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Professor

Lyuba Zarsky
Office
McGowan Building MG320B
Tel
(831) 647-6436
Email
lzarsky@miis.edu

Lyuba Zarsky concluded early that the best game in life is changing the world. In the 1970s, she co-founded the University Without Walls in Berkeley, whose motto was “the world is our classroom.” She was a leading member of the Berkeley Recycling Collective, one of the city’s first social enterprises, and the media director for the Abalone Alliance, a California citizens group opposed to nuclear power. She also collaborated with indigenous groups in the US and Asia-Pacific to protect human rights and sustainable livelihoods, work that propelled a move to the East Coast to pursue academic training in political economy and development economics. 

Zarsky’s overarching passion is promoting justice and sustainability in business and the economy. In the 1990s, she designed and directed a national sustainable development program for the government of Australia; and co-founded and co-directed the Nautilus Institute, an NGO “think and do” tank on global security and sustainability. She initiated a project on corporate social responsibility and accountability; was a member of the Trade and Environment Policy Advisory Committee of the Office of the US Trade Representative; and co-authored Enclave Economy: Foreign Investment and Sustainable Development in Mexico’s Silicon Valley (MIT Press, 2007). At the Institute, she coordinates the Business, Development and Sustainability track in the International Environmental Policy program.

Courses Taught

Courses offered in the past two years.

  • Current term
  • Upcoming term(s)

The concept of ‘governing the commons’ is emerging as the overarching paradigm in both functional and legal approaches to international environmental cooperation. In the traditional approach to international environmental law, nation-states are considered to be the sole actors in governing trans-boundary resources such as water, the atmosphere and the ocean. In contrast, the commons approach highlights the role of collaborative governance by all users in designing, implementing and enforcing sustainability rules and norms. While nation-states remain key, a commons approach is poly-centric (international, regional, national, sub-national) and multi-actor (government, business, civil society).

This course provides a foundation in the theory and practice of global commons governance. Part One introduces the conceptual framework and empirical underpinnings of through an examination of the Elinor Ostrom’s work on common pool resources. Part II explores the history and structure of international environmental law based on governing through multilateral environmental agreements. Part Three examines trans-boundary water governance with a focus on adaptive management to climate change. Part Four focuses on global atmospheric governance and examines the promise and challenges of the evolving, polycentric climate regime.

Working in teams of three, students will write and orally present a case study of transboundary water governance. The class will wrap up with class debates on three key issues of global climate governance.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, Spring 2018 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Sustainability and Climate Reporting

This class examines emerging trends and challenges in the corporate measurement and reporting of sustainability-related risks and opportunities, especially climate change. After an introduction to “stakeholder capitalism” and the range and meaning of the concept of “sustainability management,” the class explores and compares the two major sustainability reporting frameworks, the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) and the Sustainability Standards Accounting Board (SASB). It also examines the Integrated Reporting Framework, which combines financial and sustainability disclosure in one report. The class then probes how companies are reporting climate risks and opportunities, and evaluates the growing momentum to mainstream climate disclosure within company financial reports. Students will assess the overall sustainability performance and the robustness of climate disclosure of three leading companies in a sector of their choice.

Spring 2018 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Changing Economic Policy: What Advocates Need to Know About Economics

How can citizens change economic policy? What changes in public economic policy could foster more just markets, more equitable and sustainable economic development, and build more resilient cities, towns, counties, regions and states? What are smart ways of doing this within an increasing – Trump notwithstanding – globalization of markets, skills, and economic cultures?

This course will focus on innovations in economic policies being promoted by social justice activists, critics of forms of capitalism that are leading to vast wealth inequality, and actors interested in promoting more resilient local economies. Students will engage in critique of these proposals and develop a deep understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. At the same time, students will learn the tools, techniques, tactics and strategies of social justice advocacy. The course will include a large number of guest speakers from activist, advocate, public sector, and economic arenas.

Discussion of these policy innovations and advocacy will provide opportunities to deepen understanding of a host of economic concepts, including (but not limited to): the principles of, and public policy responses to address, market failure; theories of economic growth and investment; theories of income distribution and causes and consequences of economic inequality; taxation and transfers to businesses and households asset markets; theories of collective action. Students will demonstrate their facility with these economic concepts by integrating them into their course deliverables.

