Jon Lovett

Jon Lovett

Jon Lovett is Chair in Global Challenges in the School of Geography at the University of Leeds and works on institutional economics.

Location United Kingdom


  • @CharlesObukwelu Erlich lost the bet :)

  • That's a good point. It's important to avoid imposing current cultural sentiments on the past. But.. on the other hand... Royal hunting forests were designed to protect biodiversity (even if it was only for the elite - and they still exist in various forms to this day) and there were strong laws in place to prevent overexploitation of natural resources e.g....

  • @PatriciaDevlin Very good point. This also relates to the questions of causality and complexity. My own view is that humans, with their enormous technological leverage, so aim to avoid pushing natural complex systems too far away from their ability to self organise.

    A couple of years ago I was part of a Mexican team that wrote a paper about...

  • You are welcome. You might also be interested in the other courses in this series. There is a list here:

  • @PennyMusengi I am glad the course interests you. Kenya is a wonderful country. I used to live in Tanzania and visited Kenya many times. :)

  • Wishing you good health and success!

  • Thank you for these astute comments.

  • I'm glad that you enjoyed it and found something of interest for you :)

  • @MohammadAsifSandila Yes, there are five courses. I am not sure which ones are still accessible. The courses are not running 'live' at the moment but you are very welcome to join the previous runs if it is possible.

  • @AndrewWebb one of my students (thanks William!) sent me this link, which is rather interesting and also links through to an academic study:

  • @RachaelClayburn not all of humankind has the agency to have an effect. They may have the inherent capability, but are unable to express it. :)

  • Thank you :)

  • There are some great courses on FutureLearn, it's wonderful that so much interesting information is available free of charge.

    If you've been following my Environmental Challenges series you'll know from the first course that I'm keen on what is called 'institutional economics' and a good summary of IE is in Douglass North's Nobel...

  • Many thanks for the good points. You are absolutely right to say that demand for many products has led to massive environmental degradation in other countries. It is not just the 'west' but also the recently developed nations - though of course their demand is also often due to manufacturing that is then exported. For example, changing diet in China and...

  • @AndrewWebb Aspirations are important, especially if they are virtuous ones on the sense of Aristotle as they then form the goals (telos) of society. We should aspire to these virtuous goals even if it is not possible to reach them to perfection.

    I am not sure that humankind is entirely squabbling, bad tempered and emotional. Most people want peace and...

  • The two most important points that I've learnt from my own engagement with conflict are firstly that it is the 'problem' that must be engaged with, and not the 'person'. It's all too easy to focus on the people who can be perceived as representing the problem rather than the problem itself. Secondly, the need for 'transformation' as well as 'resolution'....

  • I agree. It is a terrible situation and causes immense suffering in many countries. The numbers are staggering.

    "The widespread proliferation of approximately 1 billion small arms in circulation around the world — to terrorists, parties to intra-State conflict, organized criminals and warring gangs — continues to pose a major threat around the...

  • The university is closed over the Easter holiday period, so Lisa will be able to post this week's reflection when it reopens on Wednesday 7th April. :)

  • @RodrigoRoque The article by Ken Boulding 'The economics of the coming spaceship Earth' referred to is well worth reading. There are several copies posted in the internet. Here's one of them:

    Deforestation and soil degradation is a cowboy economy:

    "The closed earth of the future...

  • It's easy to spend a lot of time learning about and watching weather. Satellite technology has really turned this into a rabbit hole! :D

  • That's a great summary, thank you. Thomas Malthus in his famous essay on population also highlighted the importance of 'morals'. Though of course it's a lot easier to have morals if you're got enough food to eat and security for old age - and this it why justice and fairness are such an important part of solving the world's population problem. Fairness of...

  • @SusanneCochary many thanks for the link to an interesting article. It's a fascinating topic - it's not the first time that a 'Trump' has appeared on the stage and managed to convince a lot of people that up is down. If you've been following the other courses in this series you'll know that I'm a great admirer of the institutional economist Douglass North. In...

  • @SusanneCochary It's a very interesting question. Here's another recent article, this time about octopuses:

  • @TangaroaHerekiuha I hope you enjoy the course and find something of interest to you :)

  • Very good point. What is interesting is to explore the reasons why these nations are in conflict. A possible reason is the so-called 'Scramble for Africa' that divided the continent arbitrarily between colonial European military powers:

    The partitioning of Africa created long-term structural divisions and...

