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ESS Special Seminar - Dr. Xavier Basurto "Self-Governance for Sustainability in Coupled Human-Natural Systems"

Y2E2 - 473 Via Ortega, Room 300
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New School Focused on Climate and Sustainability

Please join us for a special seminar presented by Xavier Basurto, Ph.D.  The seminar series will help build the research community in sustainable development and environmental justice in the New School Focused on Climate and Sustainability.


Xavier Basurto, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Sustainability Science, Duke University


Self-Governance for Sustainability in Coupled Human-Natural Systems


The main goal of Dr. Basurto's research program is to advance our understanding of the prospects and limits of self-organization or self-governance for social-ecological sustainability, particularly in the Global South. To do so, Dr. Basurto’s work, and the work of his students, combines common-pool resources theory with insights from other disciplines including political ecology and evolutionary biology. Using participatory action research techniques his work engages with users of common-pool resources to learn and co-produce research that increase the likelihood of policy uptake and develop a pedagogy of non-colonialist sustainability science. Dr. Basurto's work has direct application for solutions-oriented policy-making because it generates information about the different policies (i.e., rule systems) that might be linked to overexploitation, resilience, or sustainability of common-pool resources, among other possible outcomes of interest. The theoretical underpinnings of this body of work have successfully challenged policy prescriptions that championed top-down control and privatization as the only two solutions to environmental degradation. Elinor Ostrom’s Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences in 2009 was indicative of the recognition that self-organized collective arrangements could be viewed as a third way to address environmental social dilemmas.


Dr. Basurto's research program has focused on coastal-marine small-scale fisheries because in comparison to other common-pool resources, they have received less attention and are noticeably under-theorized. Yet in many geographies small-scale fishers are the most important (yet marginalized) users of coasts and therefore key for coastal-marine sustainability. Dr. Basurto pursues the study of self-governance in coastal-marine environments through a diversity of approaches spanning the deeply local, to regional, national, and global, using comparative, experimental, and large-n studies. Most of his work is conducted through strategic partnerships with fishers and fishing organizations (the main units of observation and analysis in his research program). These collaborations span one of the smallest indigenous communities in Mexico to the Mexican Confederation of Fishing Cooperatives representing more than 11,000 small-scale fishers, and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through the ambitious Illuminating Hidden Harvests initiative. In this seminar Dr. Basurto will provide a brief introduction to his overall area of research and methods and spend most of his time providing examples of some of the studies he is currently conducting and that he is most excited to share.  


The seminar will be in-person in Y2E2 300, Wednesday, April 6 at 12pm. There will not be a hybrid option, but the talk will be recorded for those in the Stanford community who cannot attend in person. 

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