ENVIRONMENT: THE BALANCE
The variety of life on Earth, its biological diversity, is commonly referred to as biodiversity. The number of species of plants, animals, and microorganisms, the enormous diversity of genes in these species, the different ecosystems on our planet, such as deserts, rainforests, and coral reefs are all part of a biologically diverse Earth. Appropriate resource management, conservation and sustainable development strategies attempt to recognize this as being integral to any approach. In some way or form, almost all cultures have recognized the importance of nature and its biological diversity for their societies and have therefore understood the need to maintain it. However, power, greed and politics have affected this balance.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BIODIVERSITY
Biodiversity boosts ecosystem productivity where each species, no matter how small, all have an important role to play. For example, a larger number of plant species means a greater variety of crops; greater species diversity ensures natural sustainability for all life forms; and healthy ecosystems can better withstand and recover from a variety of disasters. And so, while we dominate this planet, we still need to preserve the diversity in wildlife. It has long been feared that human activity is causing massive extinctions. Despite increased efforts at conservation, it has not been enough and biodiversity losses continue. The costs associated with deteriorating or vanishing ecosystems will be high. Sustainable development and consumption would help avert ecological problems. Preserving species and their habitats is important for ecosystems to self-sustain themselves. The pressures to destroy habitat for logging, illegal hunting and other challenges are making conservation a struggle.
INSTABILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL BACKLASH
The State of the World, 1999 Report from the Worldwatch Institute, i.e., a generation ago, suggested that the global economy would be seriously affected by environmental problems, such as the lack of access to enough resources to meet growing population demands, if nothing was done. Two decades plus later, environmental degradation continues and, its state-of-the-art, contributes to social and political instability that has had a runoff effect into a variety of global security issues. As security issues augment, foreign policy of many nations, as a consequence, face an increase in violence, and human rights abuses as disputes over territory, food and water spill into wars, and internal conflicts. This instability has led to a vast environmental backlash in which the Centre has aligned itself with the pragmatic themes of nature and culture; energy, environment and climate; natural resource management and environmental impact; environmental conservation and advocacy; environmental ethics and philosophy; and environmental management systems. We strive to keep the environment and our planet's biodiversity as abundant as possible, with conservation and a clear understanding as custodians toward wildlife and resources alike.
NATURE AND ANIMAL CONSERVATION
The planet’s human population increases daily by more than 200,000 people. This exerts severe and intensifying pressure on finite natural resources throughout the world. The resulting environmental degradation, biodiversity loss and climatic backlash devastates nature and impacts human well-being. The mission of the Centre is to achieve practical solutions to conservation problems through scientific study. Our research is intended to be used to advise environmental policymakers. The need for this effort is greater than ever. Part of the European network for nature and biodiversity [ec.europa.eu/environment/nature], we believe this work is pioneering, interdisciplinary and underpins solutions to conservation problems through primary scientific research of the highest caliber. We support the actions of NGOs like the African Wildlife Foundation [awf.org], Global Wildlife Conservation [globalwildlife.org], World Wildlife Foundation [wwf.org], and Wildlife Conservation Network [wildnet.org]. Our approach is empirical, interdisciplinary, and collaborative, seeking to include elements that better understand and address conservation problems, education to explain it, community involvement to ensure participation and acceptance and implementation of long-term solutions.
Advocacy is working to influence public policy in social, economic, political, and cultural spheres in order to bring about justice and positive change in human rights and environmental issues. Environmental Advocacy involves both protecting the public from environmental hazards and protecting the natural world. Advocates organize a group around a cause and work to implement changes that have a lasting and positive effect. Environmental organizations strives to have the same professional skills as private and government organizations in order to be more effective environmental advocates. At the Centre, we work with well-qualified leaders from government to local grass-roots levels. The Centre's experience and expertise has made transformed much of our outlook as environmental advocates, promoting a strong commitment to justice, and environmental policy reform.
Ecotourism is now defined as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of the local people, and involves interpretation and education" (TIES, 2015). Education is meant to be inclusive of both staff and guests. The principles of ecotourism are about uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel. The Centre supports, in accordance with TIES, those who implement, participate in and market ecotourism activities to adopt the following ecotourism principles:
minimize physical, social, behavioral, and psychological impacts;
build environmental and cultural awareness and respect;
provide positive experiences for both visitors and hosts;
provide direct financial benefits for conservation;
generate financial benefits for both local people and private industry;
deliver memorable interpretative experiences to visitors that help raise sensitivity to host countries' political, environmental, and social climates;
design, construct, and operate low-impact facilities; and
recognize the rights and spiritual beliefs of the Indigenous People in the community and work in partnership with them to create empowerment.
