Friday, August 7, 2009 - 8:20 AM

OOS 47-2: A drop in the bucket: When and where do local sustainability efforts add to global patterns?

Thomas Rudel, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey


Sustainability seems to be much easier to achieve at local than at a global scale.  Organizations like the World Bank tout the success of numerous  'demonstration projects'.  Common property institutions, sharply reduced fertility rates, recycling programs, and companies that have become more energy efficient all represent examples of successful efforts at local sustainability.  At the global scale there are few, if any successes, the Montreal Protocol represents the lone exception to this generalization.  In this paper we use an extensive review of the literature in environmental social science to catalogue the theoretical resources available in both the social and ecological science that might begin to explain whether or not these local successes seem likely to 'scale up' into successes with global significance.


All four types of local action scale up to have global effects more emphatically when social movements spurred by extraordinary historical events, like Katrina or prolonged drought (in Australia) galvanize the larger political economic arena in ways that facilitate local environmental actions.