  • There are similar conflicts in many parts of Africa, particularly in the Sahel region:

    But also elsewhere. In Tanzania for example, conflicts have been caused by pastoralists being moved off their traditional land because of wildlife conservation or privatisation for...

  • Good point. Photons are the massless quantum of the electromagnetic field including the electromagnetic radiation of heat and light.

  • @SusanneCochary There is also some very interesting developments concerning legal rights for rivers and landforms that herald a new (but actually rather old) way of thinking:

  • Those are wise words, thank you for the good comments.

  • As you point out, disappearance of the Aral Sea is truly a remarkable witness to the folly of intensive agriculture. It is a folly that is being repeated in various ways across the planet. Disappearance of forests is one example.

  • That's an interesting observation. Though it is also possible for a 'cowboy' economy to sweep back and forth with sequential and iterative exploitation. An example would be the so-called 'fishing down the food chain':

    "Fishing down the food chain (also known as fishing down the food web) is a concept used to describe the process of moving away from catching...

  • Yes, it is Lake Turkana in Kenya. But also please bear in mind that it is only one way of interpreting the archeological observation. There may well be other interpretations based on different paradigms of cooperation and collaboration. :)

  • Welcome to the course :)

  • @WinnetDyke There are lots of reviews for the book online. Here is one with a video of the author giving a talk:

  • Thanks Lisa :)

  • Welcome to the course. Physicists have a major role to play in developing interdisciplinary solutions to the worlds global challenges. :)

  • Welcome to the course. I'll be following the discussions in the forum over the next two weeks and joining in when I can. Next week I'll also answer any questions you might have in the question and answer session. At the end of each week I'll write a reflection on a topic in the news that relates to the subjects we're covering in the course. I look forward to...

  • This week's reflection is with Lisa, who was out of the office on Friday, so hopefully will be able to edit and do the necessary on Monday :)

  • @PeterClifford The problem with trade controls based on sustainability principles is that they run into 'product vs process' WTO agreements. However, the EU has taken a sustainability line on trade in palm oil. It will be interesting to see how this plays out with the WTO.

  • @SueFinley I've just come across this article, which looks quite interesting from a deterministic perspective:

  • I agree, it is difficult to fathom any reason or logic behind the mass killings. As you say, it will be interesting to see if Deb Haaland can make changes that create a greater compatibility between humans and the world around them - she's up against a lot of entrenched interests.

    Have you read 'Braiding Sweetgrass'? I thought it a very nice gentle...

  • Welcome to the course :)

  • Welcome to the course, I hope you enjoy it :)

  • That's a really interesting question, thank you for raising it.

    As you say, the Natural Capital framework has advantages because it creates monetary commensurability between natural ecosystems and the activities of corporations and governments. The disadvantage is that monetary values are only one aspect of the many different values inherent in natural...

  • @WinnetDyke there is a causal correlation between diversity, productivity, stability and resilience of ecological communities, which I guess is another way of saying thrive. David Tilman did a series of pioneering experiments to demonstrate this in the prairies of Minnesota:

    But, as always seems to be the case,...

  • @WinnetDyke humans are the main disrupter, largely due to our ability to use technology to create far more disruption than is possible with our hands alone.

  • Good points, here is an example of animal welfare concerns as stated in the 1997 Treaty of Amsterdam, which came into force in 1999:

    "The High Contracting Parties,
    Desiring to ensure improved protection and respect for the welfare of animals as sentient beings, have agreed upon the following provision, which shall be annexed to the Treaty establishing the...

  • You're right. There is an explanation. It's a topic that has attracted a lot of research for many reasons, not least of which is the desire by advertisers to make people change their habits and buy new products.

    In recent politics many politicians have used 'alternative facts' to create systems of belief as a way of getting people to vote for them.


  • Welcome to the course. I hope that you find something here of interest to you :)

  • @JoyO Welcome to the course :)

  • @SheldonEllis You are right, it's important to take a pragmatic approach and this is the reason why 'ecosystem services' and their monetary valuation has gained policy traction. However, as you suggest, its also important not to lose sight of what those numbers actually mean, or do not mean.

  • That's a very good observation. More diverse habitats maintain a more diverse community of species.

