is essentially
a high elevation desert. So, in the end, they’re gonna
have to redistribute water. They’re going to. Right, there’s only so much
conservation they can do. Somebody’s gonna build
a big dam right here, because what’s happening? The water is
basically coming here
and running into the ocean. And from the point of view
of the Indian government, that’s a waste of resources. Now, we can argue
about what happens when you build big dams. They’re always
environmentally problematic. So trade-offs,
trade-offs, trade-offs. But water’s gonna
be redistributed. Energy?
Yeah. Energy is coming online
like nothing I’ve ever seen. Electricity everywhere
in the south, and it is coming very
heavily, unfortunately, from coal fired power plants, which means contributions
to global climate change. You know?
So what would you prefer? Solar energy,
okay, there’s some. Particular in
distributed rural areas. But to keep the lights
on in Bangalore… how do you feel
about nuclear power? Seriously, how do
you feel about it? I’m asking. The person who
asked the question, how do you feel about it? – [Audience] Well, I see
some of the positives (static) compared to coal.
– [Paul] Compared to coal. Compared to coal, you
know, burning people alive is probably a better
idea, you know? Coal is like the filthiest
thing. (audience laughter) Oh, my god. (audience laughter) So, my point here is
that infrastructure is on the rise throughout India Dams are going in. Roads, the roads are
unbelievably good compared to what I remember
from 1988, you know? When you had to make a
trunk phone call home. I mean, it’s not the
India of anybody’s memory. The last five years has
fundamentally changed the infrastructure system, which means a
redistribution in energy, it means a
redistribution in water. It’s massive and some of
it is very problematic, but some of it is really
filled with possibilities. You get those people
back in those, get ’em in the city, right? Where it costs a
whole lot less water and a whole let less energy when you’re in a big well
built apartment block than if you’re
distributed across a large suburban kind
of sprawl, right? So, going back to
the earlier question from the gentleman
on the back right, this is happening in India, and it’s sure
happening in China. You know, there are
cities even exist 20 years ago in
any meaningful way, which are larger than any
city in the United States. Everything interesting is
happening somewhere else. For the most part. I’m a geographer,
so I get to say that. I’m really sorry what
I said about bodies. That’s kind of a Soylent
Greeny kind of thing to say. So regretting it. Okay, so that’s the
answer to that question, is that a lot of
infrastructure is going in. – [Audience] So I live on
the east side of Madison. We have an old garage. We have an apple tree
that’s gotten climbed on
and it’s going to die. We have our curly willow that I feel like I
need to cut down, because it’s getting very tall. We have easements that we mow every
couple of weeks. Should we just let some
of these things go? We’ve got squirrels and– – [Paul] That’s a great–
– [Audience] …and rabbits. – [Paul] You could have
so much more, right? So there’s lots of ways
to cultivate biodiversity in suburban landscapes. So, when I’m not researching
India, by the way, I wrote another book
called Lawn People, which is about why people
use chemicals and keep lawns. People who use lawn chemicals, in our nationwide study
in the United States, are more likely to say
that lawn chemicals are bad for the environment, their
children, and water quality than people who
don’t use chemicals. – Which means they
read the bag, you know? And they’re like,
“I feel so bad.” I don’t have a lot of
practical suggestions there, but what I did in that research
was meet a lot of people who have online, you know,
online not-for-profits that will tell you
all the different ways you could bring pollinators
back to your landscape, restore just little
swaths of native prairie. There’s all kinds of
groovy stuff you could do. I mean, one of the great
things about being an American is that you’ve got all this
land that you get to play with, I mean, compared to, say,
people living in Bangalore, right, who might
have a garden plot. You actually have an
opportunity to experiment. And there’s lots of resources. More resources than I
could ever tell you. And it’s basically restoration
ecology that you can perform. And this university,
this great university, is the one that invented
restoration ecology. There are people on
this campus in Extension who will come out to your
property and say, yeah, you could bring in, you know,
indigenous grass varieties. It would increase your birds and pollinators and butterflies. This is easy for them, this
is what they’re paid for. They’re paid out of your taxes to tell you how to
restore biodiversity. Call them.
So that’s the answer. And I think that
that’s the other part of this
citizenship thing. Yes, if it works for somebody
who has to make a living out of coffee or
his kids don’t eat, then it’ll work for
you on a landscape that’s essentially recreational
for you purposes, right. I assume you’re not making your
living off of that property. That gives you an enormous gift. It’s the gift of discretion, freedom to kind of experiment. So experimenting on
your landscape is great. We just have a big forest. I insisted that I just
couldn’t have a lawn. They freak me out. Because I always feel bad
I’m not mowing it, right. I always feel bad I’m not
putting pesticides on it. It’s the whole national culture. We’re totally, we feel bad that
we’re not doing bad things. That’s crazy.