The Centre has been developing ecotourism approaches and, in particular, has concentrated its efforts in the Mediterranean and Southeast Asia.
Distler, T., Schuetz, J. G., Vel.asquez-Tibat.a, J., and Langham., G. M. (2015). "Stacked species distribution models and macroecological models provide congruent projections of avian species richness under climate change", Journal of Biogeography, 42: 976–988.
TIES. (2015). The International Ecotourism Society. Available: [http://www.ecotourism.org/]
ENGINEERING: ADDRESSING AN ECOSYSTEMS APPROACH
Environmental and ecological engineering integrates engineering principles, science, and design with the principles of biology and ecology. Preparatory design, develop, and implementation of sustainable solutions integrate a mutual beneficial approach to both natural systems and systems significantly affected by human activities. Specific example areas of this research include: land use management systems involving renewable, biological resources and ecological systems; preservation and improvement of soil and water resources, water and air quality; non-point source pollution and site mitigation; water use management and conservation through irrigation and surface and subsurface drainage; ecosystem (e.g., wetland) restoration; soil health and erosion mitigation; biological waste, nutrient management and by-product recovery and reuse; environmental restoration and protection; soil hydrology and bioremediation; and environmental policy and law.
OUR COMMINTMENT: E&E ENGINEERING
The Centre's commitment and communicative lines with engineering consulting firms, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations has expanded via advanced backdrop of educative methods integrating engineering, science, law, and business. Environmental and ecological engineering strengthens to serve people and the planet. Our engineering expertise includes a vast knowledge base in drinking water and wastewater treatment systems, improving air quality, fostering sustainable development and developing sustainable technologies that conserve natural resources.
ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT RESPONSIBILITIES OF ENVIRONMENTAL ENGINEERS IS TO PREVENT THE RELEASE OF HARMFUL CHEMICAL AND BIOLOGICAL CONTAMINANTS INTO THE AIR, WATER, AND SOIL.
ENVIRONMENTAL MANAGEMENT SYSTEMS (EMS)
Environment Management Systems (EMS) are tool-based applications for managing the impacts of an organization's activities on the environment. It provides a structured approach to planning and implementing environment protection measures. EMS monitor environmental performance, similar to the way financial management systems monitor expenditure and income and enable regular checks of a business’ financial performance. EMS integrate environmental management into a company’s daily operations, long-term planning and other quality management systems.
EMS assess organizations' environmental impacts, set targets to reduce these impacts and plan how to achieve these targets. The most important EMS component is an organizational commitment. For EMS effectiveness, the development and implementation stages are critical. EMS require a top commitment from top management as well as all staff and stakeholders. When putting together EMS research, further components considered include: (1) environmental policy: to ensure all environmental activities are consistent with the organization's objectives; (2) environmental impact identification: to identify and document actual and potential environmental impacts of the organization's operations (e.g., an environmental audit); (3) regular monitoring of environmental objectives and targets: to encourage and improve its environmental performance; (4) consultation with staff and the community at large; (5) reviewing operational and emergency procedures compatibility with the organization's environmental objectives and targets; (6) environmental management planning methods and procedures: to meet its objectives and targets; (7) documentation of all objectives, targets, policies, responsibilities and procedures on environmental performance; (8) responsibilities and reporting: to ensure EMS implementation is effective; (9) training staff about environmental awareness and their responsibilities for EMS implementation; (10) reviewing audits and monitoring compliance of EMS goals: to refine operational procedures; and (11) continual improvement: to refine EMS targets and objectives set by individual companies to protect the environment.
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARD: ISO 14001:2015
Requirements standards currently being developed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) have been significantly updated, from ISO 14001:2004, to meet current market best practice. ISO 14001:2015 standardization has been updated to better assist with companies EMS usage. Highlights include: (1) minimize environmental liabilities; (2) maximize the efficient use of resources; (3) reduce waste; (4) demonstrate a good corporate image; (5) build awareness of environmental concern among employees; (6) gain a better understanding of the environmental impacts of business activities; (8) and increase profit, improving environmental performance, through more efficient operations. Although EMS implementation is essentially a voluntary initiative, it can also become an effective tool for governments to protect the environment as it can assist in regulation. Further information can be found on the European Eco-Management and Audit Scheme website [https://ec.europa.eu/environment/emas/index_en.htm]. The ISO standards provide both a model for streamlining environmental management and guidelines to ensure environmental issues are considered within decision making practices. At the Centre, we have expertise in EMS implementation, including example studies within a number of European and African higher education institutions, NGOs and Italian businesses.
