Kenan connects global experts to talk environment, conservation projects

One of the six breakout groups from Kenan’s three-day symposium discusses payments for ecosystem services in South Africa.

The Kenan Institute for Ethics hosted about 60 visitors April 10 to 12 as part of an international symposium, which included practitioners and scholars from Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala, Vietnam and South Africa.

The multi-day event was part of a collaborative effort to share research and insight into payments for ecosystem services, a process in which financial rewards are provided by one group, such as a public or private organization, to another, such as landowners, for environmentally-friendly actions. For example, in Ecuador, groups like USAID and The Nature Conservancy sponsored a project that used a water tax to fund conservation and reforestation efforts elsewhere in the country.

“Our role is not just to protect a lake, or tree, or mountain, but to study nature as a relic, particularly for indigenous peoples,” said Fredy Grefa, a native of the Ecuadorian Amazon and a Ph.D. student at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

Over its three days, the conference connected Duke undergraduate and graduate students with experts, who broke out into working groups to discuss and study payment for ecosystem service projects from each of the six countries represented at the event, the longest-standing such initiatives in the Global South. Paulina Arroyo, a program officer for the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Andes Amazon Initiative, noted the practical connection of real-world environmental focus and educational opportunities.

“Symposiums like this are important because they help to bridge the knowledge gap between academics, practitioners, and policy makers, which is when innovation occurs,” she said.

The symposium culminated in a public talk, ”Cash for Green: Payments for Ecosystem Services in the Global South.” The program featured presentations from each of the six groups, sharing ways in which conceptualization and implementation of payments for ecosystem services have been shaped through the political, economic and cultural contexts of each country.

Visiting scholars came from all over the world, including Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Guatemala, Vietnam and South Africa.

“I appreciate that symposiums like this give us the chance to convene with different representatives of all the countries that we wouldn’t typically interact with,” said Margaret Holland, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography & Environmental Systems at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County. “It’s great to make parallels between the experiences of different countries.”

The symposium was organized by Elizabeth Shapiro-Garza, assistant professor of the practice of environmental policy and management at the Nicholas School of the Environment, and Christine Folch, assistant professor in the Department of Cultural Anthropology. Kenan Program Coordinator Kate Abendroth also assisted in coordination.

Co-sponsors included the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Duke Office of Global AffairsDuke University Africa Initiative, Duke Tropical Conservation Initiative, Global Brazil Lab at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Nicholas School of the Environment.