It’s nuts.
Great opportunity. And the east side, do you know
that there is a municipal? This is a pioneering
municipality. There’s a law here, I don’t
know if it’s still on the books, but it was written about in
a law journal in the 1990s, that is basically a freedom
to farm act for your lawn. It makes it harder for
your neighbors to sue you if you do something
that isn’t lawn, right, because this is
the biggest problem. In Florida,
if you remove your lawn, you’re likely to be
sued by your neighbors. You may actually be in
a homeowners association where it’s actually
against, you know, it’s actually against the rules. You can be fined, right?
People are fined. Every spring, read the
Florida newspapers. There’s like 15 lawsuits
against some clown who didn’t, you know, cut
their lawn on time. You’re living on the
east side of Madison? It’s like paradise
for this stuff. If you aren’t, like,
growing weird stuff, you’re missing a
huge opportunity. There are people in Florida
who would love to trade places
with you. Is that helpful?
Go do it. We got foxes runnin’
through the property. I’ve never seen
anything like it. And they are bold. They look into the window,
and they’re just like… (audience laughter)
I love ’em. The dogs are flummoxed. These are two Great
Danes and they’re like… You know, nature.
(audience laughter) All right, was there
another question? (chuckles) – [Audience] I wanted
to go back to the frogs. So, one, how will this
infrastructure affect the frogs? And, secondly, you
talked about the, you didn’t understand why
the stream pour in the north wouldn’t move down to the south. – [Paul] We haven’t seen it yet. – [Audience] What if
there was a movement to bring them there? How would that affect
the frogs, and how long would it take them to get
back to their sustainability– – [Paul] Right, great questions. So let me take the second one
first, and then we’ll go back. See, the thing is, cheap labor is what makes the
biodiversity possible. I don’t think I’ve been
entirely clear here. The fact that people can get
their hands on cheap labor, which has always been
true until recently, means that they can have a highly extensive
biodiverse system. It counted on, poverty was the secret engine
of biodiversity in the region. That was the point that I don’t
think I made strongly enough. It’s the availability of
cheap labor that means you don’t have to
intensify production, open up the canopy,
change your cropping into something more
industrial, because labor, whenever you replace
labor in agriculture, there’s only one thing
you can replace it with: technology, right. That’s what the history of
farming in the United States is. That’s why less than 1% of
the population actually farms. It’s because all of that
labor has been displaced by giant machines. It’s much harder to mechanize
coffee, I should point out. But my point about this
is I’m not convinced that bringing in
migrant labor from Bahar would be bad for biodiversity. It might be bad
for those workers. It might be an opportunity
for them, though, too. So that’s just a question
I don’t have anywhere near the resources or
knowledge to answer. – [Audience] So is there
any push to do that, Paul? – Not on the part of
the state governments. Nobody’s saying, yeah,
we should go up to Bihar and get trucks of workers,
but what you do see in the Indian economy
is trucks of workers. There’s a whole other, this is
not my area, labor economics. There’s a whole economy
of people who go and broker workers
with landowners. So they go to the
landowner and say, “How many workers
are you gonna need? “How long are you
gonna need ’em?” He contracts that. Then he’ll go back up to some
other place, and he’ll find, round up those
workers essentially, sign a contract with them,
put them in the truck, and drive them to the owner. And usually the situation is
very, very bad for the worker. Like, the people
making money there are the farm owner
and the broker. Having said that, it
happens all the time. So that’s just a side note, is that there is
a labor economy. We just haven’t seen it. – [Audience] Well, that
almost sounds like slave trade. – Well, I’ll tell you
what slave trade is. Slave trade is the people
who lived on these farms for the last hundred years
without electricity in huts on the private owner’s farm
accepting whatever terms for pay, subsistence
pay, they were receiving. That was first British
colonial people and now wealthy
Indians, essentially. That is slavery. And now, this is what’s
so great about it, the owners are
complaining, right. This is the punchline.
Workers are lazy. Workers are smoking cigarettes. It’s because they won’t be
treated like slaves anymore. There’s an economic
revolution going on. It’s enormously exciting. The worry is,
right, that farmers with the loss of that labor,
it’s good for workers, right? The loss of that labor
might make decisions to intensify production
which might be bad for frogs. So, what’s good for workers
isn’t always good for frogs. How do we?
That’s sustainability science. That’s the problem, right? We’d like to think that if
we just did the right thing, everything else would follow. And it doesn’t work like that. The system’s too complex. Does that help? – [Audience] Well, so
the frogs are, I mean, the sustainability of the frogs
is very hard to (mumbles). Right?