Cascio, J., Woodside, G. and Mitchell, P. (1996). ISO 14000 Guide: The new international environmental management standards, McGraw Hill, New York.
ENERGY AND CLIMATE
ENERGY, ENVIRONMENT, AND CLIMATE: SHIFTING TOWARDS RENEWABLES
Energy is essential to the development and sustenance of social and economic systems, however its use continues to come at an increasing cost to the environment. The research at the Centre is aimed at generating new theoretical ideas and perspectives on the transformation to more sustainable energy consumption and clean energy production which can account for global imbalances in wealth and global responsibilities regarding climate change. Since its inception, the Centre has been working with a number of reference players in the fields of renewable energies, environment, and atmospheric sciences. Some key research on new energy technologies is developing low-pollution producing energies. The Centre is committed to working on renewable energies that focus on solar thermal power and solar photovoltaics, electric vehicles, 2nd and 3rd generation biofuels, hydrogen and fuel cells, energy efficiency, and energy conservation in buildings. We also conduct multidisciplinary research to develop sustainable energy strategies and to understand the climatic evolutionary mechanisms that are taking place. This extends into natural material resources and the control factors of environmental impact of energy technologies. The Centre strives to understand the economic aspects of energy policies, to develop smart grids and to find solutions for the production, distribution, and storage of electrical energy.
HISTORICAL CLIMATE RECORD
The Centre has been working on historical records of climatic, atmospheric, and environmental change, and has followed research structured around the theme of past climates through the experimental analysis of climate archives. This research includes the examination of polar and tropical ice, marine, or lacustrine sediments and stalagmites. It uses modelling to siphon atmospheric, climate systems through a hierarchy of box models from simple to complex 3 dimensional via coupled ocean atmosphere, biosphere, and cryosphere platforms.
ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS AND PHILOSOPHY
The research on environmental ethics and philosophy seeks to critically develop and challenge the existing ethical and metaphysical principles codifying the relationship between humans and nature. When we challenge our existing ethical values we often, without thinking about it, use a comparative method of reasoning. Utilizing this comparative method, we ask ourselves whether a new idea is better than our own, and if it is, decide whether or not to integrate it as part of our lives. Human beings differ in their range of flexibility and this research examines critical aspects of ethical values and norms. The Centre’s environment background, together with its interdisciplinary societal studies research, bring philosophy together with cultural and environmental history, ecology, biology, and anthropology. We have excelled in working with top philosophers and ethicists in a broad range of contemporary environmental philosophy which describe the present crisis of Western civilization as a crisis of relationship. We also address more pragmatic, communication-based approaches both to the environmental crisis and to the advancements in sustainability-based thinking. Example research includes qualitative methodological practice using “weak sustainability” versus “strong sustainability” modelling. Research questions in this field often explore ethical paradigm shifts between rich North, poor South, and fast developing economies. Other example issues include: (1) the ethics of environmental refugees, (2) the role of environmental discourses in framing the environmental exploitation, and (3) the socioenvironmental questions of living on a planet that is in jeopardy.
THINKING ETHICALLY ABOUT THE ENVIRONMENT
Ethics are a broad way of thinking about what constitutes a good life and how to live one. They address questions of right and wrong, making good decisions, and the character or attributes necessary to live a good life. Applied ethics address these issues with a special emphasis on how they can be lived out in a practical manner. Environmental ethics apply ethical thinking to the natural world and the relationship between humans and the Earth. Environmental ethics are a key feature of environmental studies, but they have application in many other fields including pollution, resource degradation, the threat of extinction, and global climate disruption. The Centre has a strong philosophical background in distinguishing characteristics in environmental ethics, understanding the essential features of moral, or ethical thinking and developing the skills to recognize and deploy moral discourse for leadership in environmental fields.
