Professor Waring’s New Theory of Sustainability

Professor Tim Waring has unveiled a new theory he and collaborators have spent the last five years developing. Waring is an associate professor of social-ecological systems modeling in the School of Economics and the Mitchell Center for Sustainability Solutions at the University of Maine – it’s literally his job to build and test sustainability theory.

A Theory of Sustainability

This theory explains how and when human societies manage environmental resources sustainably. It is built on the science of cooperation. Waring and colleagues have now published new research applying this theory in a special issue of the journal Sustainability Science.

These case studies show why theory matters in sustainability. Theory explains how things work sometimes and fail other times. By testing and refining the theory we become better at nurturing cooperation and achieving sustainability,” says Waring.

Evidence from Around the Globe

The new research highlights case studies from around the world. Case research on agriculture spans from rice irrigation in Bali, to blueberry farming and lobster fishing in Maine. Other articles tackle forestry practices in Tanzania, the agricultural labor market in Dominica, and global climate change everywhere.

How Sustainability Happens

This new research reveals patterns in where and how humans manage the environment sustainably. The authors suggest that by encouraging the conditions for cooperation in environmental use, sustainable resource use can be grown. Waring proposes a recipe for how to grow sustainability.

  • groups at the scale of the resource they manage
  • a population of such groups
  • learning between groups
  • high stakes for group failure
  • rules to support for cooperation

Read the new research here:

Sustainability Science
Sustainability Science Special Issue