– [Paul] Right. – [Audience] So it’s not like, it seems like if you’re
trying to solve one solution, you’re not, it almost seemed very ideal
when you first presented it, that we did this and it
was good for everybody, including the frogs. – It was good for the frogs. The question is, how
do you sustain it? So, do you subsidize it? Do you build cooperatives? Are farmers who
have cooperatives, is it easier, in other words, on their pocketbook to
retain avian diversity, because they’re
retaining tree diversity? These are our questions we
don’t have answers to yet, but what we wanna do
is find those levers, because the farmers
aren’t doing it for frogs. It’s not idyllic. It’s a happy accident. Like most things in
the world, you know? So how can you reproduce
a happy accident? And I think that that’s the
role of experimentation, adaptive management. You try something,
you see if it works. It’s trial and error. It’s essentially a crude form
of the scientific method,
in a sense. So I think that there’s lots
of things we can do in India
to preserve biodiversity. I wouldn’t call it precarious. I mean, it’s all in the
eye of the beholder, but look at how much
diversity we’re finding where nobody even
tried to keep it. What if we were trying? Imagine what we could achieve. Half full, glass half full. What was the first
question though? – [Audience] About the
infrastructure and the frogs. – Well, I don’t know, you know? I think the frogs depend
a lot on standing water. The birds depend
on tree diversity, so they really are responding
to two different things. And I assume that pesticides, although I still have
to run these tests, are bad for frogs. But I don’t know that. We’ve got to run
some regressions and, you know, figure that out. I don’t think large scale,
this is a different problem. If you move a huge
amount of water from the western part of India
to the central part of India, and you build a big dam, all
kinds of things are gonna die. That’s what’s gonna happen. Having said that, you
know, not moving that water means a bunch of people
might move somewhere else and a bunch of things would die. So I think, at this point, you
have a series of trade-offs. That’s what
sustainability’s about. Like, there’s not some
magic thing we can do. We’re stuck here together. Us, the frogs, you know? We’re gonna have to just,
like, muddle through. I’m confident we have
the apparatus to do that. And the frogs are
depending on it, because the
frogs aren’t gonna move. These are endemic species. You can’t just pick them
up and put them somewhere. If you want that diversity,
you’re gonna have to put your hand on the
land and be a steward. I don’t think we are as gods, but we are the biggest, noisiest animal, you know? And you’re gonna
have to do something. You’re gonna have
to make decisions. I’m having a lot of fun. You have a good group. Yeah. – [Audience] You
touched on it a bit when you talked about Singapore. Would you comment
on the way forward for countries where declining
birth rate is dramatic and serious. Like Japan and South
Korea and industrialized most of Europe and so forth. What is the way forward
for those countries? Is it immigration? – Well, that’s outside
of my pay grade. But I would, So I’m not gonna punt, I’m
gonna answer, but it’s, I don’t have an answer to that. I mean, my opinion’s probably
as useful as yours is, right? Because it’s not
informed very well. I haven’t done–
That’s not true. I am publishing a paper
right now on international
population decline. So, yes, I am an expert.
(audience laughter) What I will say is this– – [Audience] And
there’s environmental
impact reports, too, to the success in the
industrialization in other– – [Paul] Yes, you bet. – [Audience] In
those countries. – But depopulation,
in many cases, is about land abandonment
and forests coming back. The Kuznets curve as
it’s referred to, right? I don’t fully believe
in it, but we have seen, in countries that have
developed rapidly, we see land abandonment for
people moving to the city, and what happens on the
land they’ve abandoned? This has happened in the Andes. This has happened
throughout Latin America. (imitates explosion) Crazy nature comes back. It wasn’t the nature
we had before, because you can
never really go back. But it’s still like, you
know, forests and whatnot. So, depopulation has all kinds
of interesting implications for biodiversity that
aren’t always negative. They can be positive. What’s appropriate
policy? (scoffs) You know, you’re
going to need labor. You got an aging population. I mean, the biggest
problem, the global problem, is really about ethnicity,
race, and tolerance. You’re gonna need
people who are, who’s taking care of
all those aging people? Foreign nationals in
almost all these countries. Not in China, yet.
