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Resources geopolitics online course

Man-nature relationship and the geopolitics of bioresources.

(an ecology-evolution-development approach to processes shaping the biosphere and human societies)

The course assembles seminars on “Science and society” and “Bioresources and biodiversity” (2015 and 2016 sessions) and provides a double entry to the problematic : first it discusses the man-nature relationship through a history of science approach on grounds as diverse as philosophy, sociology, and economics. Natural resources in general and bioresources in particular stand out as a driving force in the evolution of human societies. On that foundation, the course undertakes the analysis of conceptual and methodological advances in the field of bioresources apprehended through the lens of processes, natural and man-driven, that shape the biosphere. Among them, land use and soil concerns, biomass production, and water management are critical resources in agriculture and food and energy security. They constitute the matrix of the critical zone .
Biodiversity is considered more globally as a dynamic and renewable resource system in a highly anthropized biosphere. The issue of biodiversity is dealt with from various standpoints : significance, means of quantification, losses and causes, conservation strategies, its value.
In order to understand how evolution is producing such an astonishing adaptive diversity through co-evolutionary processes, a variety of tools presently available are being used to evaluate the underlying functions and to decipher the mechanisms at work at various scales of organization, such as molecular, organismic, population and ecosystemic .
In parallel, the issue of agriculture is discussed, with emphasis on the domestication processes. A fundamental and controversial question is that of the directed selection which has generated a broad range of adapted and specialized genetic variants for extensive human use . Breeders are now solicited in the frame of global planetary needs (demographic evolution, hunger, poverty, trade) to increase resource productivity . In this context, we need to understand what is the overall potential, but also what are the actual limits , of the available bioresources in order to ensure their sustainable management . We therefore question the consequences of agro-economy in terms of breakdown of nutrient cycles and resource regeneration capacity ( biocapacity ).
This raises the problem of developmental models our society is based upon. In this respect, the course investigates the area of ecosystem services and the associated methods used to provide monetary value to functions provided by the biosphere (CO2 trapping, air and water purification, soil fertility, food and feed production, biodiversity per se etc). This makes it possible to evaluate the environmental costs of human activities and integrate them in economic and political decisions. In such a new frame of thinking, a series of rare resources might acquire increased monetary and social values, i.e. become public goods. Finally, collective scientific expertise is becoming current practice (see for ex. GIEC, MEA, SCAR, INRA…) in a process in which interdisciplinary thinking and acting provides support to economic and political decision-making with emphasis on long term approaches in conservation and restoration ecology / engineering.
This course illustrates why and how different disciplines (legal, political, and economical studies, for example) attempt to understand and adopt key concepts and tools from life sciences in order to imagine and achieve the integration of the economy and, more broadly, of our societies within the boundaries and functions of the biosphere.
The course diagram helps identify main topics and the corresponding speakers. The seminars are either in English or in French. Slides are in English. Each seminar has a written summary.
We are grateful to all speakers for having accepted to contribute to this project.

Additional references – [1].

Publié ou mis à jour le 9 février 2017


[1Water resources : MOOC EVS

What is agriculture ? Taking the agricultural exception and food democracy approach
Marc Dufummier

Philippe Desbrosses

Denise Vuillon

Daniel Vuillon

Yves François

Thierry Geffray