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Islands Laboratory – Lecture Series and Talks: Sustainability and Climate Change Research

21 Apr 2021

The Metabolism of Islands

Part of ‘Islands Laboratory – Lecture Series and Talks: Sustainability and Climate Change Research ‘ talks, we had the pleasure to listen to Simron J. Singh , a Professor at the University of Waterloo, Canada, which research aims to inform science and policy on ways small island economies can achieve resource and infrastructure security to meet socio-economic goals while building system resilience against the impacts of climate change. Prof. Singh is the founder and lead of the research program “Metabolism of Islands*”, Chairs the inaugural board of “Island Industrial Ecology”, and leads the working group “Metabolic Risk on Islands”

Talk synopsis: Caribbean Small island States (SIS) are on the frontlines of climate change. The region is consistently ranked as one of the most disaster-prone parts of the world, with increasing frequency of extreme weather events and rising sea-levels. Infrastructure damage from climate induced hazards results in the immediate loss of crucial societal services such as shelter, sanitation, transport, food, and energy. Restoring infrastructure comes with large fiscal and material requirements for reconstruction, and causes environmental pressures at different scales. The talk will introduce the concept of “social metabolism”, and by extension Socio-metabolic Research (or SMR). SMR allows for a systematic analysis of the biophysical stocks and flows of material and energy associated with societal production and consumption. Drawing on findings from SMR in the Caribbean, the talk will highlight current patterns of resource-use, and how this reproduces vulnerability, systemic risk, and potential for collapse. I argue that restructuring patterns of resource-use will allow island governments to build system resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change.

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