The major deliverable of the course: Students will work in teams on a strategy to pass a new economic policy of their choice at either city, county, or state level in California.

Fall 2017 - MIIS

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This course probes the sustainability risks and challenges of the global metals mining industry, with a primary focus on copper mining and processing.

Copper is a key industrial input, used not only in building construction and ITC industries but in renewable energy and transport technologies vital to a global transition out of carbon-intensive fossil fuels. A reliable and relatively cheap supply of copper is thus part of the climate change mitigation agenda. But without proper governance, mining projects can—and often do--create intractable, long-term social and environmental risks to communities and eco-systems. Mining companies themselves face sustainability risks stemming from water scarcity and conflicts with local communities that threaten their social license to operate.

Is sustainable mining possible? Based on non-renewable resources, mining is an inherently unsustainable activity. Using the lens of the “soft sustainability principle,” the course develops a ‘net benefits’ evaluative framework based on minimizing environmental risk and maximizing sustainable economic benefits. It also considers innovations in technology, supply chain management and governance—including mining bans--that reduce sustainability risks for companies and/or communities.

The course first introduces the global copper supply chain and examines challenges to value creation in mining. Part two examines economic benefits and costs of large-scale mining projects to host governments and local communities, including indigenous people. Part three explores environmental risk over the full mine life cycle, including short and long term risks to water. Part four examines global standards to reduce sustainability risk in mining, including SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board) and the ICMM (International Council for Minerals and Mining) Sustainable Development framework. The final part of the course considers alternatives to mining of raw copper ore, including recycling, circular economy, copper-efficiency, and alternative materials.

Students will research and write a case study exploring and evaluating the economic benefits, environmental risks and sustainability management practices of a large-scale copper mining project of their choice. The aim of the case study is to generate policy, management and/or advocacy advice to regulators, the mining company, or local stakeholders.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, MIIS Second Half of Term, Fall 2017 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Coasts are an important source of native species diversity and provide a rich array of ecosystem services to humans. About forty percent of the world’s population lives within 100 km of a coast. Urban and economic development over the past fifty years has taken a heavy ecological toll on coasts and they are highly degraded. Going forward, coastal economies, communities and ecosystems are all highly vulnerable to the projected impacts of climate change, including flooding, storm surges, subsidence and sea level rise.

This course provides a foundation in the management challenges and governance frameworks of sustainable coastal management. The central focus of the course is on coastal climate vulnerability and resilience. Taught by a multi-disciplinary team, the course integrates science, economics, and policy perspectives on climate risk, adaptation, and resilience.

Part One examines current policy and legal frameworks for coastal management, explores ecological vulnerability to climate change and considers how current frameworks promote or impede adaptation. Part two examines the socio-economic vulnerability of coastal cities to climate change, explores the benefits and costs of both top-down and bottom-up adaptation options, and considers the role of households and the private sector in promoting community resilience. Many of the readings focus on the California coast but we will examine case studies from other parts of the US and internationally. Students will work in teams to produce a Consultation Practicum and a case study of a coastal city which includes a climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation options analysis.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, Fall 2017 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

NOTE: MBA students will enroll and participate in the second half of the course for 2 credits in track

Coasts are an important source of native species diversity and provide a rich array of ecosystem services to humans. About forty percent of the world’s population lives within 100 km of a coast. Urban and economic development over the past fifty years has taken a heavy ecological toll on coasts and they are highly degraded. Going forward, coastal economies, communities and ecosystems are all highly vulnerable to the projected impacts of climate change, including flooding, storm surges, subsidence and sea level rise.

This course provides a foundation in the management challenges and governance frameworks of sustainable coastal management. The central focus of the course is on coastal climate vulnerability and resilience. Taught by a multi-disciplinary team, the course integrates science, economics, and policy perspectives on climate risk, adaptation, and resilience.

Part One examines current policy and legal frameworks for coastal management, explores ecological vulnerability to climate change and considers how current frameworks promote or impede adaptation. Part two examines the socio-economic vulnerability of coastal cities to climate change, explores the benefits and costs of both top-down and bottom-up adaptation options, and considers the role of households and the private sector in promoting community resilience. Many of the readings focus on the California coast but we will examine case studies from other parts of the US and internationally. Students will work in teams to produce a Consultation Practicum and a case study of a coastal city which includes a climate vulnerability assessment and adaptation options analysis.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, MIIS Second Half of Term, Fall 2017 - MIIS, MIIS Second Half of Term

View in Course Catalog

President’s Seminar: WATER IN AN INSECURE WORLD: SYMBOL, RESOURCE, OR COMMODITY?

