IGEL’s Impact: Beyond Conferences and Reports?

This year, the students in my course in Environmental Management: Law and Policy read a new book: James Gustave Speth, The Bridge at the End of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainabilty (Yale University Press 2008). Speth has been a fixture in environmental policy circles for decades and serves currently as the Dean of Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, one of the most impressive schools of its kind in the world. One set of observations in the book struck me as disturbing and provocative. After many years of work on environmental policy, Speth makes observations such as the following:

Like many others, I have helped launch environmental organizations, have been in court litigating to secure stronger implementation of federal environmental laws, and have lobbied Congress and testified there. I have led a large environmental think tank that turned out a steady stream of recommendations for governance and other action. I have globe-trotted to any number of international summits and treaty negotiations.

Now, near the end of my career, I find it impossible to be happy with the results. Important gains have been made, . . . including the progress we have made on problems like air and water pollution. But all in all, today’s environmentalism has not been succeeding. We have been winning battles, including some critical ones, but losing the war. (pp. xi-xii)

[On the largest global environmental problems, such as climate disruption, species extinctions, deforestation, fisheries destruction, freshwater shortages, and others] our progress has been dismal. . . . [M]y generation is a generation of great talkers, overly fond of conferences. We have analyzed, debated, discussed, and negotiated these global issues almost endlessly. But on action, we have fallen short. (p. 19)

These observations suggest to me the following question to submit for an open blog discussion:

How can IGEL as an academic collaboration with leading business enterprises, non-governmental organizations, and government representatives go “beyond conferences and reports” to encourage effective and wide-scale change with respect to some of the largest and most dangerous global environmental problems today?

I have some ideas. For example, we have begun an annual series of “conference-workshops” designed to share and expand knowledge in a practical fashion rather than simply to serve as a forum for scholarly presentations and publications (though we can’t eliminate these traditional academic approaches entirely). We have begun to experiment with some new leadership development methods and executive education approaches. Maybe new computer game simulations could play a role. And perhaps this blog itself can serve as an alternative method for the development and dissemination of practical knowledge.

Let us know your thoughts and ideas!


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference IGEL’s Impact: Beyond Conferences and Reports?:


I think partnerships between academics, business and NGOs have incredible power to help move the policy process forward ahead by light years if they collaborate in formums to develop some signals and policy frameworks to then present to federal and international policymakers for action. The US CAP is a great example of a group of business, NGO and environmental interests who agreed upon a set of pronciples for a federal approach for climate policy in the United states and in doing so, sent a strong signal to Congress and the President and gave them a basis to begin very focused policy discussions. This approach should be modeled for action to address other large scale problems.

It can hold about 5,000, i've been told. They'll keep track and when they hit the limit, do the one-in/one-out thing.


I wonder if you could use two of the same drill and hook them up to a single button. Like a pedal button on the skateboard.

Took me awhile to read all the comments, but I really love the article. It proved l to me and I am sure to all the commenters here!

The comments to this entry are closed.

Save the Date: IGEL's 4th Annual Conference-Workshop on Valuing Water: Business Challenges & Opportunities for Innovation

Fourth Annual Conference-Workshop

Save the Date

March 22, 2011
World Water Day
8th Floor Colloquium
Jon M. Huntsman Hall
The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
3730 Walnut Street, Philadelphia

Topic: Valuing Water: Business Challenges & Opportunities for Innovation