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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

Lectures 2017



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Feeding the World, Leaving the Land: a Macro-Economic Approach to Malthusian Problems

THESys Lecture Series

Thurs, 18 May 2017, 17.15
HU, Unter den Linden 6, room 1072

World population has doubled over the last fifty years and quadrupled over the past century. During the global population explosion that began in the 19th century, growth in agricultural production has confounded Malthusian predictions that population growth would outstrip food supply. Population and income have determined the demand for food and thus agricultural production, rather than food availability checking the growth of population. However, recent evidence indicates a widespread slowdown of agricultural productivity growth, and the amount of additional land that can be brought into the agricultural system is of course physically finite. This has led to the question of whether a much larger world population can be fed. In this project we take a macro-economic approach to answering the question, building a model that considers fertility as an economic decision that is linked to technological progress, technological progress in agriculture and the rest of the economy as the outcome of allocating labour to research and development, and land and food availability as potential checks on population growth. We find that despite a continuing slowdown in agricultural productivity growth, a global population of over 12 billion can be fed by 2100, while living standards rise significantly. The land constraint does not bind. However, factors such as climate change, use of land to reduce net greenhouse gas emissions, and the consequences of expanding the modern agricultural system for biodiversity threaten this optimistic outlook.

Simon Dietz is one of the founders and is a current Co-Director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), where he is also Director of the ESRC Centre for Climate Change Economics and Policy, and Professor in the Department of Geography and Environment. Simon is an environmental economist with particular interests in climate change and sustainable development. He has published dozens of research articles on a wide range of issues, and he also works with governments, businesses and NGOs on topics of shared interest, such as carbon pricing, insurance, and institutional investment. As an undergraduate he studied Environmental Science at UEA Norwich and ETH Zürich, before completing an MSc and PhD at LSE, specialising in environmental policy and economics. In 2006-7 he was an analyst at the UK Treasury on the Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change, and played a leading role in the Review’s modelling of the ‘cost of inaction’. He is currently co-editor of the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, a Principal consultant at Vivid Economics, and a Fellow of the UK Royal Society of Arts.

The event is a cooperation between IRI THESys, the Berlin Workshop in Institutional Analysis of Social-Ecological Systems (WINS) and the Sustainability Office.

Location: HU's main building, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, room 1072 (access via Universitätsstraße due to construction site).

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A Brief History of Flight from the State

THESys Lecture Series

Thurs, 15 June 2017, 17.15
HU, Unter den Linden 6, Senatssaal

“Zomia,” the designation invented by Willem van Schendel for that portion of upland Southeast Asia that has, until recently, evaded incorporation into nation states and empires, could be, metaphorically, extended to other areas of the world that have become zones of state evasion. James Scott's talk explores some of those zones in Southeast Asia and elsewhere. Though Zomia is mountainous, wetlands, swamps, marshes, deltas and even city slums have also served historically as refugia for state-fleeing populations. The principles of geography, subsistence practices, mobility, and social structure that abet both state avoidance and state-prevention are examined.

James Scott from the Yale University is the Sterling Professor of Political Science and Professor of Anthropology and is Co-Director of the Agrarian Studies Program. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, has held grants from the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Guggenheim Foundation, and has been a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Science, Science, Technology and Society Program at M.I.T., and the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton. His research concerns political economy, comparative agrarian societies, theories of hegemony and resistance, peasant politics, revolution, Southeast Asia, theories of class relations and anarchism. Among many others, James Scott is author of The Art of Not Being Governed. An Anarchist History of Upland Southeast Asia.

The event is a cooperation between IRI THESys and the Sustainability Office.

Location: HU's main building, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Senatssaal

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