  • That's an interesting comparison. There has often been interplay between political philosophy and ecological/ evolutionary thinking. For example, Darwin was very influenced by both Adam Smith and Malthus for example; and eugenics and Nazi philosophies were influenced by social interpretations of Darwinism. Nature is also often used as a symbol or metaphor in...

  • That's an important observation. Researchers in the mid-20th century looking at the nature vs nuture debate were very fixated on causality, particularly those arising from inherited characteristics. The used a flawed statistical approach to find evidence for their eugenic theories and in some cases even fabricated their data. It's a fascinating story of the...

  • Good answer. Yes, exactly. Combined complexities lead to chaotic dynamics.

  • @TeresaLaing You are right. For example, in many parts of Africa elephants dominated the vegetation, keeping the woodlands open. When elephant numbers were reduced by hunting to produce items such as ivory billiard balls, the woodlands closed in and tsetse fly numbers increased, causing outbreaks of sleeping sickness.

    Large herbivores have similar effects...

  • Welcome to the course :)

  • Welcome to the course, I hope you enjoy it :)

  • @IainMorrison Good points, and yes you're absolutely right. Dispossession of usufruct land (and water) and access rights is everywhere.

  • As is often the case, it depends on the technology used. I have a fuel efficient wood burning stove that burns at a relatively high temperature, which helps to reduce the particulates that your local council is probably worried about. In contrast, an open fire that burns at a lower temperature creates large quantities of PM10s, which are a health hazard. A...

  • That's a good point. But the main point here is the nature of the property rights. As Ostrom describes, these are complex and nuanced. An agri-business with private property rights over a large area might not nature their land in the same way that a small holder will. They are driven by monetary profit where-as a small-holder might have other objectives....

  • Good point, you're absolutely right. It's possible to get completely different vegetation and species in the same climate but on different soils.

  • Welcome to the course. I'll be following the discussions in the forum over the next two weeks and joining in when I can. Next week I'll be happy to answer your own questions in the Q&A session. At the end of each week I'll write a reflection on a topic in the news that relates to the subjects we're covering in the course. I look forward to reading your...

  • If you'd like to follow these topics further then this might be an interesting degree for you:

    It will provide more in-depth treatment of the topics you mention than a two-week open access course for a general audience. I wish you success!

  • @DennisStepan You make some good points that will be covered more adequately in a three year environmental law degree much better than a two week open access online course that aims to provide a very brief overview to a general audience. I wish you success in finding suitable discussions in the future! :)

  • Thank you for your insights. 'Opinion space' covers the complete spectrum of discourses about property rights and access, which are very varied and often in conflict with each other. A brief introduction to negotiations and conflict transformation is included in the fifth course of the series.

  • @LisaRonkowski Thanks Lisa :)

  • You raise some interesting points here about the use of words to create power relationships in discourses - as Foucault would say. Did you do the Rights and Values course that preceded this one? There is an article there in the download section of the discussion on different values for elephants by Dave Ockwell on discourses around fire in Australia that you...

  • The case of Tanzania is interesting. When the British took over governance of the country under the League of Nations mandate after the First World War they were bound by the mandate to govern the territory in the 'interests of the native inhabitants'. They attempted to do this, but the forest regulations became increasingly strict and centralised - as would...

  • Good analysis, and you're correct in saying that the Tuna-Dolphin negotiations are ongoing. One of the functions of international agreements and organisations is to provide a framework for continued discussions. For example, it was often said that the 2009 UNFCCC climate change negotiations in Copenhagen were a...

  • I agree with you about the use of the word 'rational' in Neo-classical economics. But it is a paradigm, and of course 'normal science' (in the sense of Thomas Kuhn) follows. The trick is, of course, to enable the jump into other paradigms and institutions of governance with a different basis that lead to greater equality and equity.

  • I agree with you about tackling inequality - which is why in the first course in this series we started by looking at John Rawls's principles of justice. The simple expedient of creating equality and equity, especially for women, reduces rates of population growth:

  • Thank you, I'm glad you're enjoying them! Welcome to the course :)

  • Welcome! I've just written an end of week reflection on the weird world of property rights over fisheries, it should be posted quite soon, I hope you find it interesting :)

  • Sorry for the delay in submitting this week's reflection. The sun was shining this weekend so I went up on to Arden Great Moor and watched migrating Golden Plovers instead of sitting in front of my laptop. Reflection coming soon! :D