Water covers more than seventy percent of the earth’s surface and constitutes approximately the same percentage of the human body. No substance on earth is more important, and few are more abundant. Yet today water is increasingly degraded and scarce, stressing both ecosystems and human communities. In this, the first ever President’s Course at Middlebury and Midd-Monterey, we will explore water topics across multiple disciplines, from droughts caused by climate change to the role of sea routes in the creation of the British Empire to ocean acidification, groundwater toxicity, and pelagic plastics. We will also explore emerging solutions to water crisis, including transboundary river management and water entrepreneurship. Each week President Patton will convene a seminar on an aquatic topic with guest speakers, break-out conversations, and simulcast interaction with our peers at the College and the Institute. Students will produce a water-based art project, a collaborate on a local water case study, and engage in lively discussions with scholars and peers of diverse backgrounds.

Spring 2017 - MIIS

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This course provides an introduction to the creation, design, financing, and management of business start-ups aimed at tackling environmental problems. The central aims of the course are

1) to understand the principles, possibilities and challenges of environmental entrepreneurship;

2) to develop confidence and skills in starting an environmental business.

The first part of the course explores the concepts of entrepreneurship, innovation, business model design and the lean start-up and surveys the landscape of impact measurement and finance. The second part examines case studies of early-stage start-ups that address a range of sustainability problems, including de-carbonization of energy and transport, biodiversity conservation, sustainable fishing, and water stress. In each case, we will explore how the start-up analyzed the sustainability problem, came up with a business concept, designed (and red-designed) a business model and go-to-market plan, garnered (or is trying to garner) finance/investment, measures (or aim to measure) environmental impact, and whether and how it plans to scale.

Students work in pairs to produce and present a case study of an early-stage environmental start-up and to generate a business concept aimed at solving an environmental problem.

Spring 2017 - MIIS, MIIS First Half of Term

View in Course Catalog

Water in an Insecure World: Symbol, Resources, or Commodity
Water covers more than seventy percent of the earth’s surface and constitutes approximately the same percentage of the human body. No substance on earth is more important, and few are more abundant. Yet today water is increasingly degraded and scarce, stressing both ecosystems and human communities. In this, the first ever President’s Course at Middlebury and Midd-Monterey, we will explore water topics across multiple disciplines, from droughts caused by climate change to the role of sea routes in the creation of the British Empire to ocean acidification, groundwater toxicity, and pelagic plastics. We will also explore emerging solutions to water crisis, including transboundary river management and water entrepreneurship. Each week President Patton will convene a seminar on an aquatic topic with guest speakers, break-out conversations, and simulcast interaction with our peers at the College and the Institute. Students will produce a water-based art project, collaborate on a local water case study, and engage in lively discussions with scholars and peers of diverse backgrounds. (Approval Required)

Spring 2017

View in Course Catalog

This course introduces students to the design and implementation of research, with an emphasis on applied research into contemporary social and ecological issues that part of policy development and implementation. The course will be interdisciplinary in scope and will include the use of historical, ethnographic, biophysical, political and contextual data and information. The course will cover various social science methods, including political science, policy analysis, and sociology, and associated analytical approaches that can be used to develop and design research proposals, including case study and comparative case studies, survey design, content analysis, documentary analysis, and ethnographic approaches.

Fall 2016 - MIIS, MIIS Second Half of Term

View in Course Catalog

This course guides students to write up previously researched country case studies on the intersection of water risk, copper mining and river basin governance. The intent of the class is to produce a series of high-quality, publishable, inter-connected case studies for academic and practitioner/professional audiences. Students will produce a final case study of some 7000 words in length via a series of three drafts, external peer review, and a public presentation of case study findings to the MIIS community. Students may take this course only by permission of the instructor.

Fall 2016 - MIIS

View in Course Catalog

Areas of Interest

Zarsky’s teaching and research interests focus on the question: how can business practice and economic policy promote sustainable economic development? Her primary lens is sustainability investment, including norms, tools and policies from the local to global level. A key research focus is the global mining industry, which generates local economic benefits but creates long term risks of water pollution. 
 
