Towards a Sustainability Economics
The combination of changing consumption patterns, increasing energy costs and shortages of water are placing increasing demands on the ecosystem services underpinning agriculture that may not be met. The recent rise in energy and global food costs leading to humanitarian crises in some parts of the world is evidence of this. Some estimates put the number of people our planet can support at only 3% of the global population in 1990, and economists and environmentalists debate the solutions but with no real consensus emerging. A fundamental reason for this is that while both economic and ecological theories have each yielded important new insights, some of the underlying assumptions used in economic theory are inconsistent with those used in ecology. There has never been a greater need to reconcile these inconsistencies, and to develop and test a new synthesis. A sustainability economics recognises the need to balance economic growth with sustaining a viable ecological system for future generations. This requires acknowledgement that some products and services provided by the environment are finite and cannot be substituted for others when they become scarce. This project aims to develop a new theoretical model that relaxes some of the conflicting assumptions of economic theory, and moves towards a more self-consistent approach to understanding and predicting future trends in an economy that values both production and protection of scarce environmental resources. New theoretical approaches need to be tested against reality and so the project will also apply the model using data from one of Australia’s most drought-stressed agricultural regions, the Murray-darling Basin.
The Murray-Darling Basin is the most important agricultural region in Australia and consumes 70% of all of the water used by Australian agriculture whilst producing 40% of the gross value of agricultural production. At the same time it is home to some of Australia’s most treasured environmental resources. There is ongoing tension between production and environmental protection that makes this an ideal test bed for the development of a new sustainability economic model, the Murray-Darling Basin Economy Simulation Model (MDBE-SM). The MDBE-SM will extend an existing economic modelling approach developed by the supervisory team. In its economic-demographic aspects, MDBE-SM will be an integrated supply-demand, complex-systems, computer simulation and forecasting model. Its structural equations will drive a full colour 4-D (latitude, longitude, altitude, time) digital mapstack. This will display both the stable characteristics of the Murray-Darling Basin (topography, drainage, soils, etc.) and how the slower-changing features (climate, weather patterns, settlements, etc.) and faster variables (land-uses, populations, production, employment, exports, etc.) move over past and projected future times. The project will exploit existing data collected on the Murray-Darling Basin and the model's parameters will be identified by applying the PEST system (www.sspa.com/pest) to relevant time-series of historical data. The student will:
· Study and critically review prevailing economic and ecological theory
· Identify consistencies and contradictions in the application of conventional economic theories to systems that depend on ecological services and where environmental impact must be kept within prescribed limits
· Identify heterodox economic theories (especially Post Keynesian, Evolutionary and Ecological Theories) that provide complex system dynamic principles for application to ecological sustainability
· Develop and extend an existing complex economic systems model for integrated socio-techno-environmental systems
· Develop an interactive visualisation front-end for the model based on Google Earth
· Collect relevant data relating to sustainable production in the Murray-Darling Basin and use it to derive parameters for the model
· Test the model against existing data
Predict future scenarios to inform sustainable management of the Basin
This project is a collaboration between Prof. Crawford, Assoc. Prof. Jerry Courvisanos at the University of Ballarat and Dr. Colin Richardson at Imperial College London. Interested candidates could read Robert Ayres (2008) Sustainability Economics: Where do we Stand? Ecological Economics (doi:10.106/j.ecolecon.2007.12.009). The project would suit a graduate with a strong computational/mathematical background e.g. economics, physics, engineering, or maths. An enthusiasm to work across disciplines is essential as are good communication skills.
Want to find out more?
Contact us to find out what’s involved in applying for a PhD.
Contact Research Expert to find out more about participating in this opportunity.
Browse for other opportunities within the Agriculture and Environment - Australian Technology Park .
The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 718
Other opportunities with Professor John Crawford
- Modelling Epigenetic Inheritance
- Towards an Evolutionary-Ecology of Life in Earth
- Visualisation of High Dimensional Data.
- Charcoal production during prescribed fire and its role in carbon turnover
- Plant-microbial interactive effects on soil carbon in relation to soil structure
- BISoN: Biologically-Inspired Social Network Framework for Coordinated and Adaptive Emergency Response
- PhD project on Adaptive multi-agency response coordination for managing distributed disease outbreaks
- Self-Assembly and Self-Organization in Complex Distributed Systems
- Parallel Stochastic Optimization Algorithms
- MicroRNAs as Regulators of Cellular Programs
- Resilience and distributed systems for a healthy society
- Estimation and Inference in Environment Sensing Networks
- Biological metaphors and resilience
- Complex Networks and Performance
- Modeling biological interactions: from individuals to ecosystems
- Nutrition and the origin of phenotype
- Securing the future of water and soil
- Quantifying the return on investment in the Environment, Public Health and Individual Wellbeing.
- Modeling Complex Coordination of Public Health Care
- Exploring the link between international trade and the global obesity epidemic
- Sustainable Community Healthcare Networks
- Do genes have memory?
- The evolutionary ecology of complex microbial communities
- Complex Brain Networks and Nutrition
- New approaches to Early Detection of Chronic Disease
- Social and Healthcare Network Effects on Delivery and Quality Of Care
- Physical, Mental and Psychological Health through Personal Networks