Economics Professor to Give UW President's Series Lecture

April 8, 2008
Edward B. Barbier

Edward B. Barbier, the John S. Bugas Professor of Economics at the University of Wyoming, will present "Ecological Scarcity: The Global Economic Challenge for the 21st Century" as the featured speaker for the 2008 President's Speaker Series.

Barbier's free public presentation begins at 4 p.m. Thursday, April 17, in Room 129 of the UW Classroom Building. A reception will follow in the building's second floor lobby.

The UW President's Speakers Series honors faculty members who are exemplary in balancing the university's educational, research and service goals, and who have made important contributions to the university's national standing. For more information, call the UW Vice President for Research and Economic Development office at (307) 766-5353.

Internationally-known for his worldwide coastal ecosystems and habitats research work, Barbier during the past year has been published three times in the global scientific journal, Science.

Previous work included a study showing how the loss of biodiversity is reducing the ocean's ability to produce seafood, and every species lost causes a faster unraveling of the overall ecosystem. Barbier contributed to that study that received worldwide attention, including a cover story in Time magazine.

As global population and economic development expand, the greatest threat to human welfare is less likely to be shortages of raw materials and energy, Barbier says, but the disappearance of vital ecosystems and the benefits or "services" that they provide to humankind.

He adds that global warming and climate instability, more frequent and damaging coastal storms, collapse of fisheries, loss of beneficial species, pervasive biological invasions, disease outbreaks and declining freshwater availability are all symptoms of the worsening "ecological scarcity" problem.

"For too long, such scarcities have been considered, at best, peripheral to economic development concerns, and at worst, ignored outright," Barbier says. "Recent evidence suggests, however, that the costs imposed by such ecological losses are highly significant."

He says the most vulnerable human populations may be the "poorest of the poor" -- those who live in the least developed countries and who live on one dollar a day or less.

"Reducing ecological scarcity and its effects requires collaborative research by economists, ecologists and other scientists to diagnose the causes and help formulate solutions, and above all, recognition by policy makers that urgent solutions are required," Barbier says.

The past few years, Barbier has collaborated with ecologists and other economists on a major National Academy of Sciences report, two projects funded by the National Center of Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and several joint research projects. He also served on scientific advisory boards, including as an associate editor of the Ecology Society of America's journal, Frontiers in Ecology and Environment. His three Science articles are direct results of the two NCEAS project collaborations.

Barbier received his B.S. (1979) degree at Yale University, his M.S. (1980) degree at The London School of Economics and Political Science and earned his Ph.D. (1986) at Birkbeck College, at the University of London. He has been at UW since 2000.

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