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Title: World Resources 2008: Roots of Resilience
Author(s): UNDP, UNEP, WB, WRI
Date of Publication: 2008 Publisher: WRI
Pages:ix + 262 ISBN: 978 1 56973 600 5
Price: Format:Paperback
Target Readership Senior Secondary







Content: 1 – Scaling up ecosystem enterprise; 2 - Building ownership, capacity and connection; 3 - Routes to resilience; 4 - Driving the scaling process;5 - Recommendations: advancing enterprise and resilience.

Review: Way back in 1986 a relatively new organisation, the World Resources Institute, produced a text which revolutionised the way we looked at environmental education. For the first time there was a publication that provided a mass of data at the national level for a range of variables which were seen as crucial to the burgeoning debates in global environmentalism. This rightly became a key text for all in the field. Since that time the publication has changed focus and the data increased but the same perspective have been kept: that of providing some of the best, most reliable information and debate in one place. I must admit to some personal interest here, not in the organisation per se, but in the fact that their first publication was one of the first I reviewed. It was with some regret that I missed the 2008 edition but luckily can remedy this now.

For those how haven't seen the first few editions, the WRI started to gather data from a range of respected international organisations such as the World Bank and FAO. These were data publicly available but, pre-internet, difficult for schools and individuals to collect. The job of those early texts was to provide an update following a common format. After a few issues, the focus of the publication changed. Each year a specific topic was chosen and researched in depth. Initially, the same data were in the tables at the back of the text but gradually the topic took over and the data were reduced to support only that year's discussion. We see that by this latest issue the transformation is complete. However, this should not be seen as too negative because all the data are now located in Earthtrends, the WRI data mining/clearing centre.

This leaves us with the current issue. The WRI has long supported initiatives like the Millennium Development Goals and the need to help the world's poorest people (their NextBillion site, for example). So it's no great surprise to see this issue's focus is poverty reduction. Their basic thesis is that the world's poor are disproportionately reliant on natural goods and services and that these services are often not optimised. In other words, the poor could be helped best by properly designing enterprises that increase the income from natural resources. This is turn would improve social and economic resilience (as well as help ensure a more sustainable environment). This seems reasonable given the research noting that environmental degradation is caused not by the poorest but by the slightly less poor (trying to get out of the poverty trap). The question then turns to how we can create these enterprises. The first key factor is to get ownership. Long accepted as one of the most crucial aspects, ownership and tenure are vital if the poor are to gain some capital base. Having gained this capital they now need to have the ability (commonly referred to as 'capacity') to design and run a business or other enterprise. In the same way, the regional and national systems need the capacity to support these new enterprises since it is the inter-relationships that will allow the whole plan to succeed. Once these are in place, the final part is to provide the connections for business to take place. So, ownership, capacity and networks provide (as they do for all businesses anywhere) the key ingredients to making a successful enterprise. All that is then required is to grow the business (or, as the WRI put it - scaling up). Although hardly new, these ideas are put together against a backdrop of a better understanding of what is required and within a framework that has been designed to support the needs of the poor. This line of thinking is the basis of the first three chapters. Rather than make it an empty exercise, chapter four brings together a number of case studies from chapter three and interrogates them to see what lessons can be drawn. Having understood the cases, chapter five puts it together to create a series of recommendations. The data tables at the back provide the statistics to support the thesis presented here.

This text continues to provide some of the best work in the global environmental field. The change from data to discussion has not reduced the quality of the text (especially as the organisation has grown considerably along with its supplies of data). Initially it would be a key text by virtue of its data. Now it should be seen as a key text because of the way it constructs an argument. One of the problems we face now as educators is that there is so much information but so little which teaches good practice. Because of this, I'm pleased to be able to continue to say that, in paper or electronic form, this is one text that should be made available to all senior students and educators as an example of some of the best work being produced today.





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