Zarsky also teaches on adaptation to sea level rise in coastal cities, including new funding models for climate resilience, environmental entrepreneurship, and the governance of the global commons.

Academic Degrees

  • PhD in Economics, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • MA in Political Economy, New School for Social Research, New York
  • BA in Social Psychology, University Without Walls, Berkeley

 
Professor Zarsky has been teaching at the Institute since 2007.

Publications

  • Can extractive industries promote sustainable development? A net benefits framework and a case study of the Marlin Mine in Guatemala, (co-author), Journal of Environment and Development, 20(2), 131-154, April, 2013.
  • "Extractive industries and local communities: the elusive search for sustainable development," World Policy Review, July, 2013.
  • Searching for Gold in the Highlands of Guatemala: Economic Benefits and Environmental Risks of the Marlin Mine, (co-author), Global Development and Environment Institute, September, 2011.
  • "Climate Resilient Industrial Development: Design Principles and Alternative Models", in S.R. Khan and J. Christiansen, ed., Towards New Developmentalism: Market as Means Rather than Master, Routledge Economics, 2010.
  • Enclave Economy: Foreign Investment and Sustainable Development in Mexico’s Silicon Valley (co-author), Boston: MIT Press, 2007.
  • “No Miracle Drug: Foreign Direct Investment and Sustainable Development” (co-author), in L. Zarsky (ed.), International Investment for Sustainable Development: Balancing Rights and Rewards, London: Earthscan Press, 2005.
  • International Investment for Sustainable Development: Balancing Rights and Rewards (contributing editor), London: Earthscan Press, 2005.
  • “Stuck in the Mud? Nation-States, Globalisation and the Environment," in OECD, Globalisation and the Environment, Paris: OECD, 1997. Reprinted in K. Gallagher and J. Werksman (eds.), Earthscan Reader on International Trade and Sustainable Development, London: Earthscan Press, 2002, pp. 19-44; and in K. Conca and G. Dabelko, Green Planet Blues, Environmental Politics from Stockholm to Johannesberg, Westview Press, 2004.
  • Human Rights and the Environment: Conflicts and Norms in a Globalizing World (contributing editor) London: Earthscan Press, 2002.
  • Beyond Good Deeds: Case Studies and A New Policy Agenda for Corporate Accountability (co-author), Berkeley: Natural Heritage Institute, July 2002.
  • “APEC and the ‘Sustainable Development’ Agenda,’ in R. Steinberg (ed.), The Greening of Trade Law, Rowman and Littlefield, 2002.
  • “Global Reach: Human Rights and Environment in the Framework of Corporate Accountability,” in L. Zarsky (ed.), Human Rights and Environment: Conflicts and Norms in a Globalizing World, London: Earthscan Press, 2002, pp. 31-56.
  • “Civil Society and the Future of Environmental Governance in Asia,” (co-author), in D. Angel and M. Rock, (eds.), Asia's Clean Revolution: Industry, Growth and the Environment, Greenleaf Publishing, 2001, pp.128-154.
  • “From Bystanders to Collaborators, New Roles for Civil Society in Urban-Industrial Environmental Governance,” in Asian Development Bank, Asian Environment Outlook, Manila: ADB, 2001.
  • “Environmental Norms in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum,” in D. Shelton (ed.), Commitment and Compliance, The Role of Non-Binding Norms in the International Legal System, New York: Oxford University Press, 2000, pp. 303-329.
  • “Havens, Halos, and Spaghetti: Untangling the Evidence About FDI and the Environment,” in OECD, Foreign Direct Investment and the Environment, Paris: OECD, 1999, pp. 47-74.
  • "Energy and the Environment in Asia-Pacific,” in P. Chasek, (ed.), The Global Environment in the 21st Century, Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 1999.
  • "Lessons of Liberalization in Asia: From Structural Adjustment to Sustainable Development," in Financing for Environmentally Sustainable Development, Asian Development Bank: Manila, 1994.
  • “Towards an International Eco-Labeling Framework,” in OECD, Life Cycle Management and Trade, Paris: OECD, 1994, pp. 194-204.
  • “Sustainable Development: Challenges for Australia,” in Our Common Future, Australian Edition, Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1990. Also published as a monograph by the Commission for the Future, Melbourne, February, 1990.

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