Somebody has to, you know. In populations
that are shrinking, they’re also aging, like the
state of Wisconsin is aging. Who is gonna look after
people as they get older? It’s a fascinating question. For the most part, it
means foreign nationals. It means immigration
until we’ve got, worked up the robot solution. You think I’m kidding. I’m totally, like, the
robots are everywhere. I thought it was such a
1960s thing, the robot,
but now I see it. I was just over at dairy,
it was all robotic. Maybe the robots are gonna
take care of me when I’m old. I have no idea, okay? But what I am saying
is that right now the policies are bad because
they tend to be chauvinistic. They tend to be anti-immigrant. They tend to be looking a
gift horse in the mouth, which is aspiring
populations of people who are ready to
labor in an economy where the laboring
population is declining and the dependent
population is aging out. So, generally speaking,
you’re gonna have to learn to live with strangers
in your midst. And that’s, I actually
think this is, the United States has
actually performed better than many of the countries
you just mentioned. Singapore is terrible
in this regard. That’s why they want
more Singaporeans. They’re trying to
keep the population of all the immigrants
down while they’re trying to encourage their own
population to reproduce, and it’s hopeless. People don’t wanna
have more kids. Wealthy people. So, that gets into a
social system, you know, about which I am
strictly an amateur. But this is about immigration,
race, tolerance, diversity. Cosmopolitanism. Payment for effective labor. By effective labor I mean
who looks after old people, who takes care of kids, right? You know, that labor force. This is the most important
labor force of the 21st century precisely because of
the demographic shift. But now we’re kind of off
the sustainability question a little bit, but I
think it’s the question. There are a lot of smart
people working on it. I’m just not one of them. What do you think? – [Audience] I agree with some
of the things that you said. That other people
need to be (mumbles). – [Paul] There’s
no way around it. – [Audience] And
this will turn… The sustainability, it
has to be an issue then, in those countries. – Yes, and there’s all
kinds of opportunities here. When you’re working
in the United States and you’re sending
remittances home, all kinds of things can
happen on that landscape that are possible in a way
that mining the hell out of it for resources when
you’re really hungry and you don’t have all that
money coming in from the US, it’s a worse option. And it’s an open question. There’s some empirical research
that needs to be done here, but I would guess
remittances are probably good for the environment in
the receiving country, if I just had to make
up a hypothesis to test. And that can be a good thing. So that’s kind of the
sustainability relationship. Triple bottom line, right? Poor people’s
aspirations, biodiversity, environmental protection, yeah. So much so, in fact, that
the environmental groups in the United States, which historically have been
somewhat anti-immigrant, have changed their
mind on this question. So a number of very,
very important, notable, Sierra Club-like
organizations have gone from flirting with an
anti-immigrant policy to staying out of
that fight entirely. The seat change on this
has been quite dramatic in the environmental
community, and I salute it. Okay. – [Shakhashiri] On your first
point, Paul, about integration. – [Paul] Oh, integration
of the sciences. Yeah, yeah, yeah. – [Shakhashiri] Well, was it
just
the integration of sciences or integration of
different forces in society to deal with the changes
that are happening either caused by
humans or otherwise? Integration is hard, right? – [Paul] Yeah, yeah. – [Shakhashiri] By your
first definition of that. – [Paul] Yeah, it’s a
good question, Bassam. – [Shakhashiri] So you’re
referring to the integration
of knowledge. – [Paul] Knowledge. As a
science. But, of course, it’s because
of the problem is
an integrated one. I mean, if there’s anything
about the frogs and the birds which is universal and
not just about agroforest, it’s the fact that if you
keep chasing the causal chain of why here you don’t have
diversity, here you do. Why? Oh, because farmer
Jane is doing X. Well, why? You’re gonna wind up
in a causal network, which is gonna be well beyond what predator prey
relationships are gonna explain. We’re going to get past zoology and wildlife biology
pretty quickly. And, in that sense, the
problem is integrated, so the solutions have
to be integrated. What I didn’t mention and I
want to take the chance to do so is that this guy here, my
colleague, that guy is basically a political scientist who’s
an expert on agrarian laws and political economy
and incentives and institutions
and stuff like that. And my other co-author
here, Krithi, is conservation biologist. And I’m whatever I am. And we’ve learned an
awful lot from each other chasing this problem, right. And there’s no way any of us
could have done this alone. There’s just no way we could
have gotten the answers to these questions. And we’ve kind of changed
our minds about things. Krithi comes from a
very, quite frankly, very famous conservation
biology family, and her old man, Ullas
Karanth, quite well known. He’s terrific, great scientist. Single-handedly saved most of
the tigers in southern India. He just hates people. I mean, until recently
his position has been whatever about
coffee plantations. We need to build more
wildlife parks, right. And I see his point, right. But in working on this
project in and around him, he’s become much softer
on this question. He’s like, all right, we
need parks and some coffee. And this is a big change. So integration is also about the property of emergence. That things come out
of the relationship that didn’t exist
before, you know? And so, I’ve changed my
thinking about a lot of stuff by just being in this
community of scholars, ’cause the problem
is too complicated for my very narrow training. Yeah, so that’s the cool thing
about sustainability, right? Now I like sustainability. – [Shakhashiri] We hope our own
thinking will also change and help all of us. – [Paul] Thanks for having me. – [Shakhashiri] Thank you very
much, Paul. (audience applause)

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