NATURE AND CULTURE
NATURE AND CULTURE
An examination of the historical chronological references of sustainability, via a Triple Bottom Line (TBL) perspective, indicates the progression of social and economic developments as much clearer in definition than environmental. The environment, or nature, in the context of anthropological records, has been looked at by way of ancient outlooks and their impacts on how changes in human activities and actions liberalised specific outcomes from subsequent civilisations and from nature itself. The Centre has examined viewpoints from the Middle Ages to the end of the 19th Century; it has considered notions up to the environmental movement and argues coexistence with nature requires harmonious development and societal-level building blocks that take into account environmentally-friendly action and cultures alike—both contemporary and indigenous. Using text analysis and ethnography, we focus on how human interaction with the natural world has changed throughout history.
With a historical-textual perspective on landscape and land use, as well as an environment based perspective, the Centre's research seeks to understand the historical backdrop for current environmental concern. We emphasize how human beings and wildlife both shape their environment and vice versa. This change has a specific focal point in the Twentieth Century, when accelerated impacts from industrialization radically changed the human-nature relationship. One concern is to reflect upon how the history of human-nature relationships can be put to use in a contemporary setting. Questions that are worth asking include: (1) How can one imagine a sustainable, good and viable life in our time? (2) Can limits to growth be handled if we cement ideas from the past with ideas in the present? And, (3) what resources can be found in the historical canon with which to think through our current predicament? Although much the Centre's research is conducted in-house, we rely on external narratives and their interpretation to understand the slow moving thought processes in relation to any accelerating changes of modernity. Texts about nature are anchored in a literary tradition of natural history writing and popular field science, and present-day nature writing is of critical interest for its potential to energize and politicize a wider public readership concerned by environmental issues.
NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
Access, management and control over natural resources are central issues to the livelihoods of people all over the world. The struggle over natural resources can be found at all levels—individual, community, national, and international. Natural resources include soil, water resources, geological features and landscapes, native vegetation, native animals, and other native organisms and ecosystems. The ecosystems we rely on every day are not infinite. While the Earth is rich in natural resources, our economic and environmental reliance on them is growing and there is an urgent need to better manage their use in a sustainable way. In terms of management, access to water, coastal zones, soils, minerals, forests, and seeds play an important role in the way natural resources are handled. Natural resource management promotes the awareness for the connection between environmental systems and the social sciences. It focuses on understanding how decisions are made regarding the use or protection of our natural systems. This understanding includes the knowledge needed to manage human interactions with the natural world in parks and protected areas, natural resource-based organizations, agriculture, and food systems.
At the Centre, we actively engage our services in better managing parks and recreation, as we believe they play a big role in our society, both to individuals and to ecosystems. We have expert knowledge and skills necessary to manage outdoor recreation areas and recreation users. We have an excellent natural resource administration and management team in which is closely interlinked with many organizations Europe-wide and internationally that engage in developing protection and management systems for the environment. Sustainable agriculture and food systems are central to the well-being of our society and vital to the condition of our environment. The Centre believes this to be a key area where European society has been leading the world in knowledge and practical experience in the developing long-term of sustainable practices. The Centre’s administer regional plans and have a strong focus on community engagement. It relies on the insight and local knowledge to help produce socially, economically, and environmentally sustainable outcomes. Research suggests the implementation of the natural resource management reporting provides managers of natural resources with timely and accurate information on the status of natural resources to inform their planning, management and investment decisions. We conduct projects in several parts of the world including Australia, Cambodia, Canada, China, Indonesia, Italy, Romania, Russia, Sweden, and Ukraine.
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT ASSESSMENT: EU DIRECTIVES
Environmental impact assessment is a procedure that ensures that the environmental implications of decisions are taken into account before the decisions are made. Environmental impact assessment can be undertaken for individual projects (e.g., infrastructure changes like roads and buildings, suburban city planning, transportation routes, etc.), on the basis of Directive 2011/92/EU (known as Environmental Impact Assessment—EIA Directive) or for public plans or programs on the basis of Directive 2001/42/EC (known as Strategic Environmental Assessment—SEA Directive). The common principle of both Directives is to ensure that plans, programs and projects likely to have significant effects on the environment are made subject to an environmental impact assessment, prior to their approval or authorization. Consultation with the public is a key feature of the assessment process. Further EU Directives information can be found on the European Union Environment website [ec.europa.eu/environment/eia]. The Centre has an expert background and experience in dealing with environmental impact